Pastoring in a pandemic


Every aspect of life as we knew it is changing - including how we worship.

First Baptist Church of Hartsville is one of hundreds across the state stepping out of the norm to continue their ministry through worship and fellowship.

“We’ve definitely been learning as we go,” FBC Hartsville’s Worship and Outreach Leader, Thad Burkhalter, said.  “I’ve been forced to learn how to do social media.  I’ve kind of dabbled in Facebook and stuff for years, but I’ve never really taken it seriously, but this pandemic and quarantine has definitely pushed me in that direction,” he added.

Social media is the saving grace through this; an outlet to reach the congregation at any time, anywhere.

Steve Miller converted his living room into a worship hall and recruited his kids to help continue to lead in a way that feels like their normal Sunday at Team Church in Kershaw.

“Once we started putting the words on the screen, I needed to do a little better job of capturing the audio and that led to using the mixer board, using the mics from church, so it got a little complex,” Miller said. “But our kids have learned how to use these things, and we also use this as an opportunity to be mission- minded with them.”

Brookland Baptist in Columbia continues to use their sanctuary through the pandemic—but only those involved in the recording and worship-leading are allowed in.  But getting in the door is a process these days, and one they take seriously.

“I felt like those who needed to be here need to be safe in the midst of everything that’s going on with the COVID-19,” Dr. Tasha Boone said. “And so what we decided to do is, before everyone enters the sanctuary, is to take their temperatures.  And if they have a high temperature then they can’t enter the sanctuary.. They have to go home and, you know, we make the adjustments that we need to,” she added.

Like everyone, it’s about finding a new normal, and making it work.

“For us, more of an adjustment is on the care part,” Pastor Jonathan Pearson of SpringWell Church in Taylors said. “How do we still love people, connect people to each other, help them grow in their faith, even though they’re not coming to church?  So we’re trying to be real.  We’re trying to be as close to people as we can without being close to them. It’s going well.  I think it’s a great opportunity for the church because we’ve got an opportunity we didn’t have years ago, and so we’re trying to utilize every one we can,” Pearson added.

“That attempt to connect has been very important for us. Connection is such an important part of what it means to be a church family and what it means to be a community of faith. So we have tried to remain connected,” Jennifer Rygg, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pendleton said.

Many churches have members not plugged in to social media, and so they’re finding ways to make sure they still get served, too.

“We’re writing encouraging notes, we’re making phone calls, we’re sending text messages and we’re working hard to remind everyone that God is with us and we are still together as a community,”said Dr. Elizabeth Nance-Coker, Pastor of Lakeview Baptist in Camden.

Pastor Rob Brazell created a drive-in church when he sensed his people’s need for more than a screen.

“The first two Sundays we did Facebook videos but, 100% honest y, our church members missed being together. They wanted to meet on the church grounds,” Brazell said.  “We wanted to find a way to meet together, as safe as possible, and so we moved in to the drive-in church.  We ordered an FM transmitter, and so we hooked it up to the sound board and we had drive-in church for those who wanted to pull up a lawn chair or a blanket or on the back of the tailgate. I preached and we worshiped Christ from the front of our church, and for those who didn’t want to get out of the car, they tuned in to a partuicular radio station that was transmitting our service,” Brazell added.

And churches are  finding ways to “be the church” like never before.  They’re getting creative in their outreach - not letting restrictions slow the mission.

“Now we’re able to take our outreach even further by collecting groceries in the neighborhoods, a safe distance apart from. In short, Venture hasn’t slowed down because of COVID-19, we’ve actually seen more opportunity because of this,” Shaun Olsen of Venture Church in Bluffton said.

Connecting, serving, reaching out in a whole new way. 

“When we learned we could no longer gather together for corporate worship, I was disturbed greatly,” Reverend Charles B. Jackson of Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia said. “One of the reasons I was disturbed is because our church had never been live streamed before.  And I’ve still got a lot of old timey ways in me, and had to come into the 21st century of social media and implementation of technology. And so I had some anxieties about it.  And I’ve come to learn there are people I’ve met in my preaching travels across the country who have joined us for worship.  That’s exciting to me.  After 49 years, I’m experiencing something that brings greater glory to our God, he added.