Lea Schrumpf

Spiritual Formation Director

Ministering In a Pandemic

In March, our staff exchanged our daily commutes for a few steps down the hallways of our homes to utilize various forms of technology to connect with students, most now-dispersed across the country. Weekly gatherings with small group leaders, a women’s support group, and biweekly discipleship groups once held around a table became relegated to Zoom meetings, screens of familiar faces gridded in Brady Bunch fashion. Sunday services were pre-recorded by homebound staff and edited together as Living Room Sessions made available on YouTube so that our congregation might gather for communal worship with their families or “quaranteams”—or virtually with friends. Facebook Live became the format for Senior EXIT, and both FaceTime and phone calls became the new norm for one-on-one discipleship and counseling.

Though technology has allowed us to stay connected in remarkable ways that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago, this “new normal” has presented its challenges. Our valiant attempts to host interactive services can translate to “watching church on television,” and even the best Zoom meeting is fraught with the frustration of internet glitches and other inherent limitations. Gone are casual conversations by seat neighbors and the chatting of friends as they stroll into or out of our building. Instead, group members sit politely at computers with muted microphones, navigate awkward silences, and experience more of a moderated approach to conversation than lively and organic communication. Staff’s most heartfelt words of blessing to seniors over the internet aren’t the same as gathering for a shared meal and the laying on of hands in prayer as we send them out; and even the most emotionally-attuned digital presence with a grieving student doesn’t feel the same as shared-space embodiment and a hand on the shoulder. To top it off, the many hours

spent in video meetings can lead to a very real level of screen fatigue. It would seem our best efforts can feel costly and often less fulfilling.

Yet, God has allowed this time and these circumstances, and He is not limited by anything that limits us. “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28), so there have been gifts. Many students’ schedules opened, uncovering newfound space and desire for true connection with God and others. Some students are engaging new rhythms of “abiding” practices—more regular time in the Word and stillness as they seek to grow in knowing God and listening to His voice. A group of women who struggle with sexual addiction continue to meet weekly to encourage one another in the Gospel and share accountability, confession, and

“God has allowed this time and these circumstances, and He is not limited by anything that limits us.”

intercession. A few students are practicing more curiosity with the Lord about their stories with a desire to understand, heal, extend forgiveness, and repent of self-protective behaviors. Lonely international students have been open to care and friendship, and there have been a few opportunities for staff to meet with students at our homes. Whether “distanced” on a front porch or a walk, these are sweet reunions, sometimes with the added joy of introducing disciples to neighbors—a blending of worlds and a mingling of prayers for friends to know Jesus.

God is still at work in this time; please pray that we would follow Him in it!