David Sauer was visiting his daughter and newborn grandson when his mobile notifications started going wild. Sauer, the executive pastor of Adventure Church in Yuba City, Calif., stopped dead after glancing at his screen. Their church of around 1,000 followers had suffered two tragic and unrelated deaths. One family had lost its father, another its mother.
Research shows that bereaved people often face loneliness and inadequate social support while grieving. When this isolation occurs, bereaved people face increased risks of depressive symptoms and are less likely to develop healthy coping mechanisms. But when bereaved people have frequent contact with their community, whether in person or through technology, they report a better quality of life than their counterparts without such contact.
Realizing that the families in his church were suffering deeply, Sauer wanted to serve them as quickly and efficiently as possible. But what could he do when he was hours away from them? Fortunately, the answer was at hand.
to be able to comfort
Pastors with the ability to connect with congregants in crisis can help make the difference between grief that pushes people into isolation and grief that draws people into community. In order to make these quick connections, ministry leaders need easy access to information about their followers. This information creates a safety net that can catch the injured as they fall – a ministry that is woven by invaluable data.
For Sauer, that quick connection started with the launch of the LEAD app, which Adventure Church staff and volunteers use to stay in touch with the needs of their congregation. Like an interactive online church directory, the app allows ministry leaders to engage with their congregants, even when those ministry leaders are, like Sauer, on the go.
Sauer opened the app, searched for one of the affected families, and immediately saw a photo of the deceased, his spouse, and his children. He also saw links to other families in the church who were related to them and, with a single click, had access to phone numbers so he could text or call family members. .
“In the case of the mother’s death,” Sauer said, “I was able to call the father and pray with him over the phone, even from Southern California.” He also used the app to text the children in the family who, as teenagers, might not have been so receptive to a phone call, but needed to hear that they were loved, prayed for. and remembered their sorrow.
Without the app, Sauer says, he wouldn’t have had such quick and easy access to the family, let alone with a featured photo in order to be sure he remembered the right followers – a reasonable concern in such a big church. The extensive data provided in the app made it easier to provide a safety net of compassionate care when the family needed it most.
Able to take care
Individual and family crises aren’t the only times technology has helped Sauer and his team graze their herd. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, their team turned to the app to help them reach worshipers they could no longer see face-to-face.
Ministry staff distributed contacts and were able to text people directly from the app. They’ve put together a script to work from for the initial contact – a simple message like “Hey, this is Pastor Dave from Adventure Church. We’re thinking of you and hope all goes well. I’d like to catch up on the phone. Is there a time when we could talk?”
From there, conversations unfolded, ranging from praying over the phone to learning that locked-in seniors needed grocery deliveries. The app even helped the team navigate these drop points with a map feature that identified staff and worshipers who lived near those in need.
Equipped to Connect
Whether it’s the calendar feature that highlights church events, the messaging tool that allows small group leaders to share prayer requests with their members, or small building blocks relationships, like a fantasy football swap Sauer made while contacting a friend through the app. the LEAD application is, as Sauer puts it, “high tech that leads to high touch.”
When a member dies, the app connects church leaders with their loved ones. When a member of a small group gets sick, the app shares the link to a meal train. And when a global pandemic hits, trapping the most vulnerable worshipers within their four walls, the app literally guides the way to their front porch.
Sauer says these technology touchpoints have led to increased engagement at Adventure Church. While many churches struggled to reinvigorate their followers after the pandemic, Adventure Church’s ability to maintain personal and regular communication with their people paved the way for enthusiastic engagement when restrictions were lifted. And when crisis strikes, the LEAD app continues to be a way for adventure leaders to connect with the congregation, reaching out to them with compassion and care.
Pastors and church leaders who want to respond well to crises may not know where to start. Pushpay’s Leading in Crisis e-book highlights practical ways in which congregational data can inform effective ministry and care. Download Pushpay’s ebook to learn how to serve in difficult times.