Creativity Loves Constraints: Ministry During a Pandemic
What can a missionary do when access to the people they love is suddenly cut off?
By Marti Wade
The innovation specialists at Pioneers often quote the saying, “Creativity loves constraints.” They help unlock our thinking with questions like, “What would you do if you had a million dollars to solve this problem? What if you could only spend a hundred?”
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a similar opportunity for creative thinking. “What if you had unrestricted access to the people God leads you to serve? What if your access was all but cut off?”
Canceled Plans & New Opportunities
The pandemic restricted the movement of missionaries, canceled plans for ministry travel of all kinds and put everyone under pressure. Some left their fields of service as the pandemic spread and have been unable to return. Yet many have used the time for personal growth, taking classes or working on that book they always meant to write. Others stayed and found themselves uniquely positioned to serve their neighbors.
These were all things we prayed about from the start. See Five Ways to Pray for Missionaries: Praying for Missionaries During the COVID-19 Crisis.
Constrained from Meeting
COVID made us all ask, what can be done online? Just as well and sometimes better?
- Some churches saw their video streams reach people who wouldn’t darken their doors—true internationally as well as close to home.
- Some online mission conferences have drawn many more people than they could reach face to face—and sometimes from all over the world.
- We love recruiting and equipping new missionaries in person. Now, though, like other organizations, we’ve discovered ways to accomplish both without face-to-face events.
Accelerating Digital Outreach
For years, missionaries have been learning to leverage social media to find people sincerely seeking God. The pandemic provided the constraints needed to accelerate this digital outreach.
A recent survey of missionaries using media strategies, usually alongside face-to-face ministry, asked “How has COVID impacted your ministry?” Of those who responded, 80% reported a significant increase in spiritual response—more decisions, more baptisms and more discipleship than before COVID-19 struck. They saw God bringing spiritual redemption even through this pandemic.
Sharing Scripture in the Language of the Heart
Wycliffe Bible Translators founder Cameron Townsend, famously said, “The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.”
For several months, a missionary family in Mexico couldn’t leave their home except for doctor visits or grocery shopping. They couldn’t visit their neighbors, much less those in distant villages. But they also realized a growing number of their friends have smartphones and internet access. So, they spent their time on lockdown developing a Christian website with tremendous potential to quickly reach a large, scattered community with God’s Word in their heart language. Awesome.
We’ll all be glad to see more in-person ministry and travel resume. But let’s celebrate the new tools and strategies we can continue using moving forward. Let’s seek God for wisdom about what we can learn from this season of constraints.
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