The COVID-19 pandemic has launched one of the most stressful periods for churches in recent memory. Nearly every church in the US – and others across the globe – have felt the negative effects of the pandemic in some way. Worship services are canceling, churchwide gatherings and events are being put on hold, and staff are doing their best to operate their churches from home while connecting with congregants remotely. However, many churches aren’t letting the virus take hold of their ministry. They’re standing firm in their faith and are pushing through because they know that God has a plan for their ministry and He will see their church through it.
This is most certainly the case for Advent United Methodist Church. Seated just south of Greenville, SC, in the small suburban town of Simpsonville, Advent UMC has found itself thriving while other churches are still trying to figure out how to best ride out this storm called COVID-19.
Roxanne Ball, the Director of Communications and Engagement, knows better than most how a pandemic like the coronavirus can disrupt your church and make it difficult to connect. “COVID-19 has kind of taken over my life,” says Roxanne, who’s been with Advent UMC since 2017. Not surprisingly, her sentiments are echoed by thousands of churches across the country.
However, Advent UMC made a change in the fall of 2018 that transformed the way they do ministry. “What would we be doing right now if we didn’t have Realm?” says Roxanne, who’s been in close communication with the members of Advent UMC since the beginning of COVID-19. “[Realm] has made things easier for us because when we post that we’re not having worship, we know that it goes straight to our people. They’ll comment back, so we’ve gotten a lot of “thank you’s”…I can immediately go right in [to Realm] and just interact with them. The more interaction they have on [Realm], the more they trust Realm and tell their friends about Realm.”
Using Realm for their churchwide communications is just the beginning for Advent UMC. They’ve also leveraged Realm for all of their staff communications as well. “[W]e use Realm for the staff groups; we’re constantly posting back and forth with each other. Any type of announcement we need to get to our staff, it’s going through Realm.”
Advent UMC is no doubt making the best of a difficult situation, which includes what to do about their worship services. Like most churches, they decided to temporarily close the doors of their sanctuary and encourage their congregation to take a remote approach to worship service. “We’ve been doing Facebook Live events and doing pastor’s updates on YouTube to share across platforms,” says Roxanne. After that, they use Realm to connect everyone to what’s happening in the church. “We’re wanting them to use other media to meet but use Realm to disseminate that information…it’s been really neat to see how we connect with everyone.”
In addition to temporarily canceling worship services, this also means they needed to have a solution for giving or risk a significant drop in donations. “Someone asked on our Facebook post about offering[s],” says Roxanne, knowing how important giving is to their ministry and ministries around the country. “We’ve been using eGiving…which is obviously for Realm.” Realm’s fully integrated eGiving solution allows thousands of churches just like Advent UMC to combat COVID-19 and prevent it from defeating its mission. “We have text giving and then obviously [congregants] can give through the [Realm Connect] app…we absolutely have been giving through [Realm].”
Like any church, they’ve had their fair share of struggles while temporarily adjusting to a new way of operating their church and connecting together. But Roxanne knows Advent UMC is stronger because of the tools they provide staff and the congregation. “[P]re-Realm, it would have been a lot harder to go through all the COVID-19 stuff without having a platform like this to really stay connected with your people…get information out to them…and be able to answer their questions in real-time,” says Roxanne. “It makes [our congregation] feel like they’re still connected to each other and so that has been huge for us. So, thank you to you guys.”