Faith Time: Adapting community outreach in the pandemic

Baldwin County

ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WKRG) — Community Outreach is a mission statement for most faith-based groups. In the pandemic, the ways people provide assistance have become more challenging. Joining us this morning is Pastor Andrew Itson with Robertsdale Church of Christ–how has the pandemic changed the way the church does community outreach?

Guest: Chad, thanks so much for the opportunity to be with you this morning. It has definitely changed the way we’ve done our community outreach. Like a lot of other churches, we had a lot of different things planned. Our biggest outreach events like our spring fling, trunk or treat, vacation Bible school, and our community service days were canceled or postponed. We had a choice as leaders…we can’t panic but pivot be can’t stubborn but flexible. We had to reevaluate because even though there’s a pandemic the church can’t stop being with Church. So we just had to be flexible and pivot in the way we did things.

Anchor: What has the pivot exposed that most organizations should have been doing in the first place?

Guest: You know one of the things that I think about is that any time we’ve gone through a national tragedy or some type of historic event as a country or a church people usually ask the question, “do you remember where you were when so-and-so happened?” I remember exactly where I was when 9-11 happened. I didn’t live through the Kennedy assassination or the bombing at Pearl Harbor but from what I understand just like I experienced with 911 people flooded the church buildings after those tragedies and events. In fact, I remember as a kid at the church I grew up at we had to get extra chairs to put into the auditorium to seat everybody that was there the Sunday after 9-11. When the pandemic happened people were not allowed to go into the church buildings and so it forced us as churches to go to the people and be creative in our outreach. In a way, I think it’s a good thing because it forced us to be more creative and step outside the box in how we serve people.

Anchor: When going from large public events to things that are more “pandemic-safer”, how does that impact the number of people you’re able to help?

Guest: I don’t really think it’s impacted the number of people that we’ve been able to reach, we’ve just had to reach that number in a different way. In fact,I was just thinking about how for us at Robertsdale this is actually opened up a lot of doors off or us. We’ve been able to deliver food to a lot of people to people and utilize our pantry in a different way. Sally of course was a lot of work was done outdoors but when we dispersed goods we just let people stay in their cars we deliver goods to them in their cars. I also appreciate so much how the leadership at Robertsdale has added on and reorganize our pantry to prepare and store frozen meals that way we can use those to deliver to people’s homes and drop them off on their porch. Our leadership put together a weekly call list to call and check in on her church members and pray with them. We now have upcoming events like going to our members’ homes to bring the worship to them outside in the front yard. One of the big opportunities that I’m so excited about is something that our ladies at Robertsdale came up with. On March 27 a drive-through diaper giveaway for moms and caregivers in our community.

Anchor: What’s the most important less you’ve learned in this?

Guest: I would say it’s two things that kind of fit together is the importance of the church being patient and flexible in times like this. Because people still need community because we were created in the image of one who existed in the community we learned how to be flexible in how we deliver that. I also think that I’ve learned how incredibly resilient the church is. As new information was given to us about COVID we had to take it as it came while still serving our church family and community.

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