As we begin to make plans to gather again with one another, the future remains uncertain. We continue to be encouraged to exercise caution by staying at home as much as possible.
Yet, our congregations and communities need help to process this massive disruption to our lives. We are surrounded by grief, anxiety, and loneliness. We may have trouble continuing our spiritual growth when our routines have been upended and we live mostly in isolation.
The NC Conference Media Center continues to be dedicated to meeting the resource needs of our churches during these times. Although the Media Center remains closed to in-person visitors, you may still request to have materials mailed to your home. We are taking extra precautions so that these resources are safe for you to use.
We recommend the following resources for pastors, church leaders, small groups, and church members to respond in faith to the issues we are all facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finding Meaning in the Suffering
Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty by Walter Brueggemann. Just published, this slim book applies Brueggemann’s deep understanding of scripture to the experience of COVID-19. He calls us to renew and live into our relationship with God. Will Willimon calls it “a quite wonderful book.”
Hope for Hard Times: Lessons on Faith from Elijah and Elisha by Magrey R. deVega. This 4-session study released last year is even more timely today. United Methodist Pastor deVega offers encouragement and guidance through the stories of biblical prophets Elijah and Elisha. This book has a companion leader’s guide and short videos for each session on YouTube. Watch the promo video.
Why? Making Sense of God’s Will by Adam Hamilton. During difficult times, many of us wonder about God’s role in suffering. Rev. Hamilton carefully and pastorally explains the Methodist understanding along with practical advice and hope. This short book is also available as a 4-session video study. We also have Leslie Weatherhead’s classic book The Will of God, which Adam Hamilton wrote the foreword to in the new edition, and a companion workbook.
Leading Your Church
Growing Through Disaster: Tools for Financial and Trauma Recovery in Your Faith Community by Clayton L. Smith and Matt Schoenfeld. Before COVID-19, disaster response usually meant a weather-related event. However, the effects of the pandemic on the church community are quite similar. There are financial losses in churches, homes, and local businesses. Smith and Schoenfeld use their substantial experience in assisting communities through recovery to show faith communities how to come together to combat hopelessness and gain/regain financial strength. The book includes a six-session group study to assist pastors and others in facilitating discussion and focus on recovery strategies.
The Adept Church: Navigating Between a Rock and a Hard Place by F. Douglas Powe, Jr. Many churches are facing difficult choices in planning for the future, even before the pandemic. Let Dr. Powe guide your church through developing realistic road maps for navigating between a rock and a hard place with a clear process for defining reality – a process based on strategic decisions concerning where the church needs to go and not where it is currently.
The E-Giving Guide for Every Church: Using Digital Tools to Grow Ministry by Richard Rogers. If your church was not offering e-giving before the pandemic, you certainly need to be doing it now. This guidebook takes away the confusion and fear involved in using electronic media to raise money for your ministry and mission by providing a solid, sustainable framework that focuses on the key topics every church must address.
Tools for Resilience
Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times by Adam Hamilton. This well-received study addresses many issues that we fear with a practical plan to realistically address those fears and cultivate hope. If we needed this study in our society before COVID-19, we need it even more now. This study can be done churchwide with resources available for all ages including a helpful children’s picture book, Eek! Said Amy. The videos are also currently available for free online viewing on Amplify.
You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times by Max Lucado. These words may be just what we need to hear right now. Lucado lifts up the Genesis story of Joseph to offer hope to anyone going through difficult times. Watch the promo video for this 6-session video study. Lucado has another video study that may also be helpful during these times. Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear looks at Jesus’ encounters with people in frightening situations giving evidence that we can trust God through these scary times.
A Way Through the Wilderness: Growing in Faith When Life is Hard by Rob Renfroe. United Methodist Pastor Renfroe created this study before COVID-19, but the lessons about how to respond to a wilderness experience provide helpful guidance for our current situation. This 6-session video study endeavors to leave us with a deeper faith and draws us closer to God than we ever imagined. Watch a promo video. Ray Vander Laan offers his own video study on the wilderness experience in Walking with God in the Desert.
Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World by Melissa Spoelstra. This award-winning women’s study brings a message of hope in times of uncertainty based on the biblical prophet Jeremiah. Spoelstra provides women six guidelines for intentional living to overcome fear, worry, and doubt as they surrender their will to God’s and put their hope in Him alone. Watch a promo video.
Fail: What to Do When Things Go Wrong by Matt Miofsky. For another take on Jeremiah, United Methodist Pastor Miofsky explores perseverance and trusting God in this 5-session video study. As many of us are struggling with failures brought on by the pandemic, learn how God used Jeremiah’s failures and how God can use our failures as well. Watch a promo video and the video for the first session. Ministry leaders who are facing failure will find encouragement from Christian Coon’s book, Failing Boldly: How Falling Down in Ministry Can Be the Start of Rising Up.
Tools for Connection
The Authenticity Challenge: 21 Days to a More Content Life by Sarah Heath. Statistics show that we are spending more time on social media during the pandemic as we seek more ways to connect while we are apart. United Methodist Pastor Heath will lead you through how to be more authentic in your vocation, relationships, and faith. Over the course of 21 days, you will be guided through seven daily challenges each week related to one of these areas, including social media. Watch the promo video and the video for the first session.
Reckless Love: Jesus’ Call to Love Our Neighbor by Tom Berlin. While our physical worlds have grown smaller and we may not be able to participate in our normal mission work, we can take this opportunity to be more loving towards our actual neighbors. United Methodist Pastor Tom Berlin explores the radical love that Jesus had for the people he encountered and how we can extend that same love to those around us. Watch the promo video and the video for the first session.
Relat(able): Making Relationships Work by Louie Giglio. Our relationships may become strained in this time of forced confinement and stressful conditions. Giglio offers this 6-session study to help us improve all of our relationships with other people and even see restoration in broken relationships that seem impossible to repair. Watch the promo video and the video for the first session.
Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in a Virtual World by Adam Thomas. While we are all spending more time online in an effort to connect with each other, it may be helpful to have some guidance about how to live out our faith in this digital space. Join with millennial Episcopal Priest Thomas as he explores using our faith with all kinds of digital tools. All six of these study videos are available on his YouTube channel.
Tools for Spiritual Growth
Sacred Rhythms: Spiritual Practices that Nourish Your Soul and Transform Your Life by Ruth Haley Barton. While we are missing going to church and may have some more time on our hands, this is a good time to develop or discover spiritual practices to help you stay connected to God. In this 6-session video study, Barton explains and demonstrates practices such as Lectio Divina, the Examen, and more that you might not expect. Watch the promo video and the video for the first session.
Connecting with God: A Spiritual Formation Guide by Julia L. Roller. This book will help you reinvigorate your communication with God in such traditional areas as prayer and Bible study. Divided into twelve chapters conveniently organized for individual or group study, each section explores a different area in which we can deepen our individual communion with God. The book includes readings, reflection questions, exercises, and activities making it an interactive guide that prompts true spiritual growth.
Tending Body, Heart, Mind, and Soul: Following Jesus in Caring for Ourselves by Mary Jane Gorman. During these stressful and unusual times, it is important to remember to take care of ourselves. Who better to model self-care after than Jesus himself? Gorman looks deep into Jesus’ humanity and how he cared for his own body, heart, mind, and soul. The book includes discussion questions and is available as an ebook.
Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment by Joyce Rupp. While many of our days feel routine and ordinary, Rupp helps us to reflect upon and rejoice in the sacred everyday world with her prose, poetry, and prayer. This Twentieth Anniversary Edition includes a new foreword that reveals retrospective insights about the budding of Rupp’s own spirituality and illustrates the ongoing relevance of Fresh Bread in today’s chaotic and fragile world.
Listen with the Heart: Sacred Moments in Everyday Life by Joan D. Chittister. Along the same lines as Fresh Bread, Sister Joan Chittister calls us to reach beyond the immediacy of a moment in everyday life and savor the sacred rituals that underlie it. This volume encompasses such rituals as Blessing, Fasting, Prayer, Community, Music, and Waiting. Each of the 12 chapters begins with an introduction on that topic, followed by a collection of meditations.
Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice by Marilyn McEntyre. Take up a new spiritual practice by focusing on a word each week with this book as your guide. McEntyre invites readers to dwell intentionally with single words — remembering their biblical and literary contexts, considering the personal associations they bring up, and allowing them to become a focus for prayer and meditation. She draws on the spiritual practices of Lectio Divina and centering prayer as she encourages readers to allow these small words to help them pause and hear the voice of the Spirit.
Additional Media Center Resources
Online Resources for Spiritual Growth
The NC Conference Media Center has been posting regularly with online resources for use in your ministry, small groups, or for personal spiritual growth. These include online video studies, PDF studies, streaming movies, webinars, online classes, kids’ resources, and more. You can find all of these posts on our Online Resources page.