Discipleship Opportunities Abound in a COVID Culture
By Zoe S. Erler
Discipleship-Opportunities-Abound-in-a-COVID-Culture

PCA Discipleship Ministries (CDM) is using the challenge of COVID-19 to create new ways of equipping and connecting church members and leaders.

As the denomination’s committee that provides discipleship resources to churches, CDM is seeing the pandemic open doors. “There have been unexpected blessings,” says Karen Hodge, women’s ministry coordinator for CDM. “How do we steward those new opportunities, those new relationships that this has enabled us to have?”

This summer, CDM hosted more than 2,500 people through its virtual women’s ministry Bible study on Ephesians, with 60% of participants never having participated in CDM workshops or activities before. CDM also re-tailored its scheduled “Hinged” regional conferences to a virtual platform entitled “Hinged@Home.”

“We focused on two things: accessibility and flexibility, in being able to connect people to people and connect people to resources,” says Hodge. “So if you’re a missionary in South Africa, you could participate because you could watch it at any time.”

Since March, CDM also has seen its children’s ministries Facebook page grow from a few hundred followers to more than 1,000.

“We’re discipling people through disappointment,” says Hodge. “What is the gap between what we expected and what we’re experiencing, and how do we bring the Gospel to bear in that gap?

“It’s nice to be a part of a bigger church when we had so many things to rethink,” says Sue Jakes, children’s ministry coordinator, expressing gratitude for the wealth of experience CDM could draw from within its network of PCA leaders. Children’s ministry leaders were able to share ideas, policies, and procedures about how to reach children when churches weren’t doing in-person Sunday school classes or other types of traditional children’s ministry. Recently, CDM partnered with Mission to North America to host Zoom calls with leaders across the country on how churches can reenter children’s and youth ministry in a new context.

In the wake of their online success, CDM launched a YouTube channel earlier this year and pushed out a video every day for two sets of 30-day prayer challenges, one in April, another in September.

Stephen Estock, coordinator for CDM, says that he received a lot of positive feedback from viewers who particularly enjoyed that the videos featured pastors of smaller churches across the denomination, and not just from larger congregations — all united under the banner of being true to Scripture.

Navigating the Gap

Still, this year has provided its share of challenges.

Despite being inundated with requests for new virtual materials, the leaders at CDM admit they don’t have the resources to create everything they would like. And nothing takes the place of gathering together in person at a conference or seminar.

“We’re discipling people through disappointment,” says Hodge. “What is the gap between what we expected and what we’re experiencing, and how do we bring the Gospel to bear in that gap? How do we move forward, knowing that gap might not go away?”

Hodge says that the pandemic has deepened her relationships with leaders across the denomination, because “they had no one else to turn to.”

Jakes says it has been particularly difficult on children’s ministry leaders, who thrive through in-person interactions.

“I think what most children’s ministry people have discovered is that what gives them their passion and motivates them to continue to do the hard part — recruiting people, making sure there’s somebody in every nursery classroom, etc. — is the relationships with the kids in the church … knowing that we’re taking the Gospel to the children in the church, coming alongside the parents.”

At the same time, opportunities abound to reach the next generation, even through this time of upheaval, unrest, and uncertainty.

“When things are hard, what you learn and what you earn are much greater,” says Jakes. “I pray we keep holding onto that. Now our challenge is, ‘How do we prepare the next generation for harder things?’ How passionate can we be to train and to tell them that He will not leave us nor forsake us, and our hope is in the Lord?”

CDM’s virtual platforms include:

To learn more, visit pcacdm.org.

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