USMB congregations found creative ways to assist individuals and families in their churches and communities as states issued stay-at-home orders and businesses closed in an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. In some cases, churches revamped existing ministries to meet the abundance of needs and in other situations initiated new programs to minister to those in crisis. This is one example.
Weeks of physical restrictions and closures of “nonessential” businesses due to COVID-19 this spring meant great economic difficulty for many, particularly small, locally-owned businesses and their employees.
Deacons at Bethel MB Church in Yale, South Dakota, began an online campaign called “Bless a Business” in late March to encourage their congregation to support local businesses during the shutdown.
The idea came from deacon chair Jeremy Hamilton, who also serves as the South Dakota director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
“From a ministry perspective I had to start thinking a lot about online options,” Hamilton says. He recognized that using social media would be a good way for the rural church to have an impact on a greater population in nearby Huron.
Each week, Hamilton invites church members to submit nominations for the next week’s featured business, including a few sentences about why they appreciate that business.
Deacons select a business for the week and ask the congregation to participate in three ways: praying for the business, posting about the business on social media and patronizing the business in whatever way they are able, given social distancing restrictions.
Hamilton says the “Bless a Business” campaign is just one part of a community-wide emphasis on supporting local vendors.
“There’s definitely a ‘shop local’ spirit that has grown and a desire across the board to be encouraging and supportive within our community,” he says.
Ashley Eichstadt is the owner of Boss Boutique, a women’s clothing store that was featured by Bethel in mid-April. She was forced to close the doors for about 40 days and noticed a dramatic decrease in sales, as her store currently has limited online buying options.
Eichstadt says she was grateful when she learned that her business was being featured.
“When I initially read it, I teared up,” Eichstadt says. “That someone, or a whole church even, is stopping to pray for me was huge.”
Rainbow Flower Shop, another featured business, continued offering delivery and pick-up services throughout the shutdown in South Dakota.
Owner Cara Jo Green-Osier says that several people placed orders with her after seeing her shop featured on Bethel MB’s Facebook page.
“I was taken aback and felt pretty special to be recognized,” Green-Osier says. “Small business is the spine of local economy and the spirit of our town.”
Hamilton says Bethel will have ongoing conversations about how long to continue “Bless a Business.”