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Virtual services helping one West Michigan church community grow

A small, national trend shows that virtual services are helping churches spread their message even further during the pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — A majority of church services have followed COVID-19 protocols and have actually seen growth in their membership as they head online.

A State of Online Church survey conducted last year stated that virtual services have only helped churches globally.

Lifequest Church and Urban Development Center here in Grand Rapids has echoed that trend, according to Pastor Jerry Bishop.

When the weather began to change, they abandoned their parking lot services and the core of the congregation went back home.

Lifequest's leadership team was offered an opportunity to continue corporate worship with new guidelines inside of the church's attached gymnasium, due to its special air filtration system.

"We don't feel like its any more risk for our leadership team to be here than it is to go to Meijer or Woodland mall, or Black Friday shop but as a mandate the significant audience that populates our church we have turned them away," Bishop said.

Head Deacon Kevin Howell has been a member of the church for a little over five years now and has been on the couch, in the parkin lot and now back in the building.

"We miss being able to gather together and give each other hugs and stuff like that but we have to do what we have to do to make sure everyone is corresponding to the directions of the lord and making sure we follow the government mandates and do what we need to do, " Howell said.

Bishop said the congregation is hurting emotionally and they have started group chats and other means to mitigate the feelings of isolation and depression, but over all he believes his church got stronger because of the pandemic.

"COVID has actually made us stronger in significant areas that we weren't before. Our digital platform has exploded ten fold, our service to our congregation escalated by maybe 100," Bishop said.

Credit: LEONA DUNN

Now that all the protocols are put into place, all anyone outside of the leadership team can do is wait.

"Once the percentages of cases come down to a safe number, then we will let those come in that would like to come back," Bishop said. "But as of now we are asking that everyone stay at home and continue to tune in virtually."

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