Pandemic ministry suggestions

Disciple-making comes into its own when ministry is decentralized—whether by conscious choice (as encouraged in The Trellis and the Vine) or by circumstances—but good resources help to facilitate this one-another ministry and to maintain a degree of quality. That’s why we’ve put together a list of resources and ministry ideas that will likely be useful to you in this locked-down, self-isolating, shifting world.

If you have questions, please email our team at sales@matthiasmedia.com.au or call us on 1300 051 220. We hope—now more than ever—Matthias Media can be a valuable partner with you as you seek to keep growing people as disciples of the Lord Jesus. He sovereignly rules our world and continues to bring about his purposes.

Please note: Quite a few of the resources mentioned are available as downloadable files that you can buy in quantity and email to others. If you want to send multiple copies of physical books to different addresses, please call or email us so we can optimize the shipping cost.

Adult households | Encouragement | Families | Online study groups | With non-Christians

Adult households

Whether a married couple, a group of housemates, or some other combination of adults, many of us are spending a lot of time in our homes with each other. These resources will be useful to make the most of the time to encourage each other in your discipleship of the Lord Jesus.

Living By Faith: Habakkuk (by Ian Carmichael) — If we recommend a book of the Bible for you to study together, you might think we’d start with the book of Job! But the much smaller book of Habakkuk also has much to say to us in a time when we may be wondering whether God really cares about the goings-on of this world. What does it mean to ‘live by faith’? But we’d also suggest Job… 

The Eye of the Storm: Job (by Bryson Smith) — … because Job is a book about life as it really is: where good things happen, bad things happen, and just plain confusing things happen; where there is grief and agonizing and asking why; and where there is God, whom we know is Lord of all, yet whose ways we don't always understand. These studies take us to the heart of Job, and to the valuable lessons it teaches us about life and suffering and the true wisdom of God.

But having recommended those two Bible studies in particular, there are plenty of other useful Bible studies you could do together in your household (like To the Householder!)—and they are all available as PDF and Word files if you want to skip postage. Just pick a part of Scripture that interests you all and get started.

Short Steps for Long Gains (by Simon Manchester) — For something a little different, and to facilitate good discussion, why not work through this booklet with someone else—either in your house or online. The booklet contains 26 short Bible studies (starting with A for Assurance and finishing with Z for zeal) based on a Bible verse, with half a dozen questions to stimulate encouraging conversation and prayer. It's the kind of thing you can do over a meal.

Growing in Prayer (by Stephen Shead) — What a key time and opportunity to be working on your prayer life as Christians! This book is a four-week program of daily reflections for developing the habit of prayerful living. It also includes four Bible studies on prayer for individual or group use. Why not do the daily reflections on your own, but get together once a week to do the Bible study together and encourage each other in prayerfulness?

Encouragement

When going through challenging times, it’s vital that we keep immersing ourselves in God’s comforting word and keep growing our understanding of his character and purposes. These books and resources will draw you deep into Scripture and help you—and those you give them to—stay strong in the faith.

Sickness (by JC Ryle) — This 20-page booklet is so profoundly helpful in times marked by sickness that we have made the ebook free. If you read nothing else, read this!

Suffering Well (by Paul Grimmond) — Explore what God wants us to know about him and about our world when it comes to suffering. How should we live as God’s people in the face of suffering? What does it mean to suffer—and even die—well?

God Is Enough (by Ray Galea) — These reflections on ten psalms remind us of the many reasons we have to join with the psalmist in saying, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you."

Hope (by Bryson Smith) — With insight and humour, Bryson Smith unpacks what the Bible has to say about hope—what it is (and isn't), and how it comforts, challenges and directs us in our day-to-day lives as Christians. 

Healed at Last (by Scott Blackwell) — Many Christians make strong claims today about God's promising to heal all our physical illnesses. What are we to make of these claims? What does the Bible actually teach about healing?

And then there’s the basic disciplines of reading your Bible and praying...

Daily Reading Bible — Each of these booklets provide around 60 undated Bible readings. Each reading is designed to take around 15-20 minutes, and contains:

  • the full text of the Bible passage for that reading
  • some questions to get you thinking
  • some ‘points to ponder’ and
  • some ideas to get you started in prayer.

To get you started, you can download a free sample of 20 readings in 1 Peter, and 7 readings on the theme of 'present suffering'.

Growing in Prayer (by Stephen Shead) — What a key time and opportunity to be working on your prayer life as a Christian! This book is a four-week program of daily reflections for developing the habit of prayerful living. It also includes four Bible studies on prayer for individual or group use.

Families

Many families have never had more time together in the home. That comes with challenges, of course, but also provides fantastic opportunities to grow together and teach children when they aren’t tired or rushed. Here are some resources you can use in Christian family life.

Bible Reading With Your Kids (by Jon Nielson) — This book particularly addresses dads and encourages them to take seriously their role in teaching their children the Bible by reading it with them. It’s full of warm encouragement and practical wisdom.

For 1 to 4-year-olds

Books for Little Ones (by Stephanie Carmichael) — These delightful picture books teach little kids foundational truths about God, themselves, their world and the Bible. There are heaps of notes for parents to help teach the books, rather than just read them, and we have some videos and lesson plans available soon.

Teaching Little Ones — This Sunday School curriculum is for 2 to 8-year-olds. If your church uses this material on a Sunday, please let them know that we are happy for lessons to be shared with parents to use at home. 

For 5 to 12-year-olds

Who will be king? Activity Book — This activity book has puzzles, quizzes and codes, and engages kids with the heart of the gospel message (based on the Who will be king? gospel tract). It will keep kids busy for… well, that depends on how carefully they do things.

Short Steps for Long Gains: Family edition (by Simon Manchester) — This booklet contains 26 short Bible studies for families (starting with A for Alive and finishing with Z for Zeal), with a quote from a Bible verse and seven questions to spark discussion.

For pre-teens and teens

Suffering and Evil (by Scott Petty) — This short book, written specifically for teenage readers, addresses the issue of suffering and evil in our world through looking at the book of Job (and then some New Testament passages). We suggest that parents read through this book with their teenager(s) using the Swedish Method.

Short Steps for Long Gains: Youth edition (by Virginia Grice) — This booklet contains 26 short Bible studies for parents and teenagers to work through together (starting with A for Assurance and finishing with Z for Zeal), each with a quote from a Bible verse and seven questions to spark discussion.

From Sinner to Saint (by John Chapman) — This video-based thematic Bible study explores what holiness is, how it is possible and how God is going to bring it about in our lives. Presented by the irrepressible John ‘Chappo’ Chapman, it is simple and highly engaging. Though Chappo was well into his 70s when this video was made, we had a youth pastor tell us that his kids were enthralled going through this course. Great for a weekly family study!

Online study groups

Thank God that in his kindness we have access to technology that allows us to meet around his word in our homes! But with many of our churches also now not held ‘in person’, the responsibility for Christian care of members has shifted more to home group leaders, so let’s start with three resources to help you lead and care for people well.

Together Through the Storm (by Sally Sims) — Our genuine concern for others is often hindered by valid fears, like the fear of not knowing what to do or say. This book helps us overcome this by setting out clear biblical foundations and very practical guidance for Christian care based in the word of God and in Christian hope. Sally also has helpful tips on caring for people during COVID-19.

The Small Group and the Vine (by Tony Payne and Marty Sweeney) — Being a good leader of a small group starts with being clear about what you are trying to do with and through your group. This five-session, video-based course takes you through the foundations and the basic practicalities of leading.

Being a Small Group Leader (by Richard Sweatman) — A short, practical book that encourages leaders of small groups to grow in five key areas: knowledge of God, character, teaching ability, encouragement of others, and team leadership.

Now, what to study together?

Living By Faith: Habakkuk:  (by Ian Carmichael) —  If we recommend a book of the Bible for you to study together, you might think we’d start with the book of Job! But the much smaller book of Habakkuk also has much to say to us in a time when we may be wondering whether God really cares about the goings-on of this world. What does it mean to ‘live by faith’? But we’d also suggest Job… 

The Eye of the Storm: Job (by Bryson Smith) — … because Job is a book about life as it really is: where good things happen, bad things happen, and just plain confusing things happen; where there is grief and agonizing and asking why; and where there is God, whom we know is Lord of all, yet whose ways we don't always understand. These studies take us to the heart of Job, and to the valuable lessons it teaches us about life and suffering and the true wisdom of God.

But having recommended those two Bible studies in particular, there are plenty of other useful Bible studies you could do together. Just pick a part of Scripture and get into it.

Growing in Prayer (by Stephen Shead) — What a key time and opportunity to be working on your prayer life as Christians! This book is a four-week program of daily reflections for developing the habit of prayerful living. It also includes four Bible studies on prayer for individual or group use. Why not do the daily reflections on your own, but get together online once a week to do the Bible study together and encourage each other in prayerfulness?

From Here to Eternity (by Ray Galea) — Real sin and real suffering need real assurance, which is exactly what Ray Galea points us to in Romans 8. Take your group deep into "the most extraordinary chapter in the Bible" by reading chapters of From Here to Eternity alone and then discussing them together. With penetrating insight, good humour, and a disarming personal honesty, Ray opens up the wonders of Romans 8 and takes us to the heart of the Christian life. This book also features special contributions from Christians who share their personal reflections on walking with God through suffering and finding real hope and comfort in the promises of Romans 8.

With non-Christians

These global difficulties give us as Christians the chance to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet 3:15). There are many evangelistic resources that you can use, but these five are the ones we’d particularly commend to you.

If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain (by John Dickson) — Can we still believe in God in the face of all the suffering and pain in the world? Why doesn’t he do something? This short book looks honestly at these questions and provides some compelling answers. It covers briefly the alternative explanations for suffering provided by Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Atheism, then turns to what the Bible itself says about God, justice and suffering.

Hope Beyond Cure (by David McDonald) — Sharing his very personal story of being faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis, David shares the hope that he finds in the message of the Bible. God has used this book in extraordinary ways to bring many people face-to-face with the hope found in Jesus.

The Essential Jesus (Luke’s Gospel) — This inexpensive book is a powerful combination of two evangelistic resources: Two Ways to Live and the Gospel of Luke. It introduces readers to Jesus—his life, teaching, death and resurrection—but also provides enough of the biblical context to understand what Jesus came to do.

At a Time Like This (by Simon Manchester) — Sadly, many people will be impacted by the death of someone they know through this current pandemic. Adapted from his vast experience of delivering sermons at funerals, Simon Manchester has written this booklet for those whose grief may cause them to think about what is beyond this life.

Naked God (by Martin Ayers) — Looking for a book that persuasively explains and argues for the Christian faith? This book is it. Former lawyer Martin Ayers provides a compelling case for trusting in Jesus.