Dear Church Family,
As dynamics continue to unfold in our world, we want to keep you updated about the steps we are taking here at CR First to be a community that lives by faith, is a voice of hope, and is known by our love. We have closed our building but we will never close the church. We may be practicing social distancing, but we will never be relationally distant. Please visit this page for updates about the internal dynamics of CR First.
Updated: May 23, 2020
(THIS VIDEO IS DIFFERENT THAN THE ONE ON SOCIAL MEDIA)
We have great news. Starting on Sunday, June 7, we will once again gather together to worship and experience God’s presence in person. We will continue to offer all of our experiences online just as we have been. We are one church in multiple locations, for we do not simply come to church, we are the church. For those who are not feeling well, have jobs or health restrictions that require you to be vigilant, or you have children who will have a difficult time refraining from social distancing, we encourage you to continue to worship at home.
We are not saying the church will re-open for we never closed. During the last 10 weeks we have been actively engaged in loving and leading people to an authentic life changing relationship with Jesus. We just were not able to do it at our main location. Personally, I feel this has energized us to move our faith boldly into our daily lives and truly become hope dealers in our community. We have not been looking for ways for others to serve our needs, but we have worked to serve others. For this reason, I hope we never go back to normal.
Starting on June 1 we are moving into Phase 1 of our plan. Here are the key factors you will need to know as begin to gather in person.
Service Times: Sundays at 9 am – 11 am – 1 pm
Services will be 1 hour in length to accommodate cleaning
Limited Seating: We have enough seats for 250 people per service
Families will sit together
Please watch the video for ideas on which service you should attend
Social Distancing: Our lobby and restrooms will have limited access
Friendly waves and big smiles are strongly encouraged
Masks are welcomed (not required)
Seating areas are spaced apart to maintain freedom to worship
Visitation will be limited in the sanctuary, but encouraged outside
Offering will be collected in boxes at the back of the auditorium
Children: No children’s ministry is available yet
Children are welcome at all services
A simple busy bag will be available, parents are encouraged to bring other supplies as required by your children
Cleaning: In between services we will sanitize restrooms and all surfaces
Hand sanitation and masks are available if desired
I strongly recommend you watch the attached video to understand the heart behind why we are making the adjustments we are making. We will outdo each other in showing honor. We will not lighten up during this season, but we must run towards what God is preparing for us. Let’s continue to be irrational with our generosity and intentional with our relationships. Again, for those who are not feeling well, have jobs or health restrictions that require you to be vigilant, or you have children who will have a difficult time refraining from social distancing, we encourage you to continue to worship with us online.
We will have many of our Serve Teams and some of our Life Groups gathering on May 31 to help us make sure we are ready to be fully operational on June 7. Those involved in our soft launch will receive an email this week that will require a reservation to be made, so please watch your email.
Also, Life Groups may now begin to gather in groups of 10 or less. I know many of our groups are larger than 10, so we encourage groups to continue to offer online options.
Updated: May 1, 2020
It has been seven weeks since we have all been together to worship God and experience His presence in the same location. I know many of you feel like I do and miss your spiritual family immensely. However, our physical absence has not hindered us from allowing the Spirit to work through us. As we say regularly, we do not come to church, we are the church. That has been so evident these last two months as we have been actively pursuing God’s mission:
- We distributed over 8,000 loaves of bread & snacks to hundreds of homes.
- We distributed over 600 Hope Kits and blessed our neighbors on Easter weekend.
- We have given away close to 20,000 pounds of grocery items to those in need and will give away another 15-20,000 pounds this next week.
- We have had Life Groups meeting weekly for prayer and worship.
- 125 women participated in the Priscilla Shirer Simulcast.
- We contacted close to 700 homes to see how everyone is doing physically & spiritually.
- We have had powerful services every Sunday. As one church in many locations, we have celebrated Jesus online in our homes.
- We had a powerful Good Friday service, a life-giving Easter service and we had a blast at our Drive-In experience.
- Our children have great online experiences every Sunday and every weekday.
- Our students have had services, Zoom chats with their squads, and social media discipleship moments.
That is a lot to accomplish in such a short amount of time. We have been irrationally generous and have felt God’s blessing each week. This pandemic has shaken a lot in our world, but God’s mission cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:27).
NEW MINISTRIES: As we move forward we know we will not go back to normal, but a new normal will emerge that will keep us more focused on God’s mission than ever before. In the coming days and weeks, we will be doing a second round of our health check, calling every person who calls CR First home. We will be launching new E-Groups, or Life Groups which are designed to be fully online, including a Freedom Group option & Grow Track. We will be launching virtual appointment scheduling for a video conversation with a pastor. We will also host our second annual Foster Youth Graduation Celebration as a Drive-Thru experience. We are launching a Kingdom Builders Stimulus Package in which together we are asking God to use us to raise $50,000 to help mobilize His Kingdom. And we will start meeting in person again.
IMPORTANT: This week our Governor made it clear that churches will determine their own re-opening schedule as she does not want to infringe on the civil rights of Iowans. She encouraged church leaders to use wisdom and follow the gathering guidelines to safeguard the health of everyone who attends a service. With this information, we have a plan to begin to re-open very slowly. Linn County is still showing an increase in cases. In fact, this week two of our members were diagnosed with having COVID-19. Neither of them knew they had it, but due to illnesses among co-workers their companies did significant testing and they tested positive. We know their immediate family and those they were in contact with are now at risk. I also learned today one of our neighbors was infected and every family member did get sick in their household. We cannot take a risk and open up too fast with the spread of COVID-19 not yet diminishing in Eastern Iowa. We love you and our neighbors too much to hurry this process along.
RE-OPENING: We are operating on the principle of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” We have decided to create a three-phase re-opening process which is outlined in the attached document. Phase One will allow us to hold in-person weekend worship services with up to 200 people gathering together at one time with strict social distancing in place. Phase Two will allow some small groups to begin to meet and up to 400 may gather for worship and the Word with continued social distancing practices in place. Phase Three will be our full re-launch. We are using the large gathering guidelines as our basis for the timing between the phases. We hope to begin Phase One by the end of May or the beginning of June and hope to be back to full speed sometime this summer.
CHILDREN: We are waiting until we are fully re-open before we resume our in-person children’s ministry experiences for several reasons. First, we want to make sure our amazing Serve Team members are not feeling required to attend in-person gatherings if they are not ready. We have many who serve our kids who are in the “at-risk” category for COVID-19 and we want to make sure they are safe. Second, we know it is very difficult for kids to follow the social distancing practices we are all to abide by during this season. Finally, the CDC guidelines for re-opening child care facilities are very restrictive and we are not prepared to follow them as well as we will be required to. We will be providing all of our programming online for families to utilize at home. We are also ready for children to attend our in-person services by providing them with an activity kit they can work on as we worship and look into God’s Word together.
These plans are very flexible, as situations keep changing on a daily basis. If you have any questions you may email them to: [email protected]. Also, I will be hosting a special online gathering on Wednesday, May 6 at 6 p.m. to answer any questions you have concerning the Church and COVID-19.
Updated: April 3, 2020
Bylaws & Leadership: Iowa law has a provision for non-profit organizations to adopt emergency bylaws during times like this and our board officially put in place what we need to continue to function legally. We will host our town hall meetings and continue our process after the crisis has ended. Our board of Deacons is meeting at least bi-monthly during this season. Our council of elders is also fully in the loop of all activities. If you have any questions about this please email us at – [email protected]
Finances: Due to our strong financial policies we are going into the season with a healthy emergency reserve. We know during this season finances are going to be difficult for everyone and we are anticipating a significant financial challenge for the church. We are keeping all staff paid and busy during this season. Your continued commitment to tithing will bless your home and allow us to continue to move forward with God’s mission in Eastern Iowa.
Kingdom Builders & Global Missionaries: We are committed to paying all of our commitments to our missionary partners by the end of the year. While Kingdom Builders giving is significantly lower, we will work to make sure each partner is provided with what they need to stay on the field. We encourage those who are still working during this time to consider using a portion of their stimulus money from the government to put towards Kingdom Builders so we can continue to make Jesus known all over the world.
CR FIRST’S PLAN
Eastern Iowa needs us to function as a healthy, vibrant team during this season. We are prepared for this to last longer than any of us want it last. We are ready to stay vibrant, intentional hope dealers. If all of us work together, we will see God pour out His Spirit through us and see many people come to know Him as Savior. Here is how we plan to move forward as one church in many locations:
- CHECK-IN DAILY: visit CRFIRST.ORG for updates and information. You will find opportunities for ministry in EVENTS and if you want up to know how to pray for the church specifically visit our COVID–19 UPDATES page (you are here).
- SUNDAY SERVICES: The building is closed, but our services will be online. Join us live at 9 & 11 am or later on-demand. If you cannot view the service online please contact the church office as we are working to provide solutions for those who cannot access the service. ([email protected] – 319-393-6353)
- PRAYER SERVICE: We need to pray now more than ever. Join us live every Wednesday at 7 pm. We will be praying for requests live as they are submitted online during the service. Also, consider joining Pastor Brian for the 7:14 Prayer Time. Every day at 7:14 (either AM or PM or both) use 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a guide to pray for God to heal our land.
- CR FIRST KIDS: Join Pastor Jan and the team every Sunday for a special BIG CITY STUDIO service. Also, follow the CR First Kids Facebook page for noontime devotionals.
- CR FIRST YOUTH: Join Pastor Nate and the team every Wednesday at 7 pm for a CR First Youth service. Also, join them online for SOAP devotionals and Tik Tok challenges.
- LIFE GROUPS: It is VITAL for you to have spiritual relationships in an isolated season! We have groups connecting online and we are ready to launch new groups to keep everyone connected. Crfirst.org/life-groups
- PRAYER NEEDS: We are praying daily for the needs of our community. Submit your prayer needs through our App or at crfirst.org/prayer.
- HEALTH CHECK: We have been reaching out to every person who calls CR First Home. If you have not been contacted please reach out to us at: [email protected] or (319)-393-6353.
- RIGHT NOW MEDIA: Instead of spending an overabundance of time watching the news and other forms of entertainment remember as someone who attends CR First you have a free subscription to RIGHTNOWMEDIA.COM which is like Netflix for Christ-followers. If you do not have a login please contact us: [email protected]
- SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow our church and pastoral team online for other opportunities to connect and care for each other.
- NEEDS: If you have any needs (food, childcare, transportation, etc), questions, concerns or ideas for how we can serve one another and our community better, please feel free to reach out to the church email: [email protected]
- GIVING: Thank you for your continued generosity during this time. As we all give to God’s Kingdom, He will use it to reach lost people and impact our world for the sake of the Gospel. Please visit https://crfirst.org/give/