by Jayna Richardson
Junia Barbosa is a wife, mom, nurse midwife, and the national director for FamilyLife Portugal. As busy as she is, she had to make time to learn new ways of doing ministry online during the pandemic. As she’s reflected on the past few months and the changing landscape of ministry, she’s seen that God has used this time of crisis to bring about positive changes.
FamilyLife Portugal has a mission to see healthy families impacted by the presence of God in their lives so they can shine that light to everyone around them. But the way FamilyLife Portugal is accomplishing that mission is evolving in these days of COVID-19—and it turns out, that’s not a bad thing.
When the pandemic first hit, Junia says she took time to make sure her own family was settled and secure, as well the rest of the team, then the team began looking for ways to use the crisis as an opportunity to reach more people. As they sought the will of God, they began experimenting with online premarriage and marriage courses, online small groups, blogs, podcasts, and social media.
“It was a kickstart that pushed us forward to this online world,” she says.
During this time of pandemic, families have been looking for help more than ever. Being at home together 24/7 has forced people to face conflict and trouble that they normally would ignore or run away from. They’re looking online for advice and resources—and they’re finding FamilyLife.
Although ministry online isn’t the same as a live event, the potential for reaching a broader and more diverse audience is significant.
“We realized that people that usually would not take the step to go to an event or to church feel comfortable joining something online,” says Junia.
Even non-Christians are engaging with the ministry, sharing FamilyLife articles and joining online marriage groups. One marriage group in Portugal announced it was going to begin an online study, and within a couple of days, forty couples had signed up. Families truly are hungry for help and hope.
Is online ministry the new normal for the future of FamilyLife? While Junia admits she can’t predict the future, she doesn’t see online ministry as a total replacement for in-person ministry.
“We are humans, and humans need to be close to each other and have community,” she says. But she sees these online initiatives as something that can complement the ministry to make it stronger and help FamilyLife to reach more families.
For now, Junia is continuing to adapt to the changing world and the needs of couples, learn from other FamilyLife ministries around the world, and ask for God’s wisdom daily. As FamilyLife Portugal continues to practice being flexible and creative in uncertain times, we look forward to seeing how God uses them to reach more and more people with the unshakeable truth of the gospel.