A Word: Keith Babb, The Way Church

A Word: Keith Babb, The Way Church

By Sarah Whitman, Tampa Bay Faith

It wasn’t an easy decision for Keith Babb, senior pastor of the Way Church of Tampa Bay. Not hosting Sunday services, shutting church doors to congregants and speaking his sermon into a camera weren’t measures Babb wanted to consider. Still he, like other pastors nationwide, had to decide.

Here, Babb shares how he and The Way responded to the sudden changes brought on by COVID-19:

What were your initial thoughts when you heard the COVID-19 virus was becoming an issue in the United States? 

There were so many competing perspectives on the impact of the virus that it was hard to decipher the actual threat. Politicians, news outlets, and even medical professionals had varying opinions. So I approached the news with both caution and skepticism. The week of March 8 was really when I began to hear wide spread news of the virus. I simply prayed and we planned to have our weekly church service on March 15.

What initial measures did you take? 

On March 22, we limited our church services to leaders only (ministerial staff ministry leaders). We also scheduled a meeting with our Executive Board and Pastoral staff to discuss next steps and safety precautions.

How many people gather weekly at The Way? 

We have about 70+ adults and 20-30 youth on Sundays.

What was your reaction when churches were told not to gather? 

It was difficult because we had just celebrated our two-year church anniversary the week prior to the announcement. We felt we had tremendous momentum as a church because the previous Sunday; our service was packed. We also are very active in our local community so a number of our members walk to church and we provide food, clothing, and home good products to our local community. Therefore, I was very concerned about how the order would adversely impact our service to the community.
Plus, one main aspect of the church (all churches) is fellowship, therefore social gathering is a very critical aspect of one’s faith. It’s the place of encouragement, spiritual refreshing, and healthy relationships and although that can continue away from the physical building; the congregating, physical touch and embrace of other believers is a critical aspect of the church and this would all change due to the order.

How did your approach change in the coming days/weeks? 

We decided to move to an online format of worship only and we limited the individuals in the church to only those who were necessary to accomplish our online services. This was very difficult from an emotional standpoint because we had individuals from the community that walked up to the doors when we were streaming the online services but due to the order and our concern for their safety we had to inform them that the church was limited to those assisting with the production of the online service.
We’ve continued to do online services since.

We have also implemented virtual small groups through Zoom. The goal is to continue our ability to see one another and cultivate relationships via the Zoom video conference platform. We’ve also done a few drive up food pickup/giveways; where those in need would drive to our church pop their trunk and we would put the bag full of groceries in their cars.

Considering the fact that we serve individuals without transportation and that walk to church; we also allowed them to grab and go with grocery bags that were placed on tables outside the church.

How did you work to put together a community outreach plan during this time?

One of the major pillars of our church is Evangelism, so despite the circumstances surrounding our country; I felt it necessary to continue to serve our community and engage in outreach. This was especially important considering the fact that many individuals in our local community were no longer working and struggling to know where their next meal would come from should be the least of their worries. So we thought it was vital to meet that need.

Our church has several partnerships with food banks and we were able to secure food to prepare bags full of groceries. We also utilized our funds to purchase paper good products and sanitation products, so we were able to include paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning wipes with the groceries. 

We entitledΒ our outreach: Groceries & Goods on the Go. This allows individuals either to walk up or drive up and we provide a bag to them with a small team of our church members who have gloves and masks to promote safety. So in essence they can grab a bag and go, which limits interaction and promotes everyone’s safety. We’ve held these outreaches once a month for those in need.

What impact has moving services online had on your church?

God has truly been faithful from a financial standpoint. Our members have continued to support their church financially and even others who are not members but that admire the work that we are doing in the community have given to us as well, which has been a huge blessing. We’ve also seen a tremendous impact in the number of individuals who watch us online. For a church that usually sees 70 adults weekly; we’ve had 2.3k views on one of our Sunday services which is amazing! People are looking for hope during this time and I believe that has been a great benefit to churches that are able to stream their services online.

The hardest part has been not being able to see, shake hands, and embrace our members on a weekly basis. The love in our church is genuine and not being able to embrace our spiritual family has been difficult. My wife and I have been making personal calls to as many members weekly as we can to stay in touch with them, check up on them, and encourage them during this time.

What do you think the role of the church should be during this time?

I think this is a critical time for the church to instill hope, validate the importance of faith, but also exhibit and model wisdom as to how we continue to be the church. As a church we can still convey hope and help build faith via our online platforms but I also think it is vital to exhibit care and concerns for our members and those we minister to by working in conjunction with our government and community leaders to assist with ensuring that our members comply with any governmental orders. Romans 13:1-7 is clear as to why we should be doing so as a church.

I’ve witnessed a number of churches have an adversarial relationship with the government and its orders during this time and I don’t think that is the message that the church should convey. This should be a time where the church should help unify the community, work in collaboration with the government, and continue to care for their members and community in a way that is both creative and with care and concern for their safety. This to me furthers our mission, does not taint the reputation of the church, and honors the God that we serve!

For more information on The Way Church, visit https://www.waytampabay.org/.

6 Replies to “A Word: Keith Babb, The Way Church”

  1. I love my Pastor and Church. This is a great and truthful article of our Pastor and Church..

  2. My GodπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎ Thankyou for answered prayersπŸ™πŸΎπŸ™πŸΎπŸ™πŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎ That’s my PastorπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ™ŒπŸΎπŸ‘πŸΎπŸ‘πŸΎπŸ‘πŸΎβ€β€

  3. Amen Pastor Babb! Well said Sir.
    May our heavenly father continue to bless you in your endeavors. To God be the glory love you Sir!!

  4. Our faith is strong and my family is learning so much from Pastor Keith’s sermons!! A true shepherd πŸ™πŸΎ

  5. This is a Pastor who practices what he preaches. I’ve admired him from afar.