As church leaders, here are four practical matters to consider when it comes to your church and containing COVID-19:
- Reduce non-essential assembly activities.
Every church should seriously consider the advice and requests of local, state, and federal health officials. If they ask churches to not assemble, your elders should take their counsel into serious consideration for the good of your neighbor. If you decide to hold formal worship services, your congregation should consider reducing all non-essential activities such as committee meetings, youth group, fellowship events, etc.
Please note, if you plan to hold public worship services, you should encourage members to follow their conscience and use their own judgment as to whether they should attend. You do not want a member of Christ’s flock who feels susceptible that they are unduly neglecting the communion of saints.
The Center for Disease Control has issued “Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations.” They have also published Guidance for Faith-Based Organizations you should consult as well. Unlike normal cleaning procedures, it is recommended that all furniture and fixtures be thoroughly disinfected including every seat, hymnal, offering plate, door handle, etc.
- Communicate clearly and frequently.
Your church members need to know the plan or even the process church leaders are using to determine the appropriate plan. A common mistake is to wait until a final decision has been made to communicate with your congregation. When you delay communication, the void is often filled with unhelpful speculation. Here are some common questions you can anticipate church members having:
- Who will be making decisions about church activities and worship services?
- How and when will decisions be made?
- What data or voices will the church consider when making decisions?
- What steps will be taken to disinfect the church?
- Will nursery be offered, and if so, what protocols will be followed?
- Provide online and at-home alternatives.
Your church can offer people a way to access aspects of the worship service if they cannot be physically present. Streaming video of worship services or posting audio of sermons will help people still benefit from the ministry of the church when the church is unable to assemble.
Many churches will understandably be concerned that cancellation of services or reduction in attendance will lead to a decrease in offerings. You should be honest with your members about this reality and its potential impact on the church’s ministries. Your church should encourage people to use online giving options or generate donations from their online banking systems.
- Embody Christ
People are fragile. Their health, jobs, and culture feel more fragile than they have before. Besides themselves, they likely have loved ones they are concerned about due to age or infirmity. Perhaps God in his providence is showing all of us the vaporous nature of life and moving people to seek more solid foundations for their hope.
Consider making “house calls” on Sundays. Pastoral visitation to homes may not be possible or permissible. However, leaders can call church members over the phone to ask about their welfare and how they can pray or care for them. Consider making sure widows and other vulnerable members are contacted more frequently to see what items or services they may need. Encourage church members to reach out to their neighbors as well to see if they can be of help to them.