For those of us who work in the ministry – these are unprecedented times. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed a situation when churches are encouraged to close – for the safety of the public.
Countless pastors and church leaders made a very difficult decision this past week to cancel church services. Some were able to offer a streaming service.
Unfortunately, many small churches don’t have the resources or technology to support streaming services.
Many small churches also rent retail space and are at the mercy of their landlords for what they can offer.
As church leaders, we know that we cannot operate out of a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), and not let our anxiety (Phillipians 4:6) supersede our trust that God is in control.
As of today, the CDC has recommended the cancelation of gatherings of more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. For the church, that means closing their doors.
But from a practical perspective, how does a church manage when its doors are closed.
It should go without saying but we know now is the time for focused prayer.
Get organized and schedule some designated time to pray for your church, your community, and this pandemic.
Specifically, those who at the greatest risk and the health care workers who get exposed to this virus every day.
Also for our healthcare system to sustain the influx of patients in the coming days.
Create some prayer points and distribute them to church members and ask them to commit to praying regularly.
2. Communicate Often
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Members need to hear from the church.
As leaders make of point of communicating often.
No communication is insignificant at this time. Think about those things that members need to know:
- Service cancellations;
- Church committee meeting cancelations;
- Church policy on weddings and funerals for the next couple of months. If you haven’t thought about this, these questions will undoubtedly come up.
- How the church will handle benevolence requests for vulnerable church members.
- The precautions the church is taking to keep facilities clean and sanitized.
- The process members should take to reach out for help if necessary. In other words, how do members contact someone if the church office is closed?
Create a communication process that will be used during the next couple of months. Set a schedule for communicating and stick to it.
The more you communicate with members the more you will impact their ability to remain calm during this storm of life.
3. Utilize Technology To Support Members
Many of the social technologies today are free. Utilize these tools to communicate, encourage, and stay connected to members.
For instance, set up a Facebook Group and ask members to join. Create guidelines for use and monitor conversations.
Encourage members to join this group and share challenges, and prayer requests with each other.
You can also use this group to share tips and ideas for an extended time at home with kids – since so many children are home from school.
4. Make Giving Easy
The elephant in the room for the church is giving. Churches are asking themselves, how can we function if members stop giving because we are closed?
Most churches now offer technology options for giving. With the absense of a weekly giving message, remind members of the options to give.
Share links to giving software, text to give, and mailing address for those who give by check.
Use the church website to communicate giving options when the church is in virtual operation mode.
Share scriptures on giving and faithful members will continue to give because they understand their role in supporting the church.
5. Check On At-Risk Members
The Coronavirus is hitting certain populations harder than others.
According to the CDC, older adults (60 and over) and people with Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Lung Disease are at the highest risk, should they become infected with the virus.
Find out who in your church community falls into this high-risk category and reach out to show support.
Offer to pick up necessary supplies and drop them at the door so this fragile group can stay safe at home.
We are the church and we need to care for our own.
6. Follow The CDC Guidelines For Preventions
We have all heard this, but it cannot be overemphasized the importance of preventative care during this time.
The CDC recommends:
- Clean your hands often – Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after you have been in a public place and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
- Avoid touching your face – eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with other people. Use social distancing when with others, 6 feet when with other people.
- Stay at home if you are sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes and throw tissues away after use.
- Wear a facemask if you are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
7. Be Sensitive And Flexible With Employees
Many employers are closing their offices and asking employees to work from home.
Forward the church office phone to a cell phone and allow the receptionist to take calls from home.
Or, put a recorded message on the church office phone communicating limited church hours and an emergency number for those in need.
Make sure employees who access the church network do so with a secure connection and not use public WiFi
Some employees may be in fear. Reassure employees that this is a temporary situation and that the church will make every effort to continue pay and benefits for its staff.
Most of us value time to catch up with job responsibilities.
Use this time and ask employees to work on those special projects that always get put on the back burner.
Commit to communicating with employees often to help them navigate these unchartered waters.
It is difficult to not be anxious when we are bombarded daily with news of this unprecedented pandemic.
However, we are the church. We know that God is in control and He will sustain us. Let’s gather in virtual unity to pray, use precautions, and take care of each other. Don’t forget that we are the light-bearers at this time of chaos and confusion! Go shine some light!