UPDATED MONDAY, MARCH 16
Amid the fast-spreading outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), there are some important things to keep in mind to keep your congregation safe. Here are a few things to note about the state of the virus:
- Thursday, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
- President Trump addressed the nation last night and enlightened listeners on the actions being taken by the U.S. government to help flatten the curve of this virus and keep further spread at bay.
- The Director for the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Redfield, committed that all COVID-19 testing will be covered for free.
- The IRS proclaimed that any added benefits with associated medical expenses will not impede HDHP eligibility.
- Sunday, the CDC issued a guidance to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more people in the next 8 weeks.
If you’re a church leader, you may be apprehensive about how to navigate your weekend gatherings in light of these recent events. We want to encourage you with the top recommendations to help protect the health of your people.
1. Contact your congregation
First and foremost, contact your congregation and let them know that your church elders are keeping a close watch on COVID-19, and that you’re being extremely mindful about what it means for the church. This will not only bring a sense of calm to your members, but also give you an opportunity to communicate about the extra precautionary steps you are taking.
If you need some help formulating an email and other communication for your members, consider including the following:
“The Elders of __________ would like to let the body know that we are keeping a close watch on COVID-19 (coronavirus). We encourage everyone to pray for those who are suffering and families that have been affected by this global pandemic.
In the meantime, we would like you to take the follow precautions:
- If you are sick, please stay home from church until you are feeling 100% again.
- Parents, please do not check your children into the nursery or Sunday School if they have had a fever anytime within the last 48 hours.
- Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizing stations located throughout the church regularly.
2. Live stream your gathering
Many church events have already been canceled and have selected to do live streaming services online only.
If you have a camera that connects via USB, you should be able to use this. Connect an output from your soundboard into the camera and you’re good-to-go!
Don’t overthink it too much. People will have lots of grace for you this weekend. The most important thing you can do is to keep your people safe, so it’s probably best to err on the side of caution.
3. Ensure all staff and volunteers are healthy and clean
If you cannot live stream, make sure that everyone is healthy and follows good hygiene protocol.
If you do decide to meet as usual, keep in mind that people may be exposed to the virus and feel virtually no symptoms. So, remind your congregation that even the smallest sign of symptoms should be taken seriously! Also, keep in mind the size of your church and the CDC’s latest recommendations.
4. Hand sanitation stations
Instead of handing out bulletins, put them in a basket at the front door. Have your door greeters say hello rather than shaking hands, and have them point out hand sanitation stations throughout the church.
If you are having a hard time finding hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, send out an email to your key volunteers and ask them to donate some of their extra to the church.
5. Prepackaged communion
The tradition of communion is important and expressed in many different ways. If this special time is scheduled during your upcoming weekend gatherings, we would recommend to use prepackaged communion packets rather than the normal open containers. This ensures the contents are unexposed for consumption.
6. Clean between services
Gateway Church in Texas has implemented cleaning between services to ensure that each seat is sanitized. You will need all hands on deck to accomplish this, but it will certainly help provide some extra peace of mind to your members.
7. Remove items that are touched regularly
Think through any items in your church that are frequently touched by members, such as furniture or decorations. These items could be in the parking lot, the lobby, the restrooms or even seating areas.
If you feel compelled to leave those items out, then be sure to clean them well and often throughout the day. However, we would recommend removing these items to keep the spread of germs to a minimum.
8. Skip your meet-and-greet
Consider skipping the mid-service neighbor meet-and-greet, and also encourage your members to head back home once the service concludes instead of sharing coffee and donuts afterwards.
9. Smile and be kind
The fear and anxiety that people are experiencing this week amid COVID-19 can make them weary. Remind your members that God is sovereign, and that a hurting heart can always find rest in the love of Jesus.