We ought not operate from fear although the 24 hour news cycle is certainly driving fear deep into our national consciousness. I choose not to live in fear but to be appropriately prudent personally and in a leadership role. For any group that gathers large numbers of people together there is some risk - if the virus is resident in the local community. And of course, the church gathers weekly along with other events during the week.
Situations like this are opportunities for people to learn to live by faith, trust God (no matter what happens) and reach out to those who are living in fear. Like all issues we face in society and our world this is a spiritual issue as well as a health issue and we need to address it as such. God is up to something even in the most difficult of situations.
The place to start is with some best practices that the church can practice:
- Ensure that your staff and volunteers are regularly washing their hands. This is important for everyone but especially for those who deal with kids. Teaching kids to do the same will help mitigate the spread of the virus.
- Place hand sanitizer outside your gathering place, in the lobby and in easily accesible locations.
- Ask those who have symptoms of a cold or flu to stay home until they are well. These can be signs of the virus or can be benign but one does not know. In childrens ministries this may mean telling parents that they cannot accept kids who have these symptoms - gently and kindly.
- Use individual communion cups rather than a common cup.
- Encourage congregants to greet one another with fist bumps or elbow bumps.
- Encourage people to keep an appropriate distance from others.
- Staff may be reticent to stay home if they have a cold or are not feeling well because of using up their sick days. This is a time to ensure them that you will cover such days as necessary regardless of their sick day quota. Ask them to work from home rather than coming in.
Questions to ponder before the situation arises
- What do your childrens or youth ministries do if the local governament shuts down schools. Do you continue to meet or do you supend group events?
- If you are in the unfortunate situation that large gatherings are either not allowed in a community or strongly discouraged, how does the church respond in terms of services?
- If services are cancelled do you have a means of sharing a service via the web?
- Do your staff have the ability to work from home and keep in touch with congregants?
- How do you encourage the congregation in this situation where fear is the currency of the day?
- If much of your giving is via the offering (which you will not be taking) how can you encourage your congregation to continue to give when they are not regularly meeting? Do you have an easy electronic means for them to use?
- How can you use your small group leaders to stay in touch with members of their groups and can those groups meet using Skype, Zoom or some other platform?
- Think about how you can mobilize a prayer effort so that people are focused on Jesus rather than their fear.
- How can the church reach out to those who are affected, whether in the church or in the community during this time? Every crisis is an opportunity for ministry as people's attention is at an all time high and they are looking for divine help.
If you have suggestions to add to these best practices or questions for a church to ponder, please leave a response to the blog.