At this point, we don’t know what will come from the 2020 coronavirus outbreak. As of now, it appears that it will be a severe worldwide challenge that churches will have to navigate.
Pastors and church leaders should be investing time into thinking about how they will lead their churches through this next season.
Leading scientists have given us warnings about what this virus could become. With the right mindset and preparation, I believe this could be the church’s finest hour.
To help equip you as church leaders, our team of pastors created a list of nine things you can do now to prepare your church to negotiate the coronavirus and COVID-19.
Prayer, in this day and age, is often dismissed as a platitude mentioned in place of real action. The term “Thoughts and Prayers” is used mockingly by many to point out inaction.
I get it. We need to be people of action, not just words. Positive thoughts have no real power.
But as Christ-followers, we can’t be dismissive of the power of prayer. We serve a God who is bigger than COVID-19. He understands the virus better than any virologist.
If you haven’t already, pray for a slowing of the spread of this virus. Pray that God would heal the sick. Pray for wisdom for our leaders in how they manage this challenge.
It is of the utmost importance that we do not abdicate our responsibility to pray. No matter how we feel, God is the one who is ultimately in control!
Consider Changes To How You Greet People
Churches all over the world need to consider changes in how they greet people in their worship services.
Whether your church culture is a handshake or a hug, it might be time to encourage your people to use a different form of greeting for a season.
I am writing this from my home, which is in Hawaii. Here, our standard greeting is a hug and a cheek kiss for EVERYONE. These social protocols are hard to change, but it is something we have to consider.
Places of worship in Korea and Iran have been the epicenter for the transmission of the virus, and while we serve an all-powerful God, we must take social distancing seriously.
Consider a noncontact greeting for the next season. If you are like me, this can feel very awkward at first, but I have found that if I explain my heart behind it, people are appreciative of the change.
Some will feel that a less intimate greeting may be perceived as fearful or unloving. I would argue that cutting back on physical contact to keep people safe is one of the most loving things we can do.
Stream Your Services
My guess is that churches will start to see a decline in attendance soon if they haven’t seen a decrease already.
It is not because people don’t want to be a part of their church in this season. In times of fear, people are out there looking for spiritual answers.
There is also some speculation that some of the quarantines that we see overseas could be coming to other communities soon.
Now would be a fantastic time to start to plan for ways to engage those who are not able to be at your Sunday services.
One of the best ways to do that is by streaming your Sunday services.
To help you, we have created The Ultimate Guide To Live Streaming Your Church Services.
Get your Website Ready
Your church website should be the centerpiece of your church communication strategy. When people are less willing or less able to come to your services, your website will become the primary way people can stay connected.
As the virus picks up steam, some people will choose to stay home. Already we are hearing of churches in outbreak areas of the US deciding to cancel services for the safety of their people.
In these cases, churches with a robust website will be able to make this change in stride.
At a minimum, your website needs to be able to update your members on the status of your services.
Where your site can shine is in the way it allows members to communicate with your church leadership. Communication is best online when it goes 2-ways!
Now is the time to make sure your website has tools for interactivity. A blog, a podcast, or daily videos from your leaders will be a valuable resource to families as they process the impact of this virus.
You may be tempted to let this expense slide. But you really can’t afford that. Churches that take their web presence seriously will be best equipped to handle this challenge!
Prepare To Video Chat
We should be thankful for the age in which we live. A few short decades ago, there was a significant cost associated with just making phone calls to church members. Now we can have face to face interaction with people no matter where they are in the world.
Video conferencing will be of great value if and when people in your church community are unable to be at church on Sundays.
While in isolation, many people struggle with feelings of fear and loneliness. Being able to have social interaction, even if it is online, can play a massive part in helping people stay grounded.
They aren’t just for connecting grandparents with grandkids. With the coronavirus, video chatting will provide one of the best ways to provide pastoral care while keeping your leaders safe.
Take A Hard Look At Your Staffing Situation
In talking with business leaders, I hear more and more that they are planning for the possibility of making some staffing changes as a result of COVID-19. They are preparing for the economic impact it will have on their organizations.
While we all hope that it will not come to this, we must start to have some of those hard conversations with our church leadership teams.
For most churches, that means taking a look at compensation plans and seeing if there are smaller cuts that can be made. In some cases, churches may need to even look at cutting back on any non-essential staff.
We know that these can make for uncomfortable conversations, but let me assure you it is better to go in with a plan and pray for the best. A failure to plan can set your church back even further.
Bring your Giving Online
Chances are if you are like most churches, you are already using an online giving platform. 49% of all giving today is done via credit card.
Churches that do not have robust online giving options will be left with only a fraction of their ordinary income. Now more than ever, it is vital to bring your church’s giving online.
Also, for those of us who are already using online giving tools, it is essential to encourage members to sign up for automated giving. Most of your church wants to give consistently. Now is a great time to help them through that process.
We recommend that you take some time in your services and invite members to pull out their phones and proactively ask them to sign up for regular giving through either a credit card or ACH.
Remember, giving is an opportunity to worship the King. Don’t ever apologize for talking about giving.
Plan Your Community Response
You need to know that we will get through this. And as we do, I believe this will be the Church’s greatest opportunity to shine.
People in your community will experience a range of emotions, including fear, sadness, loneliness, grief, and anxiety. We know that Jesus is the best answer to every one of those emotions.
Beyond the emotional toll, there will be real practical needs that arise. Some of them will be economic needs. Some will be more practical. Your church will have the chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
In this, I believe we have one of the most significant opportunities before us. By helping our community meet these temporary needs, we can have a genuinely eternal impact.
Plan Your International Response
It is almost a sure thing that less-developed regions will bear the brunt of this COVID-19 outbreak. Begin thinking strategically about what your church can do to help those outside of your country.
While we don’t know what the impact of the coronavirus will be, now is a great time to assess your international missions strategy. Do you have organizations and missionaries that your partner with that you feel are making a real impact with the gospel?
With the right resources, could their impact be even more impactful? Begin to pray now about how God would have your church help take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
What is your church doing to navigate the coronavirus?
These are just some of the many ideas we think churches should be thinking about in this time of uncertainty.
What is your church doing to navigate the coronavirus – COVID-19 outbreak? As pastors come together and share our knowledge, I believe we can be better equipped to handle whatever lies ahead. We would love to hear your thoughts below.
Take courage and know that we serve a God who knows the end from the beginning.