In the last 48 hours, the feelings of many Americans about COVID-19 and the impact that it has on their personal lives has shifted dramatically.
Across the country, events and gathering spaces are closing in an unprecedented way. Schools are shutting their doors, churches are cancelling services and many Americans are being asked not to come in to work or to try to accomplish all their tasks from home (while simultaneously teaching and caring for their children).
This can cause a lot of fear, anxiety and stress for many people, both inside and outside of the Church. Here are five actions your church can take to respond to this crisis in a healthy way.
1. Start With Prayer
2. Plan, Not Panic
We should absolutely take COVID-19 seriously. It does not do our churches any good to pretend that this virus will not impact all of our members in some way. A feeling of panic comes naturally to people. What is needed is not panic or a reactionary stance, but rather to prayerfully and thoughtfully make a plan for the ways it will impact our congregations.
- Is there a better way to encourage greeting one another that limits physical contact?
- What if your Sunday service does not meet?
- Should you gather in smaller groups?
- Do you have a way to digitally stream your Sunday service?
- Should your small groups still meet?
- Should your youth or children’s programming be altered in some way?
What is right for one church, may not be right for another. This is why approaching all of these questions with an attitude of prayer and seeking the Lord’s guidance is so important. People want to know that those in leadership are trustworthy and are making wise decisions. By being proactive and communicating your plans and actions, you continue to build that relationship of trust and help prevent people from moving to a sense of panic.
3. Encourage Generosity
Our response should not be to hoard resources, but to consider those around us. Encourage those in your congregation to continue to give and live generous lives. Encourage people to continue to give to your church as well.
As a church leader you may be concerned about the financial impact to your church.
If you need to forgo meeting together on a Sunday morning, do you have a way that people can still fund the mission of your church? Make sure that you have digital giving options for your members AND make sure they know how to do it. If someone regularly gives on Sunday morning, they may need a simple tutorial of how to set up online giving.
This is also an opportunity to encourage your regular givers to set up recurring giving if they aren’t already doing so.
4. Promote Being a Good Neighbor
In this season, there are many people that are feeling even more fearful, stressed, isolated and confused. Many will face significant financial stress and it seems all of us will face a shortage of toilet paper.🤷♂️
Encourage those in your congregation to be a light and a good neighbor to those around them. It is about being intentional with our words and actions. Have groceries delivered to a friend in need. Call/text friends and family to check in on them. Be intentional about meeting needs and looking for opportunities to share the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
5. Spread Faith, Not Fear
God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
During trying times and events that affect our nation as a whole, people tend to lean into anything that can give them a sense of peace and security. It is our responsibility and opportunity as Christians to be open and available. We can show how our faith prepares us to handle uncertainty, knowing that God is in control and has a plan for us even when we don’t see it.
Be confident, be strong and courageous and be available to minister through this time. This is a huge opportunity to offer hope and to “care for the least of these.”
Every church will have to take measures to deal with this unprecedented time according to their own best judgment and the advice of the local authorities. The church can be a beacon of hope during this time so keep your eyes open to opportunities that may exist to be the hands and feet of Jesus.