The Coronavirus Concern
Note: The Coronavirus news can cause concern. To stay up-to-date on the latest information from the World Health Organization (WHO), visit here.
Depending on where you are located, you may or may not be holding worship this weekend. Local authorities and public health officials continue to make recommendations regarding safety measures such as frequent hand washing and limiting group meetings to less than 100 people. For some, the recommendations will result in cancelling worship and limiting the contact you have with your constituents. Here are some ways you can continue to provide support and connection and, perhaps, discover new ways to be in community now and in the future.
How Can Your Church Provide Support and Stay Connected During Coronavirus?
Provide frequent email updates.
When you have substantive updates, send an email to your church. They will appreciate the communication, and it will give you an opportunity to reinforce what your church is doing to respond appropriately. Now is a great time to send an email outlining steps your church is taking to sanitize public spaces, share temporary social etiquette changes such as avoiding shaking hands or hugging or using hand sanitizer as people enter the building, placing the offering plate in a fixed location rather than passing it, and removing passed pew pads.
Upgrade your technology.
Hopefully you are live streaming your worship services. Churches that have been live streaming their worship services soon discover they have an entire virtual congregation. If you haven’t yet gone to livestream, you can still engage your congregation by posting the audio of the sermon or your entire service online. This will help people continue to feel connected despite not physically being together.
Promote electronic giving.
Now is a great time to make a special push to promote electronic and recurring giving. People will still want to make contributions even if they are not in worship. Be sure your website provides an easy and accessible way for people to make contributions through credit cards, PayPal, and ACH. One way to promote electronic giving is through sending a video email through services such as Bombbomb demonstrating how to set up and use it. Video emails are more relational and have higher open rates. If ACH is your primary recurring giving channel, consider sending a mailing with ACH sign-up cards to households that do not yet participate. Be sure to include a stamped return envelope and a personal story from a user of recurring giving.
Use social media.
Now is a good time to connect your members and regular attenders to your social media channels. In your promotions, explain how you will be using these channels to keep members informed of changes that might impact activities at your church. (You can also use social media such as Facebook Live to stream your worship services.) When the impact of the Coronavirus is behind us, you will have strengthened your online presence well into the future.
Expand your prayer ministry.
More than anything, people need to come together in prayer. Deploy a phone tree campaign and invite people to call and check in with each other. With anxiety being high, it will be reassuring to know the church is praying together and for each other. Using your online communications channels, share a daily devotion or prayer that enables people to stay grounded in God and connected to each other.
Make sure someone is available to answer the church phone.
When people call with questions, they will want to speak to someone rather than get a recording. Most phone systems provide call forwarding allowing someone off-site to answer church calls. Consider enlisting volunteers to cover the church lines so that you have extended coverage hours. Be sure you provide clear instructions and talking points to phone volunteers.
Encourage Sunday School and Small Group Leaders to use Facebook Groups, Google Hangout, Zoom Meeting, Skype or other online meeting tools to continue to meet.
Many people are already using these tools in professional settings, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to use them for small group gatherings.
Consider creating an assistance fund to help those in your community most affected by the virus.
The effect of the virus reaches far beyond those who actually contract the illness. Some of our most vulnerable neighbors may experience loss of wages, difficulty accessing immediate healthcare, and other unexpected implications from the Coronavirus.
Keep the Faith
During times of crisis is when God’s people are often at their best. While we pray for the people affected by this virus, we also pray for all people suffering, hurting, and in need. God’s people may meet in a building, but the church is not limited to a geographic location.Be bold and courageous during this time. Look for ways to continue to meet the needs of your people while being responsive to public health concerns. The increased use of social media, online viewing, electronic giving, creative delivery of discipleship content, growing prayer ministries, and better connection to each other will all leave the church in a stronger position after the virus passes. God’s people will experience God’s abundant care and faithfulness when we walk in prayerful obedience and faith.