11 ideas for your church to consider in response to COVID-19

The news and our personal conversations are now being fully monopolized by the coronavirus. The media seems to be promoting a culture of fear.

It’s one thing to have a healthy respect for illness and what it can do to our lives. We should do that – and be wise in preventive measures. However, as believers, fear should never be our response. The Bible contains 365 references to God telling his people to “fear not.”

Because of our faith in a mighty God, we should be the people, “who keep their heads when all about you are losing theirs.” We should be a model to the world of how to respond.

We’ve put together 11 ideas for your church to consider during a time in which our communities are in a heightened state of fear and concern.

1. Change your mindset: When your community is afraid, this should be seen as a great opportunity for ministry rather than a crisis for you to fear too. You have a marvelous opportunity to speak in terms of Christian hope and confidence in God through this season. If you address the issues in reality but make a plan to hold up how the gospel permeates your behaviors, ministries, and hope in Christ alone, you will prosper. Fear is mostly a psychological, emotional, and spiritual battle and you have the opportunity to offer comfort to your community.

2. Seek facts: First, realize that while there is hype and there is truth to the general concern, most of the fear can be overplayed. It is important to seek accuracy over quick information that hasn’t been fact checked. Sources such as CDC and WHO should be your ultimate source for facts. It is important to not share inaccurate information and unconsciously spread misinformation. Stick with the facts and follow the direction of experts and leadership.

3. Economic impacts to consider: The economic impacts due to the nature of the contagion and its spread could have negative ramifications across the world. This is a key disruption of the supply chain for products from around the world. Many other industries like travel, conferences, and the like will be impacted. Central bankers will pump into the system some money to alleviate impact, but the economy, and your people, will not be totally spared.

In these times of economic distress, members of your community may seek assistance and support from their local church. Counselors, support groups, and benevolence are all opportunities for you to be a resource.

This could also be an opportunity to establish a crisis needs fund. Many will be out of work and miss paychecks. Students who rely on school programs for meals will go without, and while we don’t encourage multiple giving channels on a regular basis, if the purpose is wide enough, it could attract special gifts to serve the needs of a wide range of people in crisis.

4. Take precautions to protect the vulnerable: As we return to on-site services, this will include communicating clearly the different ways to greet people (elbow bumps), highlighting hand sanitation stations, reminding parents about sick children policies, etc. Although, these may have only a little impact on the virus spread, they can act as psychological reinforcement that the church understands and cares and is taking the congregation’s health and concerns seriously.

Several churches are setting up task forces with medical professionals to announce slight changes. This is an example of a team that can be activated short term. These types of action steps ensure your congregation is informed and shows them you are being proactive.

5. Move to smaller service gatherings: For most states, this has already been ordered. But it may last a while, especially for congregations that usually see attendance over 250 people in one service. The opportunity here could be to break up the congregation into multiple services spread throughout a weekend. If you choose this option, make a plan and communication strategy prepared and ready to deploy. Reinforce that this is not a time to not gather due to fear, but to rally together to love and serve one another and your community.

6. Go digital: This is absolutely an opportunity to expand your online efforts. Many will use simple streaming tactics, but this is also an opportunity to pilot multiple online, digital communication strategies that keep people connected and encouraged. This first starts in worship streaming. Check out this article from Portable Church featuring live-stream kits.

An alternative to investing in live stream equipment would be to partner with another local church who does have the live-stream capabilities. If they allow this, you can save your funds to serve your neighbors who will be facing economic hardship in this time.

7. Tap into your small groups: If your church decides not to hold any weekend gatherings, the next best step is to encourage small groups in homes to gather, view a stream, and have some sermon-based discussion content. This means mobilizing many host homes willing to host gatherings, posting locations, and training them also to host online. The opportunity here is to expand your current small group system in a rapid way, and completely online if necessary. Next step is to mobilize a team to establish a plan should this option be needed.

8. Giving: During times of crisis, giving is undoubtedly affected. Use this as an opportunity to teach regularity in stewardship. Ministries still continue, and missionaries still need support, even if the church is not meeting regularly. And your church is still in need of loyal stewards who will walk with you through thick and thin.

Your church may already be using online giving. This is a great time to remind your church how easy it is to set up and use. Prepare an easy step-by-step guide for utilizing your online giving as well as setting up recurring giving, and include it in your communications.

If you are still holding services, brainstorm alternative solutions to passing a plate that are less hands on.

9. Ministry through your members: This is a great opportunity to get your church focused on caring for friends, neighbors, and coworkers. If you ask, “As you find people impacted that we can serve, would you please let us know?” this reporting system could be met with the response of many possibilities.

First, there’s getting that front-line friend to take responsibility for ministering to the family impacted through practical measures of concern. Second, pastors can make phone calls or possibly even visits to those impacted: “I’m the pastor of xyz church and your friend Mrs. X says you are ill with the virus. How can we pray for you? We think you matter to the world and to God. Can I add you to my regular prayer list.” Then frequent follow up calls or notes are appropriate. This will be a time to BE BOLD in sharing the gospel.

Boldness rules, and Christians have always led the way in times of disaster or crisis as we focus on our hope in the Lord and his providence for us.

1o. Alternative engagement: Consider engagement tactics beyond the normal. Increase in smaller prayer and worship nights for a month. Invite people by alphabet to attend a worship/prayer night on every night of the week. Example – if your last name is A-D please attend our special MONDAY service, if E-J attend TUESDAY, etc.

  • Bulk up a special Spotify playlist of worship songs focused on God’s presence, healing, and salvation. Share it widely via social media.
  • Consider a “daily dose” audio podcast that is a daily message of prayer, affirmation, and teaching (2-5 minutes).
  • Use Instagram and Facebook Live to stay connected with your people.

11. Prepare for schools closures: As schools close and move online, this is also a good opportunity to reach out to parents and children with online alternatives.

Consider worksheets with short videos, even story times as age appropriate, for a 15 or 30 minute “lesson” daily or a few times a week. Again, take the opportunity to build a more regular pattern of engagement. Distribute via email and social media, and encourage your parents to share with other parents.

And pray for revival! Crises can also lead to reawakenings. Most people come to faith during a crisis, or at some turning point in their lives. I will never forget the day I witnessed more than 400 people being baptized on one day right after September 11, 2001 at a church with a strong military presence. People realized they needed God, and they were turning to his church for answers. This could be a marvelous harvest season if we respond not from fear but with compassion and boldness.