As pastors and church staff, the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) is probably the only thing on any of our minds right now. We’re all hunkered down and hoping and praying that all of this will be over soon.
However, we face the reality that things may never be the same again. Even if COVID-19 does blow over, it reminds us just how susceptible we are to pandemics like this. Many may remember the crises of Ebola, H1N1, and Swine Flu.
This reality emphasizes the necessity for each faith community to have a plan to respond quickly and efficiently to keep parishioners safe and to continue to provide them with hope and fellowship even if this must be done through digital mediums.
How the Coronavirus Spreads
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a type of disease that spreads from person to person through droplets of bodily fluids—such as mucus or saliva—in close proximity. These droplets of bodily fluids are released to the air from an infected person by sneezing or coughing. People within close proximity can get infected by touching contaminated surfaces or coming into direct contact with those infected themselves.
According to scientists and health workers, germs from sneezes and coughs can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes and can travel several feet.Scientists are still studying how long the COVID-19 virus can survive without a host. However, in comparing it to other viruses targeting the respiratory system, it ranges from a few hours to even months.
Transmission on public transport is of utmost concern because droplets containing the virus could spread between passengers or through surfaces like armrests and airplane seats.The incubation period of the virus is between 1 and 14 days. This is the length of time before symptoms could appear and is what makes the virus hard to contain.
Understanding the Danger of COVID-19 to Church Congregations
In South Korea, 60% of the country’s more than 4,000 confirmed cases came from church members. Because of the proximity of all church attendees during services, the virus was able to spread quite rapidly.
The same thing happened in Bartow County, Georgia. Several church members tested positive for the virus after attending Sunday services. Not long after, Bartow County became the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Georgia.
Because of this outbreak, several church congregations around the world are advised to temporarily stop any gatherings during the pandemic to halt any possible spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Should Churches Cancel Services Because of the Coronavirus?
For the time being, churches are advised to cancel any group services and instead engage online or over the phone. This is a difficult choice for many churches. But the COVID-19 virus can be easily spread through close proximity, so social distancing protocols must be enforced to try and limit the spread.
How do you do digital church during this pandemic? That is the question that led us to create this article.
How to Do Digital Church During COVID-19
During this time of social distancing and self-quarantining, many churches are wondering how their people can stay connected.
With so many churches unable to hold services, it is incredible how much fruit churches are seeing during this chaotic time. Churches across the country are seeing higher attendance in digital bible studies, virtual prayer meetings, massive upswings in online offerings, and more parishioners to church interaction during the week than ever before.
It’s important for churches to take advantage of the online platforms that are available. More than ever, it is necessary to keep our faith strong and inspire others.
Here is a basic framework for any church activities during the COVID-19 pandemic courtesy of Christianity Today:
Some Guidelines to Help Your Congregation Through COVID-19
As you survive the COVID-19 Pandemic and face the complexities of doing church online, having guidelines and checklists to follow will be a great help to your church. We’ve prepared a few guidelines below to help you navigate this uncharted territory.
1) Inform Your Congregation
Sharing useful information is a great help in combating this epidemic. Make sure to keep your congregation informed about any announcements and protocols to be followed during quarantine by utilizing social media, emails, or by letter.
All members of your respective congregations must be informed about any changes in protocols or services. The COVID-19 pandemic is a very serious matter, and by strictly abiding by protocols during community quarantine, we are one day closer to ending the epidemic.
2) Provide Coronavirus Updates for your church
This is straightforward. In times like these, people are in need of hope. A short, 2-3 minute inspirational devotional message can be really uplifting and give those in your congregation the encouragement they’re longing for. A devotional can be done in several different formats.It could be a video that you post on your church’s social media sites and website, or directly via email or text.
Whatever format you choose, keep it short and sweet. We advise having the content finished about a week in advance. That way, your devotionals can be scheduled and sent out in advance without adding the pressure of trying to produce content every day.
Remember, there are a significant number of people who depend on their faith community for support. Let’s face this uncertain time together through faith, prayer, and reliance on the God who controls all things.
3) Have Live Prayer Calls
Just because you cannot gather in person doesn’t mean that prayer has to stop. Of course, we should all be praying regularly as individuals, but we must also continue to pray as a community. Technology makes this possible, even during a quarantine.
With a video platform such as Zoom, Google Hangout, YouTube, or Skype, you can hold a virtual prayer meeting. This allows you not only to pray together, but sing some uplifting songs, share a short message, and pray, pray, pray!
God has blessed us with amazing technology that allows us to be more connected than ever before during times of crisis like this.
4) Post to Social Media & Your Website
One of the most frustrating things for people during times like these is a lack of communication. A helpful way to keep your congregation connected is to have regular announcements/updates on your social media pages and website.
Updates about upcoming services, different online offerings, and even the latest health updates can all be sent out through social media platforms. Letting people know what’s going on is a great way to keep everyone feeling connected. Which is important when people are confined to their homes.
Social media is one of the best tools to relay information because more than half of the world’s population is on a social media platform of some kind. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are some of the more popular social media platforms you can use to share info and other important announcements.
You’ll also want to make sure to keep your website updated with the latest announcements and news about virtual services.
5) Have a Pandemic Response Plan
A crisis is bad enough, but being unprepared for a pandemic is even worse. Having an established team, policy, and plan in place is at least one step towards being prepared.
No one can ever be fully prepared for the devastation of earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, or pandemics. We have no control over these things. But we can have a plan about how to respond when these emergencies arise.
Here is a helpful diagram from the CDC website that summarizes all mitigation strategies appropriate for this situation:
Bible Verses to Combat Fear of the COVID-19 Pandemic
This is a scary and uncertain time for many, and it can be challenging not to respond in fear and even panic. But the only way we’re going to get through this crisis is by calming ourselves, being present and thankful for each blessing right in front of us, and facing the future with hope.
Below are some scriptures that speak to fear and anxiety that can help you and your congregation find peace during this time of uncertainty:
- “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
- “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” – Psalm 56:3
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
- “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
- “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
- “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” – Psalm 94:19
- “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1
- “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” – Proverbs 12:25
- “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
- “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34
- “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
- “Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” – Isaiah 35:4
- “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” – Luke 12:22-26
- “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1
- “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” – Psalm 55:22
- “Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” – Mark 6:50
- “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
- “’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 41:13-14
- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1
- “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.” – Psalm 118:6-7
- “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” – Proverbs 29:25
- “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” – Mark 4:39-40
- “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7
- “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” – 1 Peter 3:14
- “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
- “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” – Deuteronomy 3:22
- “Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’” – Revelation 1:17
- “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” – Mark 5:36
- “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” – Romans 8:38-39
- “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” – Zephaniah 3:17