Ten Ways To Keep Your Church Healthy and Discipled During the Outbreak
A special report by
Lead your church through the coronavirus.
Discover the strategies your church needs to know to go digital and thrive in this free guide.
Get your copy free.
Coronavirus Toolkit for Pastors and Church Leaders
NPR recently reported on the efforts among churches to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As a church leader, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the information about coronavirus.
HowWill it change your church?
WhatAre the best practices to prevent the spread?
WhatAre other churches doing?
WhereDo you find the best information?
Don’t stress out too much. You’ve landed in the right place.
The Virtual Church Service
The first option churches have for hosting their services in a way that prevents COVID-19 is to convert their service into a virtual service in order to prevent physical contact between members, other members, staff, and visitors.
Hosting a virtual service means that the church staff would still produce the Sunday service itself, but it would be a congregationless service. Instead of hosting church visitors and members in the church building, they would tune into a live-stream of the production and participate digitally.
Let’s delve into all the details of hosting a virtual service.
How to Host Sunday Worship
The two primary components of hosting a virtual service are:
- The production of the service
- The publication of the service
The production of your Sunday service should include all of the elements of your normal service, but the visual elements should be physically organized so that all “stage events” are now in direct line-of-sight of your video cameras and audio equipment. Instead of the “stage” being central, now the viewpoint of the cameras becomes central. Your set design can no longer rest on the assumption that people can see and hear what’s going on in the building—they can see and hear what’s on their computers. That requires a different physical strategy for your church production. Besides that, your basic church service plan can remain the same.
The publication of your Sunday service to a live-streaming virtual community environment requires more technical aptitude. There are several fantastic software products that enable your church to live-stream your service to video platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, including Dacast, ChurchStreaming.tv, SundayStreams, and vMix.
If you’re a larger church, you likely already have the A/V production gear to live-stream your service. If you’re a smaller church, don’t try to use tools above your pay-grade. Go with something simple that produces an aesthetically pleasing video and audio product. For example, instead of purchasing an advanced DSLR camera with a zoom lens that makes the sermon look cinematic, use a simple plug-and-record camera with live-streaming capabilities. Save the big purchases for a season when you’re not under the pressure of COVID-19.
In summary, produce a service without your congregation present and live-stream that service for your congregants. We’ll get to best practices for communicating the details of that to your congregation further below.
How to Facilitate Church Community
If your entire church is logged on to watch the service, you might as well give them an opportunity to touch base with each other and get meaningful fellowship with other believers.
One fantastic tool for this is ChurchOnlinePlatform.com. This tool offers video live-streaming services alongside community interaction capabilities. Your members (and visitors!) can log in, watch your service, and experience a virtual coffee hour as they sip their Nespresso lattes in the comfort of their own homes!
If you’re concerned about your church’s budget, remember that you’re saving money by keeping everyone home for the Sunday. You’re saving money on coffee hour, power, facilities, maintenance, and a host of other invisible budgetary items that accrue when hundreds of people use a building for an event.
Whatever tool you use, it’s important to supply your congregants with the capability of interacting with each other so that the church experience can feel participatory, and so that the digital format of the service more accurately reflects what the church is supposed to be.
How to Continue Small Groups
Your church app is the best way to continue small groups. Use this to manage church events registration, group chat, food need updates, prayer requests, scheduling changes, and resource sharing. Keep them engaged throughout the week, and communicate to your church the best procedure for small groups.
When it comes to meeting with the actual small group, Zoom and Skype are fantastic tools. They each enable everyone in a small group to hop into a digital meeting room and experience the full fellowship and encouragement of other believers with none of the risk of encountering or spreading COVID-19.
This also enables those who test positive for COVID-19 to show up to events without feeling guilty. The church should be mission-minded in this regard—this is not merely an opportunity to keep those in your congregation physically safe, but to proactively include those who are ill into the events of your community without them feeling left out or guilty.
How to Take the Offering
Taking the offering is the easiest part of the virtual service. If your church is already set up with digital giving, then your church is in an ideal position to take up your church’s offering. If your congregants have already set up recurring giving, then you’ll be in a much better position.
However, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to help more people to start giving. More than that, you may want to take a special offering during the service.
For both of these, look no further than Tithe.ly Giving.
It embeds right on your church website. The giving form can easily be embedded or sent as a link through whatever digital giving platform you make.
More than that, when it comes time in the service to give, all you need to do is direct people to their church apps to give—whether to the general fund or for a special offering. Most church giving solutions require that you take viewers away from your site. But if you’re live-streaming the service and people are interacting with each other, you don’t want them to be distracted while they’re giving.
You want them to remain engaged in the service. Tithe.ly is one of the few (if not the only) digital tool that enables you to do this.
The In-Person Church Service
Pastor Craig Goeschel, senior pastor of Life.Church, was quarantined in Germany after a fellow conference speaker tested positive for COVID-19.
Pastor Rich Wilkerson of VOUS Church in Miami, FL gave specific instructions to his church before Sunday service, explaining best practices for attending church.
You may still choose to have an in-person service. If your church does choose this path, there are important best practices that must be implemented in order to host your Sunday service in a way that protects your visitors, members, and staff from the spread of COVID-19.
How to Greet People with Cautious Care
Greeting people at church is commonly a physical act. Shaking hands. Hugging. Etc. The best way to defuse peoples’ tendency to reach out to a greeter physically is to put an unmissable sign right next to the front door that says: “We are a loving church. For everyone’s well-being, please refrain from physical contact.”
That saves your greeters from awkward conversations, and it saves people from their typical instincts to reach out and make physical contact with those they love in the community. Another way to frame it is: “This Sunday, the way we love each other is by not hugging.”
How to Prompt the Passing of the Peace
The next common practice in churches which occasions physical contact among members is the passing of the peace. During this time, you should take another opportunity to say: “This week, we share in fellowship by passing the peace without physical touch.” Depending on your church tradition, you may make the sign of the cross to one another, take a slight mutual bow or, if you’re very low-church, do a wave.
The point here is to prevent physical touch during the “greet your neighbor” part of your service. It’s important for the well-being of your congregation that you make this point before you initiate the passing of the peace.
How to Serve Communion
Many churches are moving to a weekly communion model, which increases the likelihood that your church will want to offer communion during this service. Since communion is the part of the service that involves the most physical contact between congregants, it’s important that you constrain your practice of communion to a highly sanitary model that minimizes the possibility of the spread of germs.
Several practices you can implement to this end are:
- No dipping bread in wine
- No common cup
- Bread in individual, sealed packets (you can buy bread/wine sealed packets on Amazon)
How to Coordinate Church Volunteers
Once they’ve been trained, task them with implementing procedures that help remind members to practice preventative hygiene, both personally and interpersonally.
How to Handle Children’s Ministry
It’s important to communicate to parents, first of all, that if their children or immediate family members test positive for coronavirus, they should participate in the service virtually rather than in-person.
More importantly, it is important to communicate to parents and children’s ministry staff that the toys must be cleaned between each service so that the children are kept safe from the spread of COVID-19.
How to Successfully Communicate Important Information
The most important part of your church’s approach to COVID-19 is your communication strategy. If people don’t know what your policies are, they’ll assume there aren’t any. This could result either in people showing up to church without taking the proper precautions or people choosing not to attend church because they feel the issue isn’t sufficiently addressed.
The first thing you must do is communicate to your church that you have a policy, but more importantly, which channels you will be updating with the latest information about your church’s policy on COVID-19. You should ideally be publishing these updates on every channel as often as you have them. This includes:
- The church website
- The church email list
- The church text marketing list
- The church app’s push notifications
- The church’s social media accounts
Core to sustaining your church’s attendance during the COVID-19 scare is communication. The first thing you should do is, as a leadership team, draft an official statement regarding all of your best practices for attending the service safely, and distribute that statement to as many outlets as possible.
In order to cement these ideas in peoples’ minds, it’s a good idea to show a video before the service explaining exactly how you will practice the entire order of worship in a safe way. Ideally, you will have this video produced before Sunday so that you can send it to your church to watch Saturday night (watch Ray Wilkerson’s example at the top of this page).
Show video first thing in the service.
As you do all of this, be sure to update your emergency communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information.
How NorthCoast Church is doing it.
Discover the strategies your church needs to know to go digital and thrive in this free guide.
Here are very important guidelines that the CDC provides for churches in bullet form. For more explanation, visit the CDC’s public statement for churches here.
- Plan for staff absences.
- Provide COVID-10 prevention supplies at your church.
- Promote the practice of everyday preventative actions.
- Develop a method for monitoring and tracking the COVID-19-related staff and member absences (Tithe.ly ChMS is perfect for this).
- Plan ways to limit face-to-face contact between people.
- Update your emergency communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information.
- Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation.
- Be aware of temporary school dismissals in your area.
- Communicate frequently with those in your communication chain.
- Provide information that explains why and when on-site operations and services may be temporarily scaled back or your organization may be closed to non-essential visitors.
- Educate staff and volunteers about how to keep themselves healthy when accompanying someone to a destination away from your facility.
- Address the concerns of staff and volunteers who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications.
- Put hand sanitizer next to every entryway.