What Your Church Can Do to Stay Connected During Coronavirus

by | March 12, 2020

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.

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    This was very helpful, thank you!

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Considering the fact that the virus kills and affects the elderly and health compromised above all others might suggest that we first and foremost make phone calls and have phone trees to check up on the folks in our congregations that fall into that category. Many of those folks don’t really do social media, internet, etc interactions. So they get left out of the loop. I would suggest that Expand your prayer ministry and Make sure there is someone to answer the phone at your church should be the first two suggestions in this article. Those seem to be the human component. Just a thought.

    Reply
    • Joe Park

      Monett, Thank you for underscoring our call to those most at risk. Joe

      Reply
  3. Joe Park

    We are finding a large percentage of churches have a business interruption rider in their insurance polices which can help to offset any short-term loss in giving. Many are limited to $50,000, but it is sure worth investigating if your church has that coverage.

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    My tiny (8-12 worshipers) congregation is virtually all older and not on social media beyond email, and only a few on Facebook. The synod has made Zoom accounts free to all congregations for 2 months. Which would be easier for them to learn and more appropriate for us, Zoom or Facebook Live? One benefit I see to Zoom (don”t know about FBLive–have never used it myself) is the interactive capability. We could incorporate checking in and prayer requests. And the pianist could be involved from her home. Which would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Joe Park

      Jo Ann, At Horizons we have used Zoom Meeting extensively for over five years with great results. It is easy for new persons to connect with and it works on lower quality internet than the service we used before. You can also easily use a phone dial in option, so anyone with a phone can participate. Persons with a smart phone, tablet or computer with sound and video and use the video and other interactive features. With Zoom, you could have church together while everyone stays safely at home. We do weekly staff meetings using Zoom and I am able to see 24-36 persons on computer screen with ease. I find it to be an excellent tool that can keep your church connected and strong in this crisis and beyond. I would recommend it for you setting. Joe

      Reply
    • Avatar

      Jo Ann, I would recommend Zoom. Your parishioners are able to call a phone number, enter a 9 digit meeting ID number, and then listen in to any audio. This is the route my Episcopal parish is taking in South Louisiana.

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    I heard today of something that’s going on in Germany to help children (and parents!) through this difficult time. There are free videos of yoga for children, and well-,known film actors are making videos of themselves reading children’s stories, all on YouTube. What if pastors and educators made videos readings of some of the wonderful faith-based books for children that have come out in the last few years? Or stories from a children’s Bible? What an opportunity!

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Joe,
    Thank you. We’ve set up Zoom for our flock. Working on an easy tutorial for them. Loved the comment about sending a self addressed stamped envelope to continue giving. Duh! How easily we forget reliable “old school” in our age of electronics

    Reply
    • Joe Park

      Thanks Charles!

      Reply

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