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What should churches do about the coronavirus?

coronavirus church communications
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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In the last 24 hours, we have reached a tipping point in regards the coronavirus or COVID-19.

  • The governor of Kentucky urged churches across the state to cancel worship services to help prevent spread of the new coronavirus.
  • The governor of Washington announced gatherings in the Seattle area of more than 250 people are prohibited through the end of March.

What should churches do about the coronavirus?

First, let’s remember what scripture tells us:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:7

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As church leaders, it’s important that we keep Jesus front and center in our minds and be led by the Holy Spirit rather than fear. It starts with our own relationship with God – prayer, scripture, and abiding in Christ.

Then with this mindset we can reassure others, point them to Jesus and remind them of his love and power.

Offline Responses to the Coronavirus

Because this blog is focused on online communication, I’m going to focus this article on the online communication aspects of responding to the coronavirus.

So, let me quickly say, when it comes to offline responses – how to clean your church building, guidance to give your greeters, whether or not to suspend or modify certain aspects of your gatherings, or whether or not to cancel events or services – there are other people and articles better qualified to help you think through those issues.

Church Communication for Coronavirus

Here are our recommendations for how your church can communicate effectively online through the coronavirus pandemic.

1) Create a communications plan. How are you going to communicate with your congregation? A page on your website? Email? Social media? Text? Who is going to do those things? Decide these things now and put them into a written plan.

2) Prioritize communication. Uncertainty leads to anxiety and worry. It’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate. Throughout this ordeal there are going to be times you don’t have all the answers, decisions are in the process of being made or you have a preliminary plan that is subject to change. That’s ok. These are things you should tell people not wait until you think you have everything figured out.

3) Prepare your online communication. Here are 5 aspects of online communication we encourage you to begin preparing now.

a) Website – Make sure it’s up to date. Also add a “Coronavirus Updates” page and a link to it on your homepage

b) Email – If you communicate with your church via email as most do, is there a way on your website for people to subscribe to get email updates from your church? Is your email address or contact form easy to find on your website? Do you need to check email more frequently or during non-working hours so you can respond more quickly?

c) Social media – Regardless of whether you cancel events or services, there are going to be some people who decide to stay home. Increasing your engagement in social media could be an opportunity to help keep people connected and put a kingdom perspective on things.

d) Online giving – If people miss Sunday gatherings, it would be helpful to provide them with an opportunity to contribute their regular tithes and offerings online. If your church has not setup online giving yet, we can help you with that. You can find more info about online giving for churches here.

e) Live streaming – Live streaming your Sunday services is another way you can help people who decide to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find more info about church live streaming here.

By the way, all OurChurch.Com staff are equipped to work from home, so there will be no interruption in support or service. Our staff is available to answer any questions you may have or help you add and setup any new services. We’re also seeking your input to understand how to best help you and your organization in this new Coronavirus Response Survey.

Some additional thoughts…

Embrace Freedom in Christ

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:13-14

Keep in mind that the suggestions listed above are just suggestions. There isn’t a single right way for churches to respond. The Holy Spirit may lead some churches to cancel events while others not to. That doesn’t make one right and one wrong. The Holy Spirit may lead some churches to live stream services and others not to. That doesn’t make one right and one wrong.

Let’s all pray for wisdom and guidance. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Act courageously. And refrain from criticizing what other churches that may do things differently.

Embrace Opportunities

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

Yes, even global pandemics.

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That doesn’t mean nobody in our churches will get sick. It doesn’t mean everyone we pray for will get well.

But maybe there will be opportunities to share the confidence we have that life with Christ after death will be even better than this life. Maybe there will be opportunities to show love to other. Some may even be called to risk infection and death for the sake of the gospel and other people.

Comment and discuss… What is your church doing – online and offline – because of the coronavirus?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.