Empty shelves at supermarkets and big-box stores.
Hand sanitizers going for over $100 by some Amazon sellers.
Commuters wearing plastic boxes and various bags over their heads.
Viral photos of these scenarios are feeding our general sense of anxiety. Many countries around the world are now expecting to be hit by COVID-19, an illness caused by a novel coronavirus. Because much is still unknown, the situation is fluid and ever changing.
It is hard not to panic. But being prepared is a better response.
Here are 5 tips on how churches can proactively protect their congregation during this global epidemic:
- Fist Bumps and Elbow Taps
In the days of the Apostle Paul, people were to greet each other with a holy kiss. In our culture, we are expected to shake hands and hug. It may be time to reconsider this practice to limit person to person transmission of disease. Alternatives include waving hello or tapping elbows. More creative ways such as the Wuhan Shake or feet tapping are shown in this video. Clearly communicating this change to the whole congregation not only ensures effectiveness, but also saves people from the worry of appearing rude to not shake hands.
- “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”
Regular hand washing with soap and warm water for 20 seconds is still the best way to prevent spreading disease. It is also important for people to not touch their face. Post signs around your church building as a reminder. Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers by entrances, including Sunday school classrooms. Consider which ministry group in your church may be able to take on the task of wiping down high contact surfaces such as door handles, light switches, and hand railings. One possibility is to temporarily suspend all food services and relocate these volunteers to do the job of sanitizing common surfaces.
- Holy Communion
Some churches have taken extensive measures to keep people healthy while partaking of Holy Communion. Servers wearing face masks and gloves drop wafers into open palms of people and pass out little plastic cups of juice or wine. People are asked not to touch the servers’ gloves at any point to prevent contamination of the elements. Even if your church chooses not to adopt this method, it is important to rethink how communion should be done during this global epidemic.
- Keep Your People Up to Date
Since the situation is fluid and ever changing, ensure you have a way to get up-to-date information to your congregants. In the event of church closure or emergency procedures, you can send out a bulk email to all the regular attenders in your contact list. Posting a message on your church website will also inform new visitors of changes. If you are implementing special procedures for groups such as hosts or kids’ ministry volunteers, use Sunergo Connect to send out a message with information specific to each ministry group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about this powerful tool.
- No More Baskets and Plates
Instead of collecting tithes by passing around a container of some sort, put a box on a table at the back of the sanctuary or near the front for people to deposit their offering. In consideration of those who count offerings, ask people to seal envelopes with tape instead of licking the flap.* With more people encouraged to stay home in case of illness, implement a way for them to give online or use Text to Give as an option. These frequently requested tools are easy to use and help churches maintain their financial budget in times of disruption.
Some may be reluctant to make changes to traditional ways of doing church. But in light of an inevitable outbreak in one of our communities, it is important to think about how we can care for one another and consider the needs of those who are more vulnerable in our midst. By following these 5 tips, your congregation could prevent or slow down the spread of COVID-19. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the loving thing to do for our neighbours.
*We thank Neil (Emmanuel Baptist Church Victoria) for this helpful tip.