Is Your Church Ready to Move into Phase 2 of a COVID-19 Response Plan?
With churches across the country forced to close their doors to avoid the spread of COVID-19, many pastors and leadership teams have been scrambling to figure out new ways to assemble for worship and fellowship. A church in Kentucky held a worship service in an unused drive-in movie theater, and many others are trying to learn how to livestream for the first time.
In an article on ChristianityToday.com Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center, dean at Wheaton College, pastor, prolific author, speaker, and consultant to church leaders, mapped out the different phases churches are likely to face during this Coronavirus crisis. Learning to livestream church is indicative of Phase 1, the “Pause and Innovate” phase, he says.
“Phase 1 is where churches have been living as they’ve been learning how to host church online instead of in person,” says Stetzer. Now, he implores churches to quickly move into Phase 2—“Prepare and Plan.”
“The eye of the coronavirus is coming,” Stetzer says. “Given the nature of this virus, it is impossible to predict when the eye will hit and how long it will endure.”
Phase 2, according to Stetzer, is vision time—how will the church prepare to meet the coming storm? He says church leaders need to make preparations for how they will:
- Maximize communication to staff, leadership bodies, and congregants
- Pivot staff roles and responsibilities
- Plan for generosity (and giving)
- Follow up with online visitors and new believers
- Weather a financial crunch
- Care for their neighbors
- Serve the sick, hurting, and shut-ins
- Conduct counseling to those with mental illness, addictions, etc.
- Launch virtual small groups
- Minister to families (including children and students)
- Love their community and city well
- Seek the peace and prosperity of their community and city
'For Such a Time as This'
Greg Snider, Ministry Space Strategist at Aspen Group, offers a framework for thinking about how to be a church that’s in and for the community.
Applied in the immediate-term, what insights do you have about the make-up of your congregation and community? What is the context of your culture? Who on your leadership team or within your community is equipped to lead various aspects of your church’s response plan? What are the ministries that your church is known for? Can you focus on these and adjust them to quickly serve the critical needs of your community rather than inventing a new initiative that you may or may not execute successfully?
Can your church building and property be used as a tool to facilitate critical care during this pandemic? For example, Church of the Highlands in Alabama was able to mobilize volunteers and use their church property as a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site. Second Presbyterian in Chicago adapted their popular weekly Lunch Bag Program for the homeless and hungry from a sit-down meal to grab-and-go.
Now, more than any other time in modern history, the Church has an opportunity to rise up and be the Church. Our response as the Church in this time of crisis could well be our finest hour. Like Esther, who knows that we have come to our position “for such a time as this”?
As Stetzer says, “My hope and prayer would be that we would be like the Christians Eusebius described from the 4th century… that once this crisis has subsided (and it will), they will say of us (as Eusebius said of them), the Christians ‘deeds were on everyone's lips, and they glorified the god of the Christians.’”