A Case Study of Church Response to
COVID-19 Crisis of 2020
Kearney First Baptist Church (KFBC) cooperates with
The Southern Baptist Convention, and is:
A Case Study of Church Response to COVID-19 Crisis of 2020. Don Hamlin, Associate Pastor/Education & Outreach, Kearney First Baptist Church, Kearney, MO.
Copyright © 2020 Kearney First Baptist Church, Kearney, MO. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from the New King James Version, Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., used by permission, all rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS (pagination according to hard copy publication)
4 Ministry Considerations
6 Strategic Solutions: Closing Church Facilities
7 Strategic Solutions: Restarting Public Worship
8 Strategic Solutions: Sampling of Observations, Day of Return to Public Worship
9 Strategic Solutions: Sampling of Post-return Evaluation
9 Appendix A: Global Timeline of COVID-19
11 Appendix B: Correspondence to Sunday School Leaders
15 Appendix C: Correspondence to Greeters and Ushers
18 Appendix D: Correspondence to Church Leaders
20 Appendix E: Correspondence to Nominating Committee
21 Appendix F: Correspondence to Staff
25 Appendix G: Articles:
- p. 25 – 48 Questions to Ask Before You Reopen Your Church
- p. 33 – What Your Church Must Know Before Reopening Your Building
34 Appendix H: Survey from LifeWay Research
38 Appendix I: Working Outline for Addressing Future Event
40 Devotional Transcripts
In mid-winter of 2019-2020, a pandemic crisis began spreading around the globe (COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus). It is not the purpose of this case study to discuss the geopolitics of the pandemic. The purpose is to provide support and solutions for how to handle future pandemics or other crises that affect the normal, ongoing ministries of the local church.
To help place the crisis in perspective, a comprehensive timeline of COVID-19 events can be found in Appendix A. This timeline will be especially useful as a baseline for future, similar occurrences.
The Bible says: There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9b). As we recover from this particular global pandemic, what we are faced with is in some ways best understood by how people adapted to similar events in history, for as the Preacher noted, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done” (Ecclesiastes 1:9a). As reported by http://www.History.com and others, here are most of major pandemics of the first and second millennia A.D.:
- 165: Antonine Plague
- 250: Cyprian Plague
- 6th – 8th Centuries: Justinian Plague (possibly bubonic plague)
- 11th Century: Leprosy
- 1350: The Black Death (bubonic plague)
- 1492: The Columbian Exchange
- 1500-1900: Native American Smallpox
- 1665: The Great Plague of London
- 1817: First Cholera Pandemic (first of seven over the next 150 years)
- 1855: The Third Plague Pandemic (bubonic plague)
- 1889: Russian Flu
- 1918: Spanish Flu (a type of H1N1, or swine flu)
- 1957: H2N2 (Asian flu)
- 1981-present: HIV/AIDS
- 2003: SARS
- 2009-2010: H1N1 (swine flu)
- 2019-present: COVID-19 (commonly known as coronavirus)
Volumes of history contain the horrific details and the practical or irrational responses made by leaders, experts, and citizenry. In many of the stories, recovery efforts featured recurring themes of celebration or solemn memorial, or sometimes both, with the church as the central agent for doing so.
Keywords and phrases:
- faith in Jesus
- global pandemic
- social distancing
Dr. Ken Parker, pastor of Kearney First Baptist Church (Missouri), encouraged KFBC staff to practice self-discipline during the time of the COVID-19 global pandemic crisis, especially in consideration of stay-at-home orders, business closures, and other mandates handed down by local, state, and national authorities. These disciplines included:
- Demonstrate hope.
- Model courage.
- Show sensitivity.
- Exude faith-filled optimism.
In Warren Wiersbe’s study, BE Heroic: Demonstrating Bravery By Your Walk (Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah), we’re reminded of a couple of things. First, KFBC is a church with a lot of children. The response of adults should be to work successfully through the crisis and model hope, courage, and patience for children and youth. The younger generation(s) will likely see pandemics as a routine occurrence in their lifetime. They should be taught to stand with faith in Jesus when they are faced with similar catastrophes.
Second, we must never be afraid, or at least never allow our fears to go unchecked. Acts 4:29 says, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.” We’re reminded here to pray to be enabled to meet high challenges head on; not to pray to escape. May the church be found meeting this high challenge of responding to a pandemic as warriors, or as Zechariah 10:3 describes it, as sheep made into royal horses for battle. And may social distancing turn into surroundership as leaders move forward surrounded by mighty soldiers of the Lord produced by the church.
As KFBC leaders focused on a restarting strategy, with the eventual goal of returning to full and unrestricted worship and fellowship, Dr. Parker posed the following outline of questions for consideration by his staff:
- What do I want my ministry to look like?
- What are the important things to consider:
- What is the 30,000 foot view of restarting, and beyond?
- What is the boots-on-the-ground view of restarting, and beyond?
- What’s it going to take (that is, consider the “runway”)?
Each staff member was asked to respond to the questions as a means to provide steady leadership during the crisis. Here is a sampling of responses from one of the ministry leaders:
- What do I want my ministry to look like?
- Be bold for Jesus.
- Empower young people.
- Adapt pastoral care to the aftermath.
- Make Bible study applicable as needed.
- What are the important things?
- Build anticipation for a Celebration Service, with Lord’s Supper.
- Focus on fellowship, especially using technology.
- Maintain networks created during crisis.
- Encourage continued giving; plan Great Day of Giving in the future.
- Discover needs of community.
- Emphasize an intentional Bible reading plan for everyone.
- What is the broad view of restarting, and beyond?
- Consider the psalmist’s question: If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)
- Coordinate activity of Bible study leaders. Because Sunday School and small group Bible studies will look different, leaders must adapt and cooperate.
- Redefine pastoral care for hospital visits, nursing home visits, home bound visits, jail visits, funerals, in-office counseling, prospective member visits, and encouragement.
- Learn up-to-date recommended health and social affiliation practices and procedures for individual and group connections.
- Plan for the effective use of KFBC property with regard to ministry to the community. Reach out to community with off-campus ministry.
- What is the close-up view of restarting, and beyond?
- Worship schedule. Local, state, and federal guidelines should be monitored daily to ascertain a potential restart date and to establish restart safety precautions and procedures.
- Welcome Ministry. All Greeters & Ushers should initially prepare for non-contact greeting: for example, no handshakes, hugs, or handing out material. Greeters at the Welcome Desk should stay behind the desk and create a sense of social distancing.
- Distribution of material. All material and resources that are typically handed out should be removed from the main common areas: bulletins, calendars, tissues, etc. Display surfaces should be open. Use technology for resourcing, if possible.
- What’s it going to take?
- Consistent Bible study leaders. One of the things that will help our Bible study groups is to have consistent, dependable teachers who have weathered the pandemic and who can help others understand what’s happened. Sunday School teachers, Children’s Worship leaders, and small group Bible study leaders should be asked to commit to continue serving, if practical, now and for another term.
- Bible study readiness. Equip teachers to know what they are teaching upon restarting, and to have a plan in place for the next unit study. Encourage other Bible study groups to select and prepare a study, and to participate in scheduling it.
- Outreach to special needs adults in the community. Consider: What can KFBC do for special needs adults? How can KFBC minister to the families of special needs adults?
- Understanding the “tolerance curve.” Consider: What will people be willing to tolerate with regard to distancing, greeting, large group assembly, personal visits (e.g., hospital), contact distribution (e.g., Lord’s Supper, offering, bulletins, resources), and childcare?
STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS: Closing Church Facilities
The last public worship service was held on Sunday, March 15, 2020. As a result of rapidly changing updates from authorities, leadership made the decision to close the facilities to public gatherings after that date, and implement a spending freeze for non-essential expenditures.
Dr. Parker immediately assigned church staff the responsibility of contacting all church members and attenders listed in the church’s record system. Names were divided up and calls began immediately. Staff recorded noteworthy conversations for prayer and follow-up.
Staff arranged to work from home, with limited office visits. Using the well-established infrastructure of on-campus technology and in-house human resources, means were implemented by staff and volunteers to provide for the following:
- Staff meetings by online group meeting technology.
- Communicating with the church family.
- Sunday morning devotion by Dr. Parker on March 22, 2020, from his office.
- Daily staff devotions and pastoral updates on the church website.
- Livestreaming of Sunday services beginning March 29, 2020.
- Livestreaming of Wednesday evening prayer service, counselor interview, and devotions.
- Giving of tithes and offerings (also options for physically received offerings).
- Children, youth, and family ministries, and Sunday evening worship by online group technology, led by staff.
- General custodial, then deep cleaning and repair (custodial services were not suspended during the pandemic).
There was also an immediate response by the church family, especially Bible study leaders, to meet with their groups online to continue Bible study and to engage in a modicum of fellowship.
Online staff meetings included discussions on the following sampling of subjects, beginning daily and then held as needed from March 23 to April 22, 2020:
- Dr. Parker gave staff an opportunity to “check in” with regard to how they and their families were doing.
- Dr. Parker supplied staff with Mark Clifton’s book, Reclaiming Glory. Staff was assigned to read the book as soon as possible. A book review began shortly thereafter and continued for several weeks, with discussion applicable to content.
- Plan 60-90 days for stay-at-home order (i.e., no public worship).
- Give people hope.
- No “outside” church will be held, that is, no drive-in church (note: cause for concern that people would leave their vehicles to talk with others in the parking lot – and this indeed occurred as witnessed firsthand in a related situation).
- Simplify work so ministry assistants are able to work efficiently from home answering church office phone (forwarded), caring for business via technology, administrating social media, etc.
- Assure that church mail is secured (USPS, deliveries, etc.).
- Discussion was made regarding the use of a LifeWay survey before restarting; however, time limitations made implementation impractical (see Appendix H for survey).
- Worship orders were reviewed each week for the upcoming Sunday livestreamed worship service.
- Review options for giving of tithes and offerings; assure it is properly counted and secured.
- Each staff regularly gave an update on ongoing ministry and upcoming ministry opportunities.
STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS: Restarting Public Worship
By carefully monitoring the crisis via conference calls with the governor’s office, and with regard to local community timelines, KFBC resolved to begin public worship on May 10, 2020. The following initial strategy was produced by pastoral leadership:
- Worship services at 8am, 9:30am, 11am, and 1pm.
- 8am service – Reserved for those at high risk including elderly, those immunocompromised, and those with underlying health conditions.
- 9:30am – Last name beginning with A-G.
- 11am – Last name beginning with H-N.
- 1pm – Last name beginning with O-Z.
- Services 45 minutes long; Worship Center surfaces sanitized in between.
- Livestream the 11am service only.
- Families sit together; ask everyone to maintain recommended social distancing (seating every other pew with six feet of distance between each family).
- Social distance during the welcome time.
- No distribution of paper bulletins or connection cards (develop electronic connection card for visitors and prayer requests).
- Encourage online giving. Ushers available at the back doors after service. No offering plates passed.
- No meeting of Sunday School classes and other small groups on campus; continue gathering by online group technology platforms.
- Close upper level, lower level and Activity Center, especially those areas’ restrooms (lock doors, if practical).
- Open main level restrooms with attendants sanitizing surfaces on a regular basis throughout the morning.
- Suspend food service (coffee, donuts, etc.).
- Check that the following are done prior to restart date:
- All HVAC filters changed.
- All restrooms sanitized.
- All door fixtures and other handled items sanitized.
- Hand sanitizer placed at all entrances, with a central station in main lobby.
- Paper products and soap fully stocked in restrooms.
- Pew Bibles and connection cards removed from Worship Center pew racks (note: offering envelopes and small pencils remained).
- Greeters scheduled and briefed with precautionary guidelines.
- Ushers scheduled and briefed with precautionary guidelines.
- Attendants scheduled for restrooms and common areas.
- Refreshments arranged for staff throughout the morning.
- Electronic door security system retimed.
- Closed areas checked and locked, if practical.
- Promotion of worship schedule and precautionary guidelines for worshippers done using website, social media, and email.
STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS: Sampling of Observations, Day of Return to Public Worship
- Sentiment of worshippers:
- Sense of gladness to be back (294 total compared to average 527, previous 11 weeks).
- Full cooperation with requests.
- Numerous online viewers (119 total viewers, 11am service).
- Several first-time visitors were in attendance.
- Worship Center doors remained open for ventilation purposes.
- Attendants evinced joy and cooperation in cleaning tasks.
- Pastor emphasized regularly checking website and social media for news regarding any necessary changes or other updates.
STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS: Sampling of Post-return Evaluation
- Worship schedule was amended to 8, 9, 10, and 11am, and promoted to begin the next Sunday, May 17, 2020.
- Sunday morning cleaning and sanitizing strategy was changed in response to actual use of facilities:
- Attend restrooms after each service (not necessary to attend throughout the hour).
- Cleaning/sanitizing pews and other surfaces in Worship Center between services did not take as long as anticipated.
- PowerPoint projection was evaluated with regard to display of all Scripture references since pew Bibles were not available.
- PowerPoint slide was scheduled regarding decision-making since invitation time was not held (options: visit a pastor up front after worship or call the church office).
- Social distancing worked well (six feet of distance between individuals or families, seating every other pew).
APPENDIX A: Global timeline of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)*
December 31, 2019 – China informs World Health Organization (WHO) about a cluster of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia in Wuhan.
January 7, 2020 – China identifies a new type of coronavirus.
January 11, 2020 – China records its first death.
January 13, 2020 – First coronavirus case outside of China, Thailand.
January 20, 2020 – First US case is reported in Washington State.
January 23, 2020 – Wuhan, China, is placed under quarantine, Hubei province follows within days.
January 30, 2020 – WHO declares global public health emergency.
January 31, 2020 – Foreign nationals disallowed entry into US if they were in China within the prior two weeks.
February 2, 2020 – First death outside China is recorded, Philippines.
February 9, 2020 – China reports 811 deaths.
February 12, 2020 – Coronavirus cases start to spike in South Korea.
February 19, 2020 – Coronavirus outbreak begins in Iran.
February 21, 2020 – Coronavirus outbreak begins in Italy.
February 29, 2020 – US reports first death.
March 3, 2020 – Coronavirus cases sharply increase in Spain.
March 8, 2020 – Italy places entire country on lockdown.
March 11, 2020 – WHO declared the outbreak a global pandemic. US bans travel from 26 European countries.
March 13, 2020 – US declares national emergency.
March 19, 2020 – China reports no new locally spread infections for the first time since pandemic started.
March 23, 2020 – New York City confirms 21,000 cases, making it the biggest epicenter of the outbreak in the US.
March 26, 2020 – Total confirmed cases in US reach 82,404, the highest in the world, surpassing Italy and China.
March 31, 2020 – Less than half of the world is under some kind of lockdown, closure, or stay-at-home order.
April 2, 2020 – One million coronavirus cases reported worldwide.
April 7, 2020 – About 95% of all Americans are under lockdown, as 42 states issue stay-at-home orders.
April 10, 2020 – Global death toll surpasses 100,000.
April 11, 2020 – The number of Americans that filed for unemployment since mid-March hits 22 million.
April 15, 2020 – Global coronavirus cases surpasses two million.
April 21, 2020 – Person in California diagnosed having died from coronavirus on February 6.
April 22, 2020 – US reports highest single-day death toll for any country, with more than 2,600.
April 27, 2020 – Federal government established tracking for daily diagnostic testing.
May 1, 2020 – Global authorities report approximately 3.3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus: over one million active and ongoing cases, about one million recoveries, and over 230,000 deaths.
May 10, 2020 – Kearney First Baptist Church open for public worship, with conditions.
* Primary news source: Business Insider. Other news sources referenced for comparison and accuracy.
APPENDIX B: Correspondence to Sunday School Leaders
The following correspondence is intended to exemplify the scope of subject matter, information, and encouragement given to Sunday School teachers during the shutdown.
MARCH 17, 2020 EMAIL – Ministering During Crisis
Hello Sunday School Teachers at KFBC:
By now, you are likely aware that we have cancelled all gatherings at church through the end of the month of March, including worship and Sunday School on Sunday mornings. We have not made this decision lightly, of course. Personally, I see us setting a good example for how to cooperate during times of crisis. And, as we know, Southern Baptists have defined what it means to be cooperative.
During this time, there are several suggestions I want to make for you to consider in ministering during crisis. As always, we will gladly send you contact information for your class members. As you consider these things, keep in mind how we all can minister and serve each other in the days to come:
- PRAYER DRIVE. If you are able to get out and about, consider prayer driving into the neighborhoods in which you and your members live.
- SOCIAL MEDIA. At various times during this closure, we will post things to social media. Check it often. Pass the word to others you know who might not have a social media connection.
- HOME BOUND. I’m sure all of us know people who are home bound. You might even have some from your class who cannot get out. Call them. Check on them to make sure they are cared for. Offer to run errands.
- If you are able, consider a time of private fasting and praying for your class members… for your church and her leaders… for your community… for our nation.
- Our church will be live streaming worship on Sunday mornings at 10:45. Encourage your class members to join us at that time on March 22 and March 29.
- SET GOALS. When things are back to normal, have a plan in place with your class to celebrate and fellowship together.
- LESSON PREP. I know that you will be behind on teaching, especially if you are in a unit study. Review your curriculum now and decide how and what you will teach to your Sunday School class on April 5.
- READ! Read not only your lesson but also our Bible Reading 2020. In the month of March, we’re in the Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles. Check the link for more information.
- COMMIT TO TEACH ANOTHER YEAR. Yes, this is very important right now. Your commitment to teach another year will provide a great sense of comfort to your class members. I will be in touch soon regarding this, as I am every year at this time, so please begin to consider leading your class again.
- STAND FIRM. Do not let down your guard. Do not allow this distraction to sway your churchgoing. Be a model of churchmanship or churchwomanship to your class members. Praise the Lord and pass the ammo! That would be His Word!
We are available in the office during this time to assist you in any way. Our hours have not changed: Monday-Thursday 8am-4pm; Friday 8am-12noon.
MARCH 24, 2020 EMAIL – For First Video
Dear Sunday School Teachers, Children Worship Leaders, Bible Study Leaders, and Staff:
Over the next several weeks, I will be recording educational equipping studies for your view at home. The first two will be of interest to you, and perhaps your class, as I will be explaining the worldviews of sociology and science – subjects of particular concern in these days. Forward the information as you’d like. In the near future, all equipping studies will be available at http://www.EquippingBelievers.net (the transcripts for the above are there now).
If you have a topic you’d like for me to cover, please let me know. I’ll mix them up between Christian education and Biblical studies, or a combination of both.
MARCH 30, 2020 EMAIL – For Equipping Video
What beautiful days we are enjoying, all thanks to the blessings of the Creator who loves us and takes great pleasure in His children.
I recently provided the first of two studies on worldviews: A Christian perspective of sociology. I know that subject sounds boring but in these days, we must have a Biblical view of this as we “get back to normal.” I hope you have watched it. To read the transcript, go HERE.
We’re hearing a lot of scientific news now as a result of the global pandemic situation. What are we to make of science? It’s a BIG subject and I want to introduce you to the Christian’s perspective of it. View A Christian’s perspective of science now on the church website under Ministries/Sunday School.
Coming soon, I’ll be posting a class session on Biblical interpretation. It will review and expand what Pastor Ken taught in several Wednesday evening studies. Look for it later this week.
APRIL 9, 2020 – Letter To Teachers
These are strange days, aren’t they? But as near as I can tell, our church family has adapted very well. Online and live-streaming venues are no substitute for live fellowship but I know we all understand the reality of what we must do.
Our church’s teaching ministry must be ready to “kick start” back into high gear when this is over. There are several actions that I’m boldly laying before you as simply and as straightforward as I can:
- My boldest request: Will you prayerfully consider teaching for another Christian education year, August 2020 – July 2021? Having 100% solidarity of teachers carrying over into a new year will demonstrate to our church family stability and consistency in our Sunday School, Children’s Worship, and other Bible study areas. It also signals healthy leadership. So please, as a teacher, consider what you can do when we return to full interaction. Our nominating committee will be contacting teachers soon so please be ready to discuss this with them.
- Will you partner with our nominating committee in finding someone to assist you in class, as needed? This type of foresight will keep our Bible study groups healthy and stable. We can begin enlisting those people now and I can begin equipping them to be future teachers.
- Will you be a SENDING class? Rally your class around a ministry by leading them to send a teacher or assistant to another class for one year, and then provide support for your “missionary.”
- Keep informed. View the short “practicums” I’ve posted on the Sunday School page of the church website, with more to come. Watch the daily staff devotions. Tune in to worship on Sunday mornings. Participate in online Bible study (I can help connect you if needed).
- Maintain Bible study readiness. Have a plan in place for your first, live, small group Bible study. Summer curriculum is here (June, July, August), but if we are able to meet before then, have a few lessons ready to roll.
- Maintain Bible study resources. As a matter of stewardship, we are currently under a spending freeze at church. Keep this in mind as you consider options for Bible study in the coming months.
- Organize a “cleaning crew” now. Be ready to clean, sanitize, and tidy up your class for live attendance! Teachers in children’s classes can enlist parents to help with this.
- And finally, HOW CAN I ASSIST YOU? What can I do to help you prepare to get back in the saddle of church life? Call or email me anytime. Let’s be ready together!
MAY 5, 2020 EMAIL – Sunday School Update: What’s Going On?
Several of you have asked the question, “When will we return to class?” And I’m sure all of you have been wondering that same thing. While I can’t give you a definitive answer, I want to answer that question, plus the question, “What can we do now?”
- We are currently under a spending freeze as I’m sure you understand. Dated LifeWay summer curriculum for all age groups is here already and has been paid for. We will have an excess of material that will need to be utilized, as a matter of good stewardship. The months covered are June, July, and August.
- Some classes are currently meeting via Zoom or FB. Thank you for doing that! Keep it up until we’re back in class onsite.
- If your online class (for example, Zoom) is ready for new curriculum, rest assured that we are trying to make that happen. In reality, we have other options to use instead of making an additional purchase at this time. I’ll help you get what’s preferred but it will take some checks and balances. Thank you for your patience.
- When we do return to class onsite, we will use as much of the LifeWay summer curriculum as we can. Optional studies will need to be checked and balanced, of course.
- As for WHEN… I really can’t say for certain when we’ll be back in real classrooms. We will be monitoring our corporate worship experiences and listening carefully to weekly updates given by our local and state authorities. If I could speculate off the record, I’d guess that either June 14 or June 21 is likely. Please note that I said speculate, off the record, guess, and likely as caveats to my surmise.
- As we go into Fall 2020, we will adjust our curriculum order to reflect our best stewardship. Expect future correspondence early this summer regarding this.
Thank you for carefully reading the points above. I will be glad to answer any questions or hear any suggestions. I’ll keep you posted as we know certain details.
APPENDIX C: Correspondence to Greeters and Ushers
The following correspondence is intended to exemplify the scope of subject matter, information, and encouragement given to Greeters and Ushers during the shutdown.
APRIL 13, 2020 – Letter To Greeters & Ushers (edited for clarity)
Greetings to all Greeters & Ushers!
It’s a great time to be a follower of Jesus! These “weird” days will soon wind down and as a Welcome Team we’ll need to rally together to restart our Greeter & Usher Ministries. Here are several actions to consider now and in the great day of worship to come:
- Enclosed is our new Sunday morning greeter schedule. Let me know if you need to change your shift or day. A big WELCOME to our new greeters and ushers! And a big THANK YOU to all!
- Also enclosed is an updated Hospitality Ministry Manual featuring important changes.
- Greeter & Usher Workshops: Shortly after we’re back together, I’ll hold workshops in which we’ll refresh our Welcome Ministry, giving you time to share ideas on what these stay-at-home days have brought to our attention. (As a greeter or usher, please plan to attend at least one workshop.)
- New protocols will be in place. Nothing drastic but we know that people will be sensitive to physical contact and distancing. Initially, here’s what we’ll do:
- On shaking hands: If you wish to avoid a handshake, and to relieve someone’s anxiety of receiving one, have items in hand (e.g., Bible, water bottle). This will fill your hands and politely lessen the chance for exchanging a contact greeting. Verbal greetings and friendly smiles will be our normal greeting procedure.
- Behind the Welcome Desk: Stay behind the desk and do not venture away. Visitors approaching the Desk should have an expectation of social distancing.
- Resources at the Welcome Desk: Keep it clean and tidy. Do not display hand sanitizer or tissues. Those items should be kept under the cabinet for your use. There’s a hand sanitizing station near the restrooms for people to use, in addition to products in the restrooms. Most handouts will no longer be supplied on the open surfaces of the Desk. Instead, there will be a list of resources that are available for the asking. Give these out upon request, from a protected supply.
- Protective equipment: We will not have gloves and facemasks or other PPEs. (The exception: Church will provide gloves for ushers and counters.)
Be sure to look over the enclosed schedule and ministry manual, and contact me as needed. Also, let me know what you think or if you have other ideas. And be sure to recruit someone to assist you in this great ministry. May we soon be together again serving Christ here and in person!
APRIL 30, 2020 EMAIL – Ushers For Month Of May
Hello Chairman of Ushers.
Well, it’s just about time. We’re gearing up to restart worship on May 10. We’ll have four worship times during which we need ushers and counters:
- 8 a.m. – Reserved for those at high risk including elderly, those who are immunocompromised, and those with underlying health conditions.
- 9:30 a.m. – Last name beginning with A-G.
- 11 a.m. – Last name beginning with H-N.
- 1 p.m. – Last name beginning with O-Z.
Things will obviously be different, at least through the month of May. Here are our suggestions for ushers to follow:
- Open Worship Center doors for everyone. Ushers may wish to have a church-approved cleaning product to wipe door handles as needed (see office).
- Receive offering at the Worship Center doors, that is, have ushers hold offering plates at each door for people to give as they exit.
- Count using gloves. There’s probably no easy way to social distance counting unless you move the operation to a larger room. I’ll track down a box of gloves.
- Do not distribute anything. Bulletins will not be printed. If someone requests an offering envelope, direct them to the pew rack or to the Welcome Desk, if staffed.
- Practice no-contact greeting. This is probably going to be the hardest thing to do.
- Everything is restricted to the first floor. There is no Sunday School or Children’s Worship.
I’m sure there are other things to observe but these are the main ones. Let me know if you have questions or other suggestions.
MAY, 4, 2020 EMAIL – Message To All Greeters & Ushers
Hello Greeters & Ushers,
As you know, we will be back to worship ONSITE this Sunday, May 10. I hear that collective shout of joy.
The Welcome Center will need to be staffed all morning. Since we have two shifts, 8-10am & 10am-12noon, I think we’re good to use the schedule I sent you a couple of weeks ago. It is attached to this email for your convenience.
If you cannot work your day or shift, simply trade with someone else and let me know. If you feel that it’s best that you not work for a while, we completely understand. Again, just let us know as some have already. We’ll make every effort to keep a greeter available at the Center and at doors. Also, do not place hand sanitizer on the top of the desk. It is underneath for your use only. Hand sanitizers are in the Fireside Lobby and at each entrance, and in all restrooms. Also, remember that we’re in need of people to wipe down surfaces between services, and people to clean restrooms throughout the morning. Several church leaders have signed up. Let the church office or me know if you can work an hour or so performing this serving ministry.
Finally, as much as I can, I will be at the Welcome Center throughout the morning and early afternoon to greet, answer questions, and guide as needed. If you are there, too, we’ll practice the six foot rule. Know that we have pulled all information and items from the top of the desk and will provide resources to people upon their request.
APPENDIX D: Correspondence to Church Leaders
The following correspondence is intended to exemplify the scope of subject matter, information, and encouragement given to Church leaders during the shutdown.
APRIL 26, 2020 EMAIL – Services In May (edited for clarity)
(In response to a memo regarding worship schedule options) …Perhaps have five services. Starting at 8am is fine but what about 8:30am? Those in the early alphabet might appreciate the half hour, but either way is fine with me.
An option: Keep our three services and hold overflow seating in the gym, with live screen, for those who would not want to be around a large group (in May only). I don’t think it’s ideal for a number of reasons but it does let us keep our regular times for worship which people are used to. The only advantage is that it alleviates a crossover issue of people not attending their assigned alphabet worship.
We promote the five worship services as simply “suggested assigned” times of worship and, of course, we’re not asking people to leave if they attend otherwise. We also say that it lets us start back in a responsible way. Truth is, I don’t think the church family will mind, and will completely understand.
Either option, people are going to wear masks so maybe the third option is fine: Just get back to three worship services and let it go at that.
As for Sunday School, I think that’s going to affect children and preschoolers most as parents won’t want their children around tight groups, initially, maybe. June start up for that is fine, whatever option we use.
We have 5 Sundays in May so really we’re talking about a full month of Sundays for worship.
APRIL 30, 2020 EMAIL – Volunteer Cleaning Needed For Worship Services
Hello Church Leaders,
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God… (Psalm 84:10)
With our return to worship on May 10, we are arranging for volunteers to clean on Sunday mornings, at least through May. I’m asking you to volunteer, and/or help enlist volunteers (from your group) for the following:
- Restrooms (first floor only). Attendants are needed to open doors and continuously wipe down handles, sinks, faucets, and dispensers throughout the morning. You may volunteer for one or more hours at a time. Ladies for ladies, men for men, of course.
- Worship Center cleaning. Attendants are needed to wipe down furnishings in the Worship Center between services.
All cleaning products (which doubles as a disinfectant) and equipment will be provided. The product is safe to handle, and only products approved and purchased by the church will be used. This “cleaning” ministry will be a blessing to your church family. And, as people see leaders involved, it will inspire them to be involved, too.
Worship services are scheduled in May as follows:
- 8 a.m. – Reserved for those at high risk including elderly, those who are immunocompromised, and those with underlying health conditions.
- 9:30 a.m. – Last name beginning with A-G.
- 11 a.m. – Last name beginning with H-N.
- 1 p.m. – Last name beginning with O-Z.
In view of this schedule, contact the church office as soon as you can to volunteer for a time or between times.
APPENDIX E: Correspondence to Nominating Committee
The following correspondence is intended to exemplify the scope of subject matter, information, and encouragement given to KFBC’s nominating committee as they continued their work during the shutdown.
APRIL23, 2020 EMAIL – Nominating Committee Work To Do!
Hello Nominating Committee,
As you read this, I know we are all hoping and praying that we’re on the downward side of the global pandemic. While we do not plan to meet as a committee in May, we are at a time when we have some work to do. With the chair’s permission, allow me to list this (note nominations to make in July business meeting):
- I have contacted all teachers and children’s worship leaders by mail asking them to prayerfully consider teaching/leading another year (August 1, 2020 – July 31, 2021). I’ve asked for everyone to return, hoping to get 100% solidarity. The Nominating Committee now has the task of contacting all teachers to get their decisions. This should be done ASAP. To that end, we’ll provide a list of teachers/leaders with phone numbers. The committee should decide how to divide up the contacts and make calls. I will defer to the chair on this.
- Next, just a reminder that (name removed) accepted the position of Personnel Committee member, filling an unexpired term (2020).
- We are still short a nominating committee member. I’ll ask the deacons to find a candidate.
- My records show that we are also short a Technology Committee member (term expiring 2020).
- I think (name removed) volunteered to lead Preschool Worship 2nd Please correct me if that’s wrong.
- (Name removed) will assist the older children’s choir.
- Let’s keep in mind that enlistment for expiring committee positions will begin the end of summer/early fall, with nominations to be made in the October business meeting.
I have updated the Leadership page. The password is (removed). Please refer to that as needed.
So, with all that said, please reply all to this email after you’ve read it. I just want to be sure everyone receives.
Chairperson: I don’t know how busy you are these days but if you want to, use the Leadership page to assign contacts to each nominating committee member (Sunday School teachers, Children’s Worship leaders), then let me know who is calling whom. We’ll get the phone numbers to everyone via email soon.
MAY 6, 2020 EMAIL – Update For Nominating Committee
Hello Nominating Committee:
Since we’re not planning on meeting this month, here’s an update to keep us going:
- First, the deacons have enlisted (name removed) to serve on the nominating committee, term to expire at the end of 2021. Welcome (name removed) to the team! Her email is included above. She will be nominated in the next business meeting but for now, she serves pending approval (I wish I knew the Latin for that phrase – then I’d look smart!).
- (Names removed) are considering or have consented to teach the MASH class, in place of (name removed). May we consider this a done deal?
- Please keep making your contacts and let your chairperson and me know of your outcomes. Would like to have teachers in place before June 1 so I can begin Sunday School planning on campus.
- I’ve lost a few greeters so I’m asking if you will consider being a greeter. It would give you a great time to connect with prospects as you do your work. (Names removed) are already greeters so if anyone else from our committee wishes to join that team, let me know.
That’s really about it right now. Keep up your calls and keep us informed. Again, welcome (name removed) to our nominating committee ministry.
APPENDIX F: Correspondence to Staff
The following correspondence is intended to exemplify the scope of subject matter, information, and encouragement given to staff as they continued their work during the shutdown.
MARCH 26, 2020 EMAIL – Note To Staff
Hey everyone, here’s my devotion for you today. If you’d like, please post on the church’s Facebook.
As with other men in our church, I’m studying the book of Zechariah using Warren Wiersbe’s book, BE Heroic: Demonstrating Bravery by Your Walk. A couple of insights were presented in my reading today:
- About the importance of the nation of Israel, Wiersbe notes, “Contemporary opposition to Jewish evangelism is a subtle new form of anti-Semitism. The Christian church owes so much to Israel, and the best way to pay the debt is to share the Gospel with the Jewish people. If it’s wrong to witness to Jews, then Jesus was wrong, and so were Peter and Paul. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and Paul was willing to go to hell for their conversion (Romans 9:3). That ought to be motivation enough for us to lovingly witness to the people who gave us the Bible and the Savior.”
- The comment above makes one ask, “How will the Jewish people hear this Good News?” There’s only one answer: From the very ones who have already been blessed by the Savior who has come from them! Zechariah 8:23 has this to say, and I think it speaks to these, our own uncertain days. The Bible says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you for we have heard that God is with you.”’” While there’s only one context here, there’s a perfect application for believers now. The context is God’s response to the nation of Israel when they turn to Him. He will save them and He will bless them to the point that many people (ten men) from all over the world (nations) will recognize God’s presence with them and will grab hold of their sleeve (or corner of the garment or robe) so that they, too, can be brought into God’s presence. The application for us today, in these pandemic days, is for believers to stand firm in their faith, even in the face of the invisible enemy, both physical and spiritual, and worship and celebrate God’s presence in us. We have already seen and heard many instances of people talking to Christian family members and Christian coworkers about God, His purpose, and His presence. These are people who are grasping at the sleeve of faithful followers of Jesus, wanting what we have. Some people are not grasping but I believe we can recognize them by the despair in their faces or voices. We must reach out to them, maybe even grasp their sleeve and tell them about Jesus.
These are clearly days for God’s children to put on the armor of God, if not our personal protective equipment, and speak the name of Jesus out loud and on line. Is someone pulling on you for answers? Let’s recognize the tugs on our sleeves and introduce these people to the peace of God through His Son, Jesus, and to the presence of God by the filling of His Holy Spirit. As Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)
MARCH 30, 2020 EMAIL – Note To Staff
Hello my fellow workers,
I want to keep you encouraged (and on track) as we consider how things will look when we get back to normal. Speaking of that, let me just say what the Bible says: There is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9); so, there’s no such thing as a new normal!
Pastor Ken gave us an assignment to work on during these days of sheltering in place. Just to reiterate:
- Consider a re-entry strategy.
- What do I want my ministry to look like then?
- What are the important things:
- What is the 30,000 foot view of reentering, and beyond?
- What is the boots-on-the-ground view of reentering, and beyond?
- What’s it going to take (or, consider the “runway”)?
I finished reading a Wiersbe study this morning and was reminded of a couple of things. First, we are a church with a LOT of children. As we adults – that is, our generation – work through this crisis, we must model hope, courage, and patience (those things Pastor Ken mentioned to us last week). The generation behind us will likely see pandemics as a routine occurrence in their lifetime. Let’s teach them how to stand with faith in Jesus as we confront invisible enemies like this.
Second, we must never be afraid, or at least uncontrollably fearful. Acts 4:29 says, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.” I’m reminded here to pray to be enabled to meet high challenges head on, not to pray to escape. May our church see us meeting this high challenge of responding to a pandemic as warriors – sheep made into royal horses for battle (Zech. 10:3). And may social distancing turn into surroundership as we move forward as leaders surrounded by other mighty soldiers.
APRIL 6, 2020 EMAIL – Note To Staff
Hello colleagues young and old… wait, I’m the old guy!
I finished reading Reclaiming Glory and I trust that you have, too, or that you are nearing completion. There’s a lot of good stuff in there that offers practical checkpoints as we consider our reentry strategy. In a way, I suppose we can say that we are relaunching ministries, not from a dead or dying church (far from it!), nor from a plateaued church, but from a bottled up church!
On page 127, Mark Clifton noted: “A church consisting of many generations is uncommon and can be difficult to manage because of the effort required.” Our church is certainly in that category of multigenerational church, but we have cleared the hurdle of difficult ministry in our setting. However, we must be vigilant: Our successful ministries and pre-pandemic ministries will face new challenges, necessitating new ministries even more so.
Here are my takeaways from the reading:
- The myth of church growth is: producing winning numbers (p. xvii).
- We need to simplify our strategies as we react to the “sound of battle” (p. 68, 94ff).
- We must focus on reaching young men. This was a common theme throughout the book.
- Our church is in the top 4.2% of churches in North America, by attendance (p. 108, SBC 2013 stats).
- The problem to guard against: trying to emulate a megachurch (p. 109).
- Our job as a church: Make disciples that make disciples. Clifton stated this imperative throughout the book.
- The church building is a “sacred structure” in the community (p. 123). When people see the building, they should know certain things about it and about us. The building symbolizes our influence in the community, either positively or negatively.
- Never complain about serving as others will model that (p. 125). Whatever we are called on to do – by the pastor, by circumstances, by rightness – we should do without complaint and without excuse and without delay. Dive into it like it’s the most important thing you are doing for the moment. Do not let down the pastor. Do not slack up on opportunity. Do the right thing, right then, the right way. Sorry, I got preachy. I guess I needed that, too.
The big question that came to my mind after reading is: What does our community need? A better way to ask it in light of the coming post-pandemic days: What will our community need? Think about this not just in terms of our community of believers but our community of Small Town, USA. I’ve added this question to my strategic outline. I encourage you to add it, too, to yours.
APRIL 8, 2020 EMAIL – Note To Staff
Are you working on your strategies for moving forward? I’ve got numerous notes piling up!
I’m doing a few things now to set the stage and I want to share those with you:
- Mobilizing teachers: The attached letter (see Appendix B) will be sent to all Sunday School teachers and Children’s Worship leaders. I’ll let you read at your leisure but highlights include: asking all of them to stay on another year, maintaining Bible study readiness, and organizing a cleaning crew that will get their class ready for live attendance.
- I am contacting the nominating committee to begin their work of contacting teachers now.
- I’m updating the greeter schedule with new Greeters, then sending it to all Greeters and Ushers with some measures to observe when we’re back together, like: protocol on shaking hands, Welcome Desk tidiness, social distancing practice, and so on. I’m planning to have the new greeter schedule and protocols in volunteers’ hands within a week.
- I’m rethinking/recommitting to a new Family Bible Study Class in Sunday School. Not to happen very soon, but hopefully sooner than later.
- I’ve mentioned to the Pastor a thought about ministry to special needs adults in our community (if you remember, he brought this up a while back). While we can’t do anything now, I believe we can do something in the future so therefore I’m giving it some attention. It would be good to launch a new ministry that will impact our community after this is over.
- Let’s all think on the Sunday morning coffee and donuts hospitality ministry and when to relaunch that. First, we need someone to do it. Thoughts now?
That’s enough for now. I hope you, too, are making headway on strategies.
Finally, let me share with you “What do I want my ministry to look like?” These are categories I’m “retooling”:
- Bold for Jesus
- Empowering young people
- Pastoral care
- Exciting Bible study teacher/storyteller
APPENDIX G: Articles
48 Questions to Ask Before You Reopen Your Church*
KenBraddy.com, May 11, 2020 (used by permission)
These 48 questions come from two blog posts I wrote on April 18 and 25, 2020. You can find the originals at kenbraddy.com. My goal was to help me think about the reopening of my church and the questions we must ask. After the release of the first post on April 18, readers suggested more questions, and I included them in the second blog post on April 25.
Every church will come to different conclusions about how many of these questions they should address. The goal is to reopen the church “decently and in order.” We must think about how to safeguard the lives of our most vulnerable members.
May these questions help the church to make good decisions as we reopen.
Shoulder to shoulder,
Ken Braddy LifeWay Christian Resources, Director of Sunday School firstname.lastname@example.org
- What if your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 100 people? Never happen, you say? Remember that we have been limited to gatherings of no more than 10 people in the recent past. Take my church, for example. Pre-COVID 19 we averaged 350 in worship (two services). Should we be planning on adding a third service, reducing the time to 45 minutes with a 15 minute “passing period” so that worshipers can either go to Bible study or go home? One friend in ministry has said, “My church runs 2000 people in worship – we can’t have 20 worship services all weekend long! What will we do?” If we are limited to a smaller number of people by our government leaders, what is the plan at your church to provide a place and time for them to worship?
- What adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms, and your choir ministry? Do you believe you can conduct communion like you have in the past? Your church’s tradition may involve passing a plate of elements, or it may include drinking from a common cup in some denominations. Will you use the self-contained juice and cracker cups? What about baptism – it is going to be impossible to practice physical distancing in a baptism pool. And as one reader said, “What do I do about my church’s choir program?” He realizes that people standing side-by-side will not be practical.
- How will you go forward with VBS? This is a question on people’s minds. There are practical alternatives, and I know many churches that are going to find new times and ways to provide a VBS experience. Click here to read an article by LifeWay about VBS in the wake of COVID-19.
- Is a physical “pass the plate” offering a thing of the past? How would you feel if you were the 100th person in a worship service to touch the offering plate that 99 other people just touched? Would you be worried about COVID-19 transmission? Sure, you would. So how will you take up your weekly offering? Will you install boxes at the doors of the worship center, and perhaps place some of those in the lobby, so that worshipers can slide their envelopes, cash, or checks into those secured boxes?
- What are you doing now to sanitize and sterilize your church building? Now is the time to wipe down all classrooms (especially those where children meet because of the toys and other items they touch during a Sunday or Wednesday class experience). Have you sprayed pews and chairs with disinfectant? Who is wiping doorknobs and handles? Have you had carpet cleaned and disinfected? Now is the time for all this to take place, not the week of the “you can go back to church” announcement by government officials.
- Are you going to continue offering children’s church? As a short-term alternative, family worship be encouraged as the primary option in these COVID-19 days? Should parents take their kids to worship, practice physical distancing, and keep a close eye on their little ones?
- Are you going to continue hosting special events? Will your church continue to host weddings? How about funerals? Revivals? You get the idea – there are several special events that our churches might host. Which ones will continue, and which ones will be put on hold? And how will you explain which ones continue and which ones do not?
- Are you continuing to provide coffee stations on campus? Many churches have invested serious dollars in creating a coffee shop experience. My church has a coffee station in the center of our foyer (a self-serve station). Is that a good idea anymore? Tables and chairs may need to be placed in storage so that people do not congregate within a couple of feet of one another.
- Will you continue offering virtual online worship? Some churches may think of their recent foray into Facebook Live to provide a worship experience for their people a thing of the past – a stopgap measure during some strange days. Happy they can meet again, Facebook Live services may give way to worship experiences on campus. But is that the right strategy? I have heard of church after church whose leaders tell me their worship attendance and group attendance are up – significantly – because people are finding them online. It was reported that one Hispanic church in Las Vegas, Nevada, had 1300 people watch their service online a few weeks ago. Why is that a big deal? They normally average 100 on campus.
- What is your plan when volunteers step down? I am already hearing that older volunteers are telling their church leaders they are not coming back to teach until a vaccine is readily available – it is just too risky for them because they are most at risk from COVID-19. Will you be able to fully staff your classes like you did back in February?
- What is your strategy to clean and sanitize your church in real time? It is one thing to prepare in advance of people’s return to the church building, but how will you keep the place clean and disinfected on a Sunday or Wednesday? Does this give rise to a new team of people on campus whose ministry it is to walk around wiping doorknobs and other surfaces? Who is going to clean restrooms throughout the morning or evening? Remember you will have hundreds (some of your churches may have thousands) of people touching things while they are on campus.
- Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all? Not have door greeters? Seriously?! We have always had door greeters. But in a COVID-19 world, do you really want a door greeter holding the door open while a parishioner walks by within a foot or two of them? That is not in line with good physical distancing practices given to us by the CDC and our state governments. The new normal may be for greeters to stand back six feet, inside the church building, and welcome people verbally without opening the door for them. You experience that at big box stores now. A greeter is there to say hello, but they do not make you pass within a foot of them! Welcome to the new world COVID-19 has created.
- Is this the time to suspend or end your church’s “meet and greet” time? Because of physical distancing rules, it probably is – at least temporarily. This practice has been on the decline in recent days, and many churches have already abandoned it because of its ineffectiveness with guests, not because of COVID-19 concerns.
- Because people may return very slowly to church, how will you count attendance and effectiveness? The question has already been raised about should we or should we not take attendance during online worship and online group Bible studies. It is almost a sure thing that worship attendance on campus will not be what it was pre-COVID-19. You need to decide now if you are going to count on-campus only attendance, or merge and add online attendance, too. And how will group leaders take a count in their online groups and go about reporting that?
- Should you add and/or shorten worship services to allow for social distancing? I touched on this in #1 above, but let us drill down a bit. If physical gatherings are limited in size, you have a few options: (1) offer more services (2) encourage people to continue worshiping online (3) remove chairs from your worship center to help people avoid close contact (4) block off pews so that people no longer sit right behind someone, reducing the chances of them sneezing or coughing directly into the back of the person in front of them. If your church reopens with the “worship only” option, you will have to decide these things now.
- What are you going to do about larger Sunday School groups? No one is going to want to sit in a crowded room for Bible study, yet so many of our classes have been allowed to grow to have very large attendance. Do you feel good about letting 25 or more senior adults meet in a room that holds, well, 25 or 30 senior adults? If you have space to start new groups, now is the time – help people spread out. But if your church is out of space, like mine is, what is the next step?? One option is to start another hour of Sunday School. For my church, we would go from two hours to three. Yours might go from one hour to two. Or another option is to place some groups online while others remain on campus. There is not going to be a quick and easy solution to this.
- What is your plan for Sunday School curriculum? Most churches have provided print products – we call them Personal Study Guides (for group members); some adults still refer to them as “quarterlies” because they are distributed at church at the beginning of a new quarter. But because of social distancing and the new emphasis on virtual groups, should you keep print products but add digital ones for those groups meeting off campus? Thankfully, my company, LifeWay, creates digital versions of all its ongoing Bible study products, so we can meet whatever demand the church has. I have been providing print products at my church, but I am about to add digital so my groups can be flexible in meeting on or off campus.
- Will you reopen the doors of your church with a “worship only” strategy? I am hearing of more and more churches that are choosing this option whenever we can meet again on campus. They are adding services, removing chairs, practicing social distancing, and focusing on regaining momentum in worship. Bible study groups will remain online for safety in the short-term, and will be added back to the on-campus experience in time.
- Do you have a plan for reducing expenses if your church’s offerings do not rebound? This is the time for a “budget scrub” – while offerings are still decent, and expenses have been lowered because of reduced activities. Churches need to be thinking, “What if…” – what if our offerings do not hold steady because of rising unemployment of members? Before the church returns to the building, every church needs a “plan B” strategy just in case giving drops in late summer or early fall. I have friends in ministry that I deeply respect who believe we (the church) have not felt the financial impact of COVID-19 like we will in the days and months ahead. I think they may be right.
- How will you deal with the rise of COVID-19 related addictions? One mental health expert said in a webinar meeting last week, “I’m hearing that porn sites are giving away free memberships during COVID-19…just what people don’t need.” In that same webinar last week on mental health, the presenter assured the audience that substance abuse is on the rise, too. Alcohol sales are soaring. He cautioned us to be ready to do lots of counseling and referring of people to professionals in our post-COVID 19 reality.
- Are you going to decrease the fellowship time between on-campus worship services? Some churches that have multiple services and Sunday School hours schedule up to 30 minutes of time between those events because they value the opportunity to gather, have coffee, and fellowship. In a COVID-19 world, it is a good idea not to let that happen. Shorter times between worship services, and the elimination of coffee bar areas (yes, I know….it’s sacrilege to think about not having coffee stations around the building!) will help keep people moving to their next destination, a worship service or a Bible study group, and it will help reduce the “let’s hang out and give each other COVID-19.”
- Are you going to postpone mid-week Wednesday night services, meals, and Bible studies? This will not be a forever thing, but soon following the return of the church to its buildings, will you continue a virtual, online prayer meeting and Bible study time? Can you find volunteer workers to support a Wednesday night strategy on campus? Do you want to put people around tables for the traditional mid-week meal on Wednesday nights?
- Should you be investing in new digital equipment right now? Yes, we have all hopped online and used Facebook Live to broadcast our worship services. Some of us are doing that with iPads and other devices, but is this the time to admit that online worship is probably here to stay? If yes, then it makes sense to invest dollars now so that cameras and other equipment can be purchased that will help the church be more professional in the new online world of worship.
- Will a new staff or volunteer position emerge from COVID-19? Because the church has permanently moved online now, could it lead to the adoption of a new position of leadership? Will churches turn their attention to a Virtual Pastor whose job it is to oversee the technical aspects of the new digital frontier? Will they become responsible to develop groups and strategies to reach people online? It’s highly likely that this is going to take place; the role may first be added to a staff person who is currently serving the church, but when it is possible to split that role and afford a new person, churches may hire online pastors.
- What will you do if your church rents or shares its facilities with outside groups or another church? A question you’ll have to answer is, “Will we go forward with the shared space arrangement? If yes, who will be responsible for the deep cleaning after each use? Who will bear the expense and responsibility for this?”
- What is our responsibility to churches that meet in schools, theaters, or other rented facilities? Those groups may not be able to return to their rented facilities for a variety of reasons. Should your church consider seeking out one of those “mobile” churches and offering to house them in your facility until they get back on their feet? It would make for good Kingdom partnerships.
- How will you handle decision counseling and the altar call/invitation at the end of your worship service? Your church may not have this tradition, so it could be a non-issue. In many churches, though, it is possible that individuals and/or families walk to the front of the worship center, talk with the pastor, and announce a decision to follow Christ or ask to officially join the church family. I have placed my hand on people’s shoulders, leaned in close to hear them talk, and this will not fit in the new six-foot distancing standards today.
- Should you have new plans to meet the financial needs of members, guests, and the community at large? COVID-19 is going to provide churches with new ways to meet needs in practical ways. Will you need to recruit new people to benevolence ministries? Start a backpack drive for kids going back to school in August? Is it time to begin a food pantry? What about financial counseling to families who are facing financial hardships because of furloughs and layoffs?
- Who will enforce physical distancing policies and cleaning practices? In the back of my mind I can see Barney Fife running around the church blowing a whistle. But if you have new rules, someone is going to have to remind congregants about keeping others safe. Will this be a person or a team of people? Or will you have this at all?
- How will you minister to senior members who are concerned about returning? Many of them do not have internet access. They do not have computers, Apple watches, iPads, or smartphones. If they are slow to return, how can we help them re-engage with their fellow senior members? Would you see any benefit in beginning a special worship service just for them? Local businesses have instituted “senior hours” and open early to these people before the general public is allowed in. Perhaps a new kind of worship service just for them would help seniors be safe, feel safe, and reconnect (at a safe distance!) to their friends whom they may not have seen for months.
- Will Bible study groups be encouraged to stay online? I hope the answer to this is a resounding “yes.” Bible study groups can broadcast live via Zoom or Facebook live directly from inside their classrooms. This can reach absent group members, people who are intentionally going to delay returning, and people who are online and looking for a virtual group.
- What are you going to do if physical distancing fails and we see a flareup of COVID-19? It may be a good idea to have a “plan B” should our governors have to reinstitute physical distancing because of a return of COVID-19 as people begin letting their guard down, feeling like the threat has passed. How quickly will you be able to go from on-campus to off-campus only worship and groups?
- When the church returns to the building, will people be asked to wear facemasks? Will the church provide them (or can the church provide them)? States are going to vary in what they require for larger gatherings to take place. One state I heard of is asking that people wear masks. Will you turn away people who do not wear one? Will your church be able to find masks and provide them?
- Does your church need to review its insurance policy to make sure your limits of liability can handle potential lawsuits? Pastors are asking this question in meetings I have attended online. There is a slight concern that a litigious member or guest who contracts COVID-19 might sue the church for allowing people to gather without taking adequate safety precautions.
- Have you blocked off pews yet? In a webinar with leaders from Oklahoma on April 23, I learned their state leaders are requiring every other pew to be closed, and for there to be six feet of distance between people sitting on pews. This will greatly reduce the number of people who can attend a worship service. Will deacons or ushers be “pew police” and move people when they sit too close, or sit on a closed row?
- Because airborne droplets travel farther when people sing than when they speak, will worshipers be asked to wear masks to reduce transmission? This is tied to question 9, but is an important one to consider, especially inside the worship center.
- Should pens and hymnals be removed from the backs of worship center pews? One reader suggested that we do this to reduce contact with hard surfaces so that COVID-19 is not passed that way.
- Will the financial strain caused by COVID-19 require some full-time pastors to go part-time or become bi-vocational? I hope it does not come to this. But if offerings are reduced, how will our churches support the people who lead us? How can we minister to our ministers should their work hours at the church be reduced while they find other work to supplement their income?
- How will you continue to provide for the needs of groups like MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), a weekday preschool ministry, and other non-Sunday gatherings? Hopefully, you will be able to continue facilitating those important meetings, but with physical distancing and safety protocols in place. Will you need additional classrooms? What new procedures do you need to communicate to the participants?
- Should you consider installing an air purifier or different kinds of air filters to capture germs? This was a good question posed by a reader. Upon doing some quick research, there is some merit to this, but it is not the answer. It could be part of an overall strategy.
- How will you move guests from online experiences (worship/Bible study) and into worship and groups on campus – or will you? Assimilating people has never been a totally easy process. People can take a long time to commit to a group or regular worship attendance. In our new online world of Bible study and worship, what steps will you take to reach out to people and encourage them to connect on campus. Or is that a thing?
- In what other ways will you use Zoom and other online meeting tools now that your church is more acquainted with them? Have you considered starting or re-starting teacher training using an online tool? It is convenient, saves people’s time, and allows you to pivot quickly should you need to do some “instant training” when the need arises.
- When adults join an online group, what is the plan to reduce awkwardness and make them feel welcome? Would you consider having online “greeters” in groups? These would be members of the group who are charged with the responsibility of spotting new people in a Zoom meeting, initiating a private conversation with them through the Chat tool, and then introducing them to the group at large during an appropriate time in the Bible study.
- How will your group leaders take attendance in online groups? Groups still need to record who is present, because those who are not still need to be contacted. Guests need to be included in your group’s ministry strategy, and you will need some basic information about them. How do you capture that now that you will not have a physical card for them to fill out? Will that be done in a follow-up email or phone call?
- How might your online group leaders take advantage of a Zoom feature like “Breakout Rooms”? If you have not used that feature yet, you might want to look. You can assign people to virtual rooms in which they can respond to a question or use it to share prayer requests as a subgroup of your larger online group.
- What does a virtual invitation look like at the end of a worship service? How will people respond to the gospel if they are not at the church’s worship service? When we are back in the building, and you have people in the building but others viewing online, how will you give options to the people sitting in their homes who feel drawn by the Holy Spirit to make a response to the gospel or church membership?
- What do we do about Mother’s Day, high school graduation/senior recognition, and other special occasions? There is no clear option just yet, but you may be able to do something on campus depending upon your state’s schedule for allowing churches to meet. Some churches are holding virtual high school/senior recognition services. Others are pondering how to honor moms on Mother’s Day, but online. These questions really need to be settled very soon.
- What is going on? Besides COVID-19 going on, God is doing great things in His church. That is what is going on! More people are attending online worship and Bible studies. Mid-week prayer services and Bible studies are being viewed on Facebook Live. The church has learned how to get online within a matter of weeks. New people are hearing the gospel. Folks, it is not all bad!! God is moving. Let us move with Him.
This list of questions is not exhaustive. It’s representative of many things we should be thinking about right now, before we get the OK from government leaders to gather again.
What would you add to this list? What have I left out? Let’s pool our experience and wisdom to help Jesus’ bride be prepared for the new world we find ourselves in. I’d love for you to respond to this post, share your thoughts, and then share it in social media. We’ve got to get the church thinking and talking about these things.
* Memo at blog: Recently I released two blog posts with 24 COVID-19 related questions in each one that church leaders might want to discuss before the people return to the building when worship and other activities resume. I have compiled the 2 sets of 24 questions into one document with all 48 questions. Print or share this with leaders in your church. Add or delete questions to fit your church’s ministry context.
What Your Church Must Know Before Reopening Your Building
Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, April 22, 2020
Pastors and church leaders faced difficult decisions when most ended normal, physical congregational gatherings in March due to the COVID-19 crisis.
As some states begin to lift stay-at-home restrictions, church leaders again face difficult decisions about gathering again.
There are numerous needs to consider and questions to ask. Leaders should be constantly in prayer while listening to government officials and health experts to make the best decision for their congregation.
There is another group, however, that leaders must listen to before they start the re-entry process: their congregation.
Understanding the concerns of everyone in the local church will help leaders better assess their current situation and make the proper plans before welcoming worshippers and guests back to the building.
To help with the process, LifeWay Research has developed and made available a free survey church leaders can send to everyone in their congregation.
The questionnaire asks about expectations of when to begin worship services, comfort level in attending large and small groups, precautions that should be made for the entire church and specific ministry areas, and more.
Church leaders won’t be able to please everyone when making decisions around gathering physically again.
But having congregational feedback can help leaders avoid causing undue stress on their people or making radical changes that most find unnecessary.
LifeWay Research is intentionally releasing the survey as a Word document to allow church leaders to customize it to their congregational needs and terminology.
If your church isn’t willing or able to take some of the steps asked about in the standard questionnaire, remove those before you send to your people.
For example, it won’t be beneficial to ask if people expect your church to set up one-way foot traffic entering and exiting the building if that isn’t possible in your location.
Church leaders are free to print the document and mail it to their congregants, email the Word file to them, or freely distribute the questionnaire in any other means as needed.
Once you’ve gathered the results, you can determine what the best course of action for your church is with the confidence that you know the perspective of your congregation.
Click here to download the LifeWay Research COVID-19 Congregational Survey (see Appendix H).
APPENDIX H: Congregational Survey
Notes for Survey Administrator: Swap in your church’s specific names for the words in blue (note: not indicated in this reprint). Remove any options that do not apply or that your church would not consider.
Thank you for participating in this confidential survey.
This survey includes several questions about your current feelings about returning to regular church activities when local government lifts its ban on public gatherings.
- When our local government lifts its ban or guidance against churches meeting, which best describes your attitude toward returning to a worship service at church? Select one:
- I will return the first opportunity we have.
- I will return at first opportunity but with some concerns and precautions.
- I will wait several additional weeks before I attend.
- It may be quite a while before I return.
- Not sure
- In addition to our local government lifting its ban or guidance against public gatherings, are there other signals you would want to see before you return to attend a worship service at church? Select all that apply:
- Local businesses are open again
- Local restaurant seating areas are open again
- Schools are open again
- The number of coronavirus cases near me is very small
- Most social distancing recommendations have been lifted
- None of these
- Not sure
- What precautions, if any, do you plan to take when you return to a worship service? Select all that apply:
- I will wear a face mask
- I will stand and sit in places where I will be at least 6 feet from others (beyond my own family)
- I will avoid shaking hands
- I will avoid any physical contact
- I will avoid crowded hallways
- I will bring hand sanitizer
- None of these
- What precautions, if any, do you expect our church to take for worship gatherings? Select all that apply:
- Limit handouts of any kind (e.g., worship guide, notes pages, etc.)
- Use a new method for distributing Lord’s Supper elements
- Use a new method for collecting tithes and offerings
- Encourage social distancing in sanctuary seating
- Encourage social distancing in small group seating
- Prop doors open so people do not have to touch handles
- Set up one-way foot traffic entering and exiting the building and sanctuary
- Provide hand sanitizer stations
- Discourage shaking hands
- Allow a longer period of time between worship service hours
- Other _____________________________________
- None of these
- Would you be willing to attend your small group where it typically meets?
- Not right away
- I do not have a small group
- Do you have children age 18 or younger who live with you and typically attend church with you?
Ask if Q6 = Yes
- Would you allow your child(ren) to attend their small group where it typically meets?
- Not right away
- My children do not typically attend a small group
Ask if Q6 = Yes
- What precautions, if any, do you expect the church to take in children’s and student small groups when they resume? Select all that apply:
- Reduce the number of people in each room or move to a larger room
- Seat children where they cannot touch each other
- Prohibit snacks that would cause children to put their hands to their mouths
- Require teachers to wear face masks
- Encourage kids to wear face masks
- Require teachers to wear gloves
- Ask kids to use hand sanitizer before entering
- Plan activities in which kids do not need to touch each other
- Other _________________________________________________
- None of these
- Which of the following describes the attendance level at which you would be comfortable attending a worship service?
I would be comfortable attending if the sanctuary is…
- Filled to capacity (every seat taken)
- Three-quarters filled (some empty seats throughout but no empty rows)
- Half filled (most people have empty seats either beside them or in front of them)
- One quarter filled (most people have empty seats beside them and in front of them)
- None of these (at least right away)
- When our local government lifts its ban or guidance against public gatherings, which of the following would you prefer for our church?
- Resume in person worship services at our church immediately
- Meet in small groups in homes for a few more weeks before resuming in person worship services
- Not sure
- Would you be willing to attend a worship service at a different time than you typically attend to allow people to be more spread out in the sanctuary?
- Not sure
- Would you be willing to attend a worship service in an overflow room to ensure people (in the sanctuary and overflow rooms) are spread out?
- Not sure
- How long have you been attending?
- I am new in 2020
- Less than 2 years
- 2-4 years
- 5-9 years
- 10+ years
- I don’t remember
- What is your age?
- Less than 18
- I prefer not to answer
APPENDIX I: Working Outline for Addressing Future Event
- Evidential Trends
- Investment Fluctuations (e.g., stock market)
- Local Indicators
- State Indicators
- National Indicators
- Global Indicators
- Responses & Considerations:
- Senior Pastor
- Church Staff
- Community Government (rural)
- Community Government (urban)
- County Government (outlying areas)
- State Government
- National Government
- Health Authorities
- Information & Data Collection
- Action Plan Sample Checklist (make as comprehensive and applicable as needed for pre-event, during event, and post-event):
- Church Operations, Precautions
- Available Technology
- Financial (contingency fund, options for giving in place)
- Personnel Orientation & Training
- Facility Management & Maintenance
- Security (building, technology)
- Benevolence & Assistance (food, clothing, rent, health, etc.)
- Counseling Opportunities
- Strategies & Solutions (create according to church exigencies)
Facts & Trends
Kearney First Baptist Church, Kearney, Missouri
LifeWay Christian Resources
Wiersbe, Warren. BE Heroic: Demonstrating Bravery by Your Walk (Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah).
A Christian Perspective of Sociology*
A worldview is a personal collection of ideas and beliefs through which all of life is perceived and lived. Every person has a worldview. There are several prominent ones, specifically Christian, humanist, atheist, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, New Age. Included in these are subsets of each and hybrids of two or more.
All worldviews are based on someone or something like a religious leader, philosopher, professor, writer, a book, popular culture, or movement. The Christian, or Biblical, worldview is based on God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible, which we believers embrace as a Word that is inerrant and infallible.
Sociology is the study of human groups. It focuses on two interrelated areas of study: social factors and recurrent relationships among people. It does not concern itself with behavior that is unique to individuals or with particular situations; these lie outside the boundaries of the sociological perspective. Basically, then, sociologists are interested in patterns of human relationships rather than individual behavior.
Sociology provides several perspectives for looking at group behavior: functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism. Exclusive use of any one perspective prevents seeing other aspects of group life. All three aspects allow us to see most of the important dimensions of social life.
From the world’s perspective, sociology delves into the study of all groups, whether secular or religious. As a science, it should examine data, test theories, and make conclusions in a non-partisan way. That does not always happen. Those whose personal or corporate agenda is to advance their own ideas, or worldview, use sociology less as a science and more as a platform. Incorrect data, manipulated results, and misleading allegations are challenges that adults young and old must sort through to reject, agree to, or draw some sort of conclusion. This conclusion, that is, a believable thought or idea about the interaction of certain people groups and why the pattern of interaction is acceptable, is influenced by the way one is brought up, by his or her lifestyle, and by a faith that is embraced or shunned. (As a side note, in Matthew 7:15, Jesus warned about false prophets coming to us as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Savior’s warning was not so much about teachers teaching false things as it was about false teachers making believable claims.)
A Christian perspective of sociology is foundational for understanding and interacting with the people groups in which one is associated every day. Some of these groups are: family, coworkers, school mates, circle of friends, members of a sports team, church family, and business associates.
Interactions and relationships with groups like these, combined with a believer’s inerrant view of the Bible, help to form a Christian’s perspective of sociology. Some things to remember are:
- Our family is the most important group in our lives.
- We should choose our friends wisely, and they deserve love, loyalty, and confidentiality.
- Our employer deserves trustworthy, efficient labor.
- Our neighborhoods, and therefore our neighbors, deserve safety, peace, and friendship.
- Our business associates deserve honest transactions and communication.
- Our contact with people should be done in compassionate, humanitarian ways.
- Our personal character should be one of integrity, steadiness, and grace.
Thus, the Christian perspective of sociology reminds us of three things:
- Everyone, regardless of social class or people group interaction, needs Christ.
- There is only one way for each of these people to know Jesus as Savior and that is by believing in His death on the cross, His burial, and His victorious resurrection.
- That Way of the Savior is offered to every people group and individual person in history (Romans 3:23; 10:9).
A strong Christian perspective is evident in the life of a faithful follower of Christ as he interacts with various people groups. That person will bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus; he will defend the Way of the Savior; and he will not be moved (Ephesians 6:10-20). As a believer, you should see stark differences in what other worldviews teach or expect from their followers. And the holy litmus test? God said in Leviticus 10:3, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.”
* © 2020 Don Hamlin, used by permission
A Christian Perspective of Science*
In Psalm 119:160, we read, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Since this verse challenges the scientific community, let’s talk about that.
The study of the sciences involves numerous subjects, for example: archeology, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geology, languages, medicine, nutrition, physics, and many more. As Christians, we believe that any scientific matter is rooted in God’s creative purpose and is praiseworthy. Observing this, the psalmist said in Psalm 111:2-4, “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
There’s an open invitation here to study science or, as the psalmist called it, His wonderful works. In addition, God said in Psalm 115:16, “The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men.” In other words, it’s ours for the taking and doing. We should take great pleasure in this gift, being careful to temper our perspective of science with Biblical truth. As a hobby or career, we must also remember that our work in scientific matters is not salvific. Quite the contrary: It is work to be done gladly as a gift to the Lord and not to men, as Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23.
John MacArthur suggests that there are three perceptions of Scripture for scientists or for scientific study:
- First, there’s the NO BOOK approach. This ignores the contribution of the Bible, assuming that it is either wrong or irrelevant.
- Second, there’s the TWO BOOK approach. This attempts to integrate two equal disciplines of science and theology. Did you catch that? In this approach, science is placed on an equal footing with theology. And if there is any erring on the side of caution, it’s always on the side of a “higher standard” than the Bible.
- And third, there’s the ONE BOOK approach. This approach is the Christian’s perspective of willingly and candidly acknowledging that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, authoritative, and sufficient.1
MacArthur states, “For many scientists, confidence in man’s knowledge and pride in human accomplishments are the specific sins that obstruct their path to an acknowledgment of God.” In other words, science’s rejection of the sole authority of God’s Word is sin.
Our Christian perspective, then, should find us learning and remembering everything earthy, worldly things aside. As the psalmist said in Psalm 145:5, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.” This type of meditation isn’t superficial or shallow. It’s a vital aspect of being obedient to God’s command to subdue and dominate the planet, according to Genesis 1:28. Feeling good about the work we do, and taking pride in it, is a divine glint of how God must feel about His very good work; it will cause us, His image-bearers, to rejoice, too, as God rejoices in His work, as noted in Psalm 104:31.
We can get a glimpse of the major worldviews of science by knowing the views each has on the science of biology:
- Biblical Christianity believes creationism by the Triune God as recorded in the Bible.
- Islam believes in creationism by a non-triune, singular god as recorded in the Koran, which Muslims believe explains and supersedes our Holy Scriptures.
- Secular humanism teaches a neo-Darwinian evolution, that is, evolution theory modified by modern, genetic findings in light of classic evolution.
- Marxism/Leninism/Maoism, which you recognize as forms of communism, push for punctuated evolution, loosely described as evolution that ceases for a long period of time before starting back up again.
- Cosmic humanism embraces cosmic evolution, a worldview of the science of biology that’s not only in left field but in outer space.
- Postmodernism leans strongly toward punctuated evolution.2 We should be concerned about postmodernism for it is the era in which we live. Postmodernism’s view of punctuated evolution in the science of biology introduces to other scientific arenas the politics of communism.
The Christian perspective of science always finds itself rooted in the Word of God without any attempt to explain it away. The perspective is faith-based as a matter of believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised to life as Savior and Redeemer for those who confess, “Jesus is Lord.” This confounds the scientific community whose faith wavers on theory and false doctrines.
* © 2020 Don Hamlin, used by permission
1 MacArthur, John. (2003). Think Biblically: recovering a Christian worldview. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
2 Faith for Life. (n.d.) Retrieved May 31, 2017, from https://www.summit.org/.