Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Preaching through the pandemic has been an extraordinary challenge for pastors since the onset of the coronavirus. Pastors and churches alike have been stretched in their personal faith and response to the Covid-19 crisis. Most churches have continued to fulfill the Great Gospel Commission all while seeking to find safe solutions to continue worship opportunities which support the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of our congregations. However, many small churches have been unable to provide alternative solutions to maintain thriving worship services. Sadly, many churches have yet to resume church services or respond to the global pandemic in substantial ways.
I am blessed to be affiliated with two very different small churches in Southwest, Georgia. One of the churches is located in a rural area. It has a very small congregation with less than fifty regular attendees. The other church is located in a small city. The church has a larger, vibrant congregation with one hundred regular attendees. Both churches were able to respond to the Covid-19 crisis by shifting to non-traditional worship services.
Both churches were fortunate enough to have a social media presence before the pandemic. Therefore, It was relatively easy for them to transition to online services during the peak of the pandemic. We implemented, Worship without Walls on Facebook Live to stream their weekly services. We used various free video recording apps and video streaming platforms such as Manycam, StreamYard, Streamlabs, and Switcher Studio to produce their videos. In addition, we simultaneously broadcasted church services on a free call conference line for older congregants and those that did not use social media platforms. Worship services were also shared on each churches' website and YouTube page. Worship Without Walls continued through the lockdown and peak periods of the Covid-19 pandemic. The small city church remained closed from March 2020 to May 2020. The small rural church facility remained closed from March 2020 to April 2021.
Eventually, both church ministries shifted to offering outdoor Drive-In worship services. The churches were blessed to acquire the necessary equipment such as a portable lectern, industrial fans, outdoor propane heaters, a generator, wireless microphones and a portable PA system to host Drive-In worship services. Each church continued to provide Facebook live streaming services as well. Additionally, one of the affiliate churches purchased an AM/FM transmitter to broadcaster their church services on the radio. This ministry further responded to the pandemic by adding an online giving option using the Givelify app and online platform. Both Congregations also resumed Communion worship using prefilled fellowship cups. The small city has continued to host Drive-In worship for the past year and a half due to the size of it's church facility, congregation size, and inability to social distance. However, the small rural church resumed in-person worship in November 2021 after implementing various safety precautions.
Currently, both churches are shifting to a more proactive response to Covid-19. Their goal in 2022 is to mitigate in-person worship in the safest possible way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Each church has implemented CDC-recommended practices: frequent handwashing, no handshakes, no hugs, and no kisses. Moreover, they avoid sharing communal items such as church bulletins, hymnals, offertory plates/baskets, and Sunday school books. Masks and temperature checks are required to enter the church facilities. They also implemented a one-way entrance and exit procedure. Gloves, masks, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes are available for congregants. To further provide a safe worship environment, each church purchased a fog machine and EPA-approved disinfectant solution. Church sanctuaries are fogged before and after usage. Enhance cleaning practices have also been implemented. Both churches make sure to regularly clean and sanitize their church facilities and equipment, especially areas frequently touched, including surfaces, door handles, lecterns, and microphones. One of the churches also uses disposable microphone covers to reduce the possible spread of Covid-19. Additionally, the interior of each church including the carpet, chairs, and pews were deep cleaned by a professional cleaning service. Both churches replaced air conditioner filters and one of the churches purchased an air filtration or purification system.
Other precautionary measures included posting door, seat, wall, window and outdoor signage to promote safe in-person worship. The use of guestbooks and visitor cards were also considered to be helpful for tracking weekly church attendance and contact tracing for possible Covid-19 exposure. In addition, it is a good practice to limit the number of building occupants to allow for a maximum social distancing of three to six feet. This can be accomplished if your church ministry and staff can offer multiple service times. Websites such as Eventbrite can also be used to limit or monitor the number of people who plan to attend church services or other functions. Limiting the worship service time to 1-2 hours (subject to the move of the Holy Spirit) can also greatly reduce possible exposure or the spread of Covid-19.
Lastly, the church’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic must be to encourage everyone to stand on God’s word. The official response to Covid-19 should be Christ Over Viruses, Infections, and Diseases!
Psalm 91:1-11 declares:
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. 8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
Pastors can use their positions of influence to communicate the following messages:
• COVID-19 is a serious disease that we need to prevent from spreading to others.
• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or a 70% alcohol-based hand rub.
• Use a tissue for coughs or sneezes, and then immediately place it in a waste bin.
• Avoid touching your face.
• Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and tiredness, coughing, and breathing difficulties.
• If you have a fever or are coughing or sneezing, stay home.
• Someone with COVID-19 symptoms should follow the established procedures within our local community.
• Report COVID-19 cases to relevant health authorities.
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