Preparing for What's Next, Answering Your Questions

March 13, 2020
Over the next few weeks and months, ministry in the Louisiana Conference will be very different. 

In a recent statement, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey encouraged churches to re-consider gatherings of large people and that might include worship. 

There are a lot of questions from a ministry perspective. To help us, Rev. Elaine Burleigh, Director of the Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement has answers to some of your frequently asked questions. 

This list is dynamic and will change as questions are submitted. If you have a question, please email us

What happens if someone in your congregation has tested positive? What happens if you or someone on your staff has been exposed to someone who has tested positive?

The CDC or health department will instruct you about appropriate precautions. There is a chance they may ask you to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Be prepared to work remotely
  • For staff, please offer paid sick leave;
  • Be prepared to shut down your office if necessary
  • Be prepared to change your church schedule, postponing non-essential events and activities

How can we prepare our church for the Coronavirus?

The best answer here is to be proactive and to prepare now. Name an individual or team to coordinate your church’s emergency operations plan.  Your plan should consider the following:
  • Facilities
  • Worship
  • Other Ministries
  • Financial
  • Identify a space used to temporarily isolate someone who becomes ill.

How do we prepare our facilities from a sanitization perspective? 

Sanitize everything that isn’t nailed down – along with everything that is. On hard surfaces use disinfecting wipes such as Lysol and Clorox. If those are not available, make your own by using thick, absorbent paper towels; cut the roll to fit the size of your container, insert 12 oz. water mixed with ¼ cup rubbing alcohol and 4 squirts of dish soap. Pour the mixture over the paper towels slowly so the paper towels can absorb the liquid. Or, spray a mixture of 5 parts water to 1 part Clorox bleach.

On fabric surfaces, if possible, wash in hot water with a disinfecting agent like bleach. If the fabric is not washable, spray with a disinfectant spray like Lysol. Sanitize every room in the facility including offices, countertops, workspaces, office equipment (computers, copiers, postage machines, telephones, mobile phones, coffee makers, chairs.

Make sure to sanitize all worship spaces - microphones, pianos/organs, all musical equipment, pews, pencils in pew backs, altar rails. 

Sanitize the entire kitchen, all Sunday school rooms, the entire nursery – this includes all surfaces, including toys. Don't forget about the daycare, the fellowship hall. 

IF we gather, how will worship potentially change?

Think through every aspect of worship and how it might need to change, and let the congregation know what you are doing and why. Invite high-risk individuals and those who are sick to stay home. If you choose not to hold worship: 
  • Consider live streaming
  • Videotape your message and distribute to social media and through email
  • Help teach members how to use live streaming

What about weddings and funerals? 

For weddings, it is always best practice to consult with the bride and groom about every aspect of a wedding and this includes the current climate. Consider postponing or limiting the wedding to a small gathering and/or postponing it until this time passes. 

If the wedding continues, use good hygiene and social distancing. 

For funerals, discuss with family about holding a small service now with a larger memorial service after this time passes. 

What is your advice concerning pastoral care? 

Nursing homes are currently asking us to limit our visits to emergencies. Please consider limiting your home visits to the elderly or medically vulnerable. Now is the time to increase your pastoral care phone calls. All churches should be organizing a special Care Team. The Care Team should partner people with a buddy, and buddies should call each other (especially the elderly or vulnerable) daily to check on health, needs; this is also a great way to share church news and announcements. Be sure those who cannot attend events at church feel included in the life of the community. 

What about the financial life of the church? 

All of us need to prepared for a dramatic decrease in attendance. This decreased attendance will likely show up in your financial giving. Please consider initiating or promoting online giving. There are a variety ways of doing this through; such as: 
  • Automatic Drafts – a member gives the church permission to automatically draft a specific amount from their bank account on a specified day of each month.  Each month, the draft is initiated by the church.  Discuss how to set this up with your bank.
  • Automatic Payments – anyone with online banking can set up an automatic payment to the church in the same amount at the same time every month. 
  • Other methods such as credit or debit card kiosks placed at the church, Venmo or other online payment apps.  (Keep in mind these methods may come with fees).
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