CoVid-19 Response

With the decision to begin reopening businesses and organizations in phases, churches have been told they need to consider when they should begin to meet again with May 10, Mother's Day, being the first Sunday. Following are some quesitons that we need to answer before openign up our doors:

How will you decide when to reopen? — Scripture tells us that we must be subject to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1). But which authorities do we follow in this situation? If the federal, state, and local governments disagree on when it’s safe to meet, whom do you follow? You need to make this determination—and make it known to your people—before such conflict arises.

When will you reopen? — Will you hold church services the first Sunday after being allowed to do so? Even with shelter-in-place orders being eased, bans on large gatherings remain in place. Smaller congregations may be able to meet in person, while larger church bodies may still be legally or logistically prohibited. Pastors need to prepare now to deal with how that difference might affect their church community.

What mitigation policies will you be putting in place? — Being allowed to return to our church buildings does not mean our churches are safe from the coronavirus. How will we protect the elderly, pregnant, and immunocompromised? What mitigation measures will be put in place to protect our people? What level of risk are we willing to accept to meet again in person?

The link: https://kenbraddy.com/2020/04/18/20-questions-your-church-should-answer-before-people-return/
has 24 questions churches need to ask and answer prior to their first day back in the building. I encourage you all to read through it and consider each question so we are as prepared as possible.

An additional resources from the Georgia Baptist Convention that does a great job of answering many of these questions is: https://gabaptist.org/reopening-your-church-building/

Also, for a good planning document, please select:    ReEmerge   


You can access the ReThink resource referenced in the preceding document by selecting:  ReThink Church

Governor’s call  on 4/24/2020

The virus is still going to be here and will have an effect on people.  That will be a fact we have to accept.

Best practice guidance will come out next week. These will be strong recommendations - but not hard fast rules. Local governments will hopefully follow what the State government is leading in. But Counties and Cities can add restrictions to State guidance.  Churches fall under local ordinances. 

Churches need to wait until May 10 to start back again. There will be no max capacity on the group size as long as you keep the 6 feet distance from one another.  Each church will be given the flexibility to handle this as they decide, but they must keep the distance. None of us wants a flare up and a resurgence of this.  Each person and congregation must be responsible to follow the recommendations.  If a case shows up within a pocket of people, then all involved in that group of folks will have to be tested.

The group size of 10 will be lifted in the existing order. Families will have to sit together, with others at least 6 feet apart.  This will be through May and then State will reevaluate. 

Because Sunday School rooms are so small, those groups should be discouraged due to the 6 feet distance that needs to be maintained.  

Keep senior citizens especially in mind as you plan and regulate how you hold services.

You should be able to have children and youth camps in areas of low impact by Covid-19 as long as things continue the way they are.  Kids are much less at risk, but they can be carriers of the virus and you need to take that into account.  We might not want to have senior citizens serving as volunteers at the camps for this reason.

Hospitals and nursing homes will be open sometime between May and June.  

Restaurants will be open on May 4th.

************************************************************* end Governor's Call *********************************************************

 

Tuesday, March 17, leaders from fifteen of our churches met to discuss their plans in light of the quickly changing realities we are dealing with in light of the Coronavirus. 

Almost all the churches plan to suspend their normal gatherings. Our stated reasons were to obey Romans 13:1, 4 (ESV) “1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 4 for he is God's servant for your good.“ In addition, we must determine how to fulfill Matthew 22:37-39 “(ESV) 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our civic leaders are making decisions that are for the good of the general public that impacts all gatherings, not just the Church. If we continue to meet then we are actually working against the objectives of those with the responsibility in our government to determine the best course for us to navigate this crisis. “Patient 31” in South Korea is the prime example for us following the government’s guidelines. This person in South Korea accounts for 80% of the cases in that country. She contracted the virus and spread it through her large church, before she was aware she had the virus. This led to many outside the church being infected as well. As churches, we want to be those who love our neighbors well. This may mean re-examining how we meet to help ensure we do not inadvertently pass the virus on to others.

Our response is not about fear but of love. We need to be positive and pro-active in what we do. Rather than focusing on what we cannot do, or what might be unwise to do, we need to focus on on what we can do. This will require us to be creative and biblical in our response. We are the church and we are meant to worship; it is one of our identities. This is probably the identity we give the most thought and planning to as we lead the church. Let’s think through how we can worship in new ways. Some ideas that came out from those attending the meeting were:

  1. We need to leverage social media, a variety of platforms to ensure people can get our messages. Many are already live-streaming on Facebook. With so many people trying to view a live feed at the same time our internet providers and Facebook may be overwhelmed. Consider pre-recording and uploading to YouTube and Vimeo as well. This allows people to watch at different times as well as download the video before watching so they don’t get pauses or delays. 
  2. People need to know they can count on something. Tell them when you intend to communicate and do so at that time. Establishing reliability helps bring assurance and peace.
  3. A family can invite a senior adult to come and worship with them. This helps to limit isolation but also builds personal relationships between members of the church. In order to comply with the intention of our leaders, we need to be sure we only meet with the same senior adult.
  4. Meet in dedicated groups that are static so as to prevent spreading the virus.
  5. If you cannot produce a good quality recording for worship music, consider using links to YouTube versions of worship songs. 
  6. Record your sermon or teaching in a different place than on stage in the auditorium. 
  7. For those that cannot access internet, consider DVDs or print version of the teaching to be sent to them. 
  8. Provide resources for Family Worship.
  9. Use FaceTime or other group communication system to have Bible study and/or prayer times.

We also still need to know how people are doing. Consider the following possibilities for ensuring no one is isolated or forgotten:

  1. Have deacons, Sunday School teachers, or others in the church contact a select group of active members each week.  If possible, have the pastor contact each family as well. People often ask what the benefit of membership is; this is one of the benefits—being remembered and ministered to during times of crisis.
  2. This is a great time to train new leaders. Perhaps you have youth that you could train in making some of these calls.
  3. Call people who are in the hospital or going in for surgery. You cannot visit them in the hospital but you can pray over the phone with them.
  4. Ask those you contact if you can do anything for them such as shopping or sharing food/supplies with them.

Ways to continue to do outreach:

  1. Provide instructions on prayer walking the neighborhood.
  2. Drive Thru food pantry (FBC Perryville and Rescued & Redeemed in Cape)
  3. Regularly call/check-in on your actual neighbor that lives around you. This is critical since they may not be connected to any group, especially a church. 

There was also a discussion regarding financial giving. We recognize that giving will be less. However, we also recognize that we need to provide other ways for people to give tithes and offering. Following are some of the possibilities:

  1. Bill Pay is available with most online banking. The church can encourage people to setup the church as an entity to pay and they can give in the same way they currently pay other bills online through their bank. There is generally no cost for people to do this with most banks.
  2. You can setup Push Pay, Breeze, Generosity (Lifeway), PayPal or other online giving for your church and then communicate this to your members.
  3. Missouri Baptist Foundation has setup a way to receive money for churches and send it to them as a check. It basically uses Generosity but saves you the trouble of setting it all up and managing it. 
  4. We need to be sensitive to the fact that many families will have no income or a decreased income with all the closures of schools and work places. 
  5. If your church has a reserve fund, this is exactly why you created it! While you may need to consider some budget cuts, you need to think through how you will use your reserve to help you ride out this current challenge. Once we get past it then we can look to replenish our reserve. 

The Directors of Missions around the State of Missouri had a conference call on March 17 as well and created a page on their website with some helpful resources for churches. I encourage you to check it out and see what might be helpful to you there. We will continue to update this page as things are developed or change. You can find it at this link: https://mobaptdomfellowship.com/church-response-ideas/

Please know that I am available to speak to you and help in any way that I can during this time. I am praying for the Father to grant you grace and mercy as well as wisdom as you lead the people He has entrusted to you. You are loved and greatly appreciated by me. I am thankful that God has placed each one of you where he has for this time. May we all serve Him, one another, and our communities in a way that brings honor and glory to Jesus!

Blessings,
John Vernon

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