COVID-19: Spiritual Leader's Response
Updated: May 21
Corona – say what?
COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe. For years we have experienced the likes of the common cold and influenza, yet today people everywhere are saying “I have the coronavirus!” One important distinction to note, to have the flu or a cold, is to have coronavirus. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is a respiratory, novel coronavirus which can spread person to person. For the sake of humanity, let’s be clear for everyone else’s benefit, exactly which of these someone might have? That could make the difference in whether people are willing to be around you, or you should personally be practicing self-isolation.
If it’s similar, why the fuss?
According to the CDC and WHO, this novel coronavirus is considered more dangerous than seasonal flu in a few distinct ways: 1. The estimate for how many will be infected by the average individual is increased by 1.2, potentially up to 2.5 people per individual, 2. The incubation time for flu is up to 4 days, whereas some reports indicate COVID-19 can silently incubate up to 14 days. This means you could be working against more people, much longer. 3. Total fatality rate for COVID-19 is up to 3.4%, whereas the flu, .1% or less. COVID-19 has more potential to cause harm. Lesser known, the hospitalization rates are significantly higher with COVID-19, and global response to this during such a crisis is creating increased strain on countries' infrastructure around the world. .
The church’s response?
One thing is abundantly made clear through today’s economic and spiritual climate: the potential for crisis of leadership is ever more in front of followers. See "The Crisis Leader" for more. How we respond as leaders in God’s church, toward family, congregants and community, is of paramount importance. Resolve in your spirit – my response reveals to others my leadership capability and character.
Practical ideas for the Church during crisis?
1. Pray. Offer prayer over social media, activate prayer-chains virtually and call-in, over emails, websites, and in any format you can send/receive requests that let others know: the church is praying!
2. Especially in higher-risk locations, move your service virtual. There are multiple online resources which can you help do this:
a. Facebook LIVE
b. Google Hangout
f. Microsoft Skype for Business
3. Where it makes sense, there is the option of small-crowd services. Break down crowds into the federal or state recommendations by offering multiple services on Sunday. One church is now holding 1 hour English services at 8:30, 10 and 11:30, as well as Spanish services at 10 and 11:30. Each service consists of 50 or less people, to their states' guidelines. Consider that attendance will be down and respect the decision of anyone desiring to self-quarantine.
4. For midweek service, move to small groups of no more than 10-15. These can be done in homes where families feel comfortable, or in various disinfected rooms throughout the church building. For obvious reasons, use the recommended 4-6 feet distancing between individuals and/or families.
5. Suspend certain church functions and programs. In crisis, it is not practical or prudent to have social events, or meet and greets. Nursing home services are not possible. As children are more prone to pass the disease, pausing children’s church and classes is necessary. Review everything in light of this crisis to determine its immediate value.
6. Walk through a strategic plan of touchpoints. Consider keeping certain doors open so people don’t have to touch them. Place a guard in key places for safety when practiced. Clean and disinfect in between any small gatherings – all hard surfaces. If you have opportunity, offer masks, gloves, anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.
7. We love our elders! Let them know, we love you! Elders should lovingly be asked to remain safely at home. 85% of the COVID-19 mortality rate is aged 60 or older, and 45%, 80 and above. For their safety, offer recordings, online access, or even offer someone to FaceTime the service.
Our responses during these challenging times will not only represent our character, values and leadership capability, but for many, be the representation of what a church is really all about in the modern age. Let's show them Jesus!
I'm sharing with you some additional resources. Each are helpful leading in today's environment, but as ongoing leadership and church development:
1. The Blessed Church by Robert Morris
2. Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby & Richard Blackaby
3. Church 3.0 by Neil Cole
4. Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger
Matthew R. Mullins
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka CDC). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Cases & Latest Updates. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/index.html
Frieden, T. CDC Director: COVID-19 is different from flu and we must respond differently. March 14, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-covid-19-flu-comparison-frieden-analysis/index.html
Resnick, B. and Animashaun, C. Why Covid-19 is worse than the flu, in one chart. March 18, 2020. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/18/21184992/coronavirus-covid-19-flu-comparison-chart
World Health Organization (WHO). Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen