As you navigate and respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) at your church, please be aware of these valuable resources specifically compiled for houses of worship.
This resources list will be updated as additional tools become available.
If you have a resource to share, please contact Church Executive Editor in Chief RaeAnn Slaybaugh.
Visit the CDC website and check for updates to guidelines on:
- Planning, preparing and responding to COVID-19.
- Interim guidance for community and faith leaders.
- Cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
- Checklist for community and faith leaders.
Faithlife Releases ‘Back to Church’ Survey, Showing Church Leaders’ Honest Thoughts on Whether and How to Go Back to Church
“Back to Church: When and How Churches are Reopening,” a new survey of 750 churches of differing sizes from around the world compiled by the church technology company Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software, shows that while the majority of pastors feel comfortable reopening their buildings, they expect changes in attendance, programming and operations.
More churches in the Midwest (49%) and South (44%) have already opened while only 24% of churches in the West and 13% of churches in the Northeast have resumed gatherings.
While 82% of churches indicated feeling somewhat to very comfortable resuming physical worship, the vast majority (72%) of pastors surveyed said they will continue offering online services. Once churches open, other precautions will be taken including strongly suggesting masks (54%), allowing fewer people in the services (25–29%) and delaying corporate singing (20%).
Nearly half (44%) of pastors expect attendance to stay the same though 32% surveyed believe attendance will decrease. On the other end, 24% believe they will see a rise in attendance.
“Many churches have continued to see a strong attendance in online worship throughout COVID-19 thanks to technology,” said Faithlife Founder and CEO Bob Pritchett. “What these past few months have proven is that people are hungry for God’s Word. While nothing can replace physical gatherings, I believe we will continue to see churches utilizing digital tools to provide an online worship and Bible study connection experience for those in their church unable or uncomfortable with resuming communal worship.”
Nearly every church (96%) identified a need for online communication in offering clear directions about how they will re-open but recognized gathering will look a bit different for the time being.
Approximately three-fourths (72%) of respondents plan to use online giving tools and other paperless methods to limit contact between individuals. More than half (54%) plan to keep kids’ programming closed during worship services and just over 40% plan to forego any additional programs beyond weekend worship. Additionally, half (50%) of all churches surveyed will not host VBS or summer camps. Over a quarter of churches have not decided whether or not to host summer programs (29%) and 9% will hold online programs. Only 6% of respondents plan to hold VBS or camp as usual.
“This data highlights that churches will continue to shift their usual ways to in order to prioritize the health and safety of their congregants as a result of COVID-19,” said Pritchett. “But, the results also reassure us that the majority of church leaders will continue to ensure their congregants have the tools necessary to stay spiritually nourished during this new season.”
To view the full survey, click here.
Faithlife Corporation, based in Bellingham, Washington, has been using technology to equip the Church to grow in the light of the Bible for more than 25 years. Since 1992, Faithlife has developed multiple tools including church presentation software, academic study resources, e-books, and Logos Bible Software. For more information, visit https://faithlife.com.
The Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) continues to lead the way in providing valuable resources for families, pastors, church leaders and others, all to help them navigate the unexpected path of COVID-19. As we approach the long weekend after churches have been declared essential by President Trump, HDI has released three new resources for church leaders’ use. They cover everything from caring for your family during COVID-19, to reopening your church, to understanding the anxiety, trauma and mental health struggles people may be experiencing now.
Reopening the Church Guide: “Guide to Reopening Church Services: A Step-by-Step, Biblically-Based and Research-Based Approach to Resuming In-Person Ministries.” This 26-page manual can be downloaded at www.reopeningthechurch.com.
Spiritual First Aid Manual: A step-by-step disaster spiritual and emotional care manual (COVID-19 edition) was developed to address mental health issues caused by COVID-19. This is the first research-based disaster spiritual care intervention and manual of its kind, designed specifically for equipping lay helpers to provide COVID-19 support while physically distancing and staying at home. It is based on 15 years of research and 4 years of field testing. HDI also launched a new resource website on disaster spiritual and emotional care that includes free resources like an online course on preventing burnout and compassion fatigue that can be found at www.spiritualfirstaidhub.com.
Family COVID-19 Toolkit: HDI created a compilation of the resources curated by its team and students especially to help parents, caregivers and teachers care for their children and families in these unprecedented times. For more information, visit https://mailchi.mp/wheaton/resources-for-your-family-during-covid-19?e=ff326f4077.
As our nation moves toward re-opening, church leaders are now tasked with the consideration of whether it is safe to resume in-person gatherings.
It’s unlikely that any parts of our former lives, including the way we did church, will ever truly be the same again. So as we begin to re-open and adapt to a new normal, now is an excellent time to consider safer and even more advanced and cost-effective ways to do church.
While we certainly should not rush to re-open the doors of the church until the curve flattens, leaders need to begin now to consider the paramount and practical ways their churches can cut down on physical materials.
Small changes can make a big difference, such as:
- Using slides instead of hymnals. Many churches have already replaced hymnals with slides. Running slides has a smaller initial investment, and allows churches to add new songs. While hymnals are valuable, people may be reluctant to handle hymnals and other shared physical items. So until sickness subsides, stick with slides.
- Taking your connection cards and bulletins online. Many churches have greeters hold doors open and hand out bulletins and/or connection cards. Digitally distributing bulletins and connection cards give you the ability to connect with visitors and attendees without spreading anything besides God’s love.
- Asking your givers to contribute online. Allowing people to give from their phones (or any mobile device, for that matter) means you don’t have to handle a piece of paper—cash or check. Plus, mobile giving helps people be more consistent in their giving.
- Opening God’s Word together via phones. If your church sets out hard copies of the Bible for people to use, consider sharing your screen instead. Using on-screen Bible options, people can follow along with you in Scripture without touching anything.
In addition to taking materials online, groups can continue to go virtual through several different fun, creative avenues:
- Encourage small groups to start a book club. They can read books in their spare time, then discuss them during a small group meeting. You can all read the same book together, or each person can read a different book and share what they learned with the group. And if you buy an ebook, you don’t have to worry about anyone bringing germs to your door.
- Have an online watch party. Does your group always ask if there’s a video version of a book you’re reading? Then a small group watch party might be right up your alley. You can set a time to watch a faith-based film or thought-provoking documentary together and hop online when it’s over to discuss the movie. You can use an online group chat to jot down your thoughts, or you could hop onto a free service like Google Meet to talk face-to-face.
- Chat and pray together in an online group. If your church small groups don’t already use an online group, you’re missing out on a big way that people stay in touch. Especially during days like these when safety restrictions are physically separating people, we must make an extra effort to ensure that people are getting the help, prayer and encouragement they need. Whether it’s through a social media group or a group via your church website, prioritize putting your church members in some kind of digital space where they can keep connected and continue to transparently share their lives.
Thanks be to God for the many modern-day gifts we have that can help us to advance the ministry of the Kingdom even when we are socially separated. There is no virus, restriction or mandate that can stop the growth and of the global Church; it is up to us how we will utilize this unique opportunity in history to continue to be a light.
Bob Pritchett is the founder and CEO of Faithlife, a church technology company creating integrated ministry platforms such as church presentation software, academic study resources, eBooks, mobile giving, church websites and Logos Bible Software.
Strengthening the faith of churches through science will be the focus of a virtual conference on June 5 hosted by Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program (RPLP).
The event, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT, will cover a variety of topics related to Christianity and science in today’s world, including how to foster social justice and equality in the scientific workforce, human reproductive genetic technologies, the beginning of life and human origins, and what it means to be human. In addition, conference sessions will provide practical information for pastors and lay leaders on bridging divides between scientific and faith communities in the time of COVID-19.
“We are holding this conference specifically to bring together Christian communities and scientists to use research to foster collaboration between the two,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of the RPLP and the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences. “Christian communities are the most numerous form of religious organization in the U.S. and the religious tradition that has often been placed in most tension with science. Now — in the time of COVID-19 — getting faith and scientific communities to cooperate and help one another has never been more important.”
Speakers and facilitators for the event will include Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Praveen Sethupathy, associate professor in the department of biomedical sciences at Cornell University; Harvey Clemons, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Houston; Greg Cootsona, religion scholar at California State University, Chico; Jonathan Hill, sociologist at Calvin University; Rice alumnus Lee Hsia, a pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church Downtown; Nichole Phillips, religion and sociology scholar at Emory University; and Gus Reyes, director of the Christian Life Commission, Baptist General Convention of Texas.
The conference, made possible by a Templeton Religion Trust grant, is part of an ongoing RPLP project designed to provide Christian leaders and constituents with empirically based, accessible social scientific evidence for how to integrate faith and science to answer questions about human purpose, meaning and ultimate reality. Another core objective of the project is to bring a variety of new voices to the conversation around faith and science — men and women; black, Latino and Asian Christians; and both pastors and lay people.
For more information on the event or to register, visit https://events.rice.edu/#!view/event/event_id/57587.
On May 13, more than 21 pastors and thought leaders will lead discussions on the evolving landscape of modern ministry and how to fuel the future vision of church
Pushpay Holdings Limited, a leading payments and engagement provider to the U.S. faith sector, today announced Church Disrupt, a free online conference for church staff and leadership teams on Wednesday, May 13. In a time when conferences across the nation are being cancelled, Church Disrupt is digitally bringing together leading pastors and industry experts to address some of today’s most pressing ministry problems, including technology, culture, leadership, burnout, and more.
Nearly 16,000 people from more than 40 countries across the globe have already registered to learn firsthand how they can champion change and increase engagement in the church amidst a new era of digital connection post COVID-19. Speakers include Louie Giglio from Passion City Church, Judah Smith from Churchome, Nona Jones from Facebook, Horst Schulze from The Ritz-Carlton, Chad Veach from Zoe Church, Tricia Sciortino from Belay, Dr. Matthew Stevenson of All Nations Worship Assembly, Carey Nieuwhof from Connexus Church, and many more.
“I look into the future and I feel the church will never be the same. I hope she will never be the same. I feel we have limited our scope and scale by banking on and depending on brick-and-mortar to build our congregations and communities,” said Judah Smith, Pastor of Churchome. “Brick and mortar will always be a part—it’s a celebrated part. But I think it’s going to take a back seat…to mobilizing people to live life on mission and meet them in their home.”
As technology continues to advance, and becomes more embedded in day-to-day interactions, many churches are rapidly adopting a digital-first strategy — with mobile at the forefront. In fact, 80% of the US population currently owns a smartphone, and according to data from Pushpay, the top five church app features accessed by mobile users are online giving, reading the Bible, watching live sermons, viewing sermon notes, and accessing church social media feeds.
“The COVID-19 pandemic quickly uncovered the possibilities, and gaps, for churches as they were forced to shift to a digital strategy in order to connect and engage with their congregation in a time of need,” said Troy Pollock, Chief Ambassador at Pushpay. “Many churches we partner with are not only surviving, but thriving amidst this unprecedented time. So, what does that mean for the future of church? While community and connection will always be at the heart of the church, the last two months could fundamentally change how people worship in the future.”
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the recent release of Pushpay’s FY20 annual results, where the Company reported a year-over-year total revenue growth of 32%. Additionally, during a six-week period of COVID-19 shutdowns (March 8-April 19), the company saw an increase in the number of online gifts through its platform when compared to average weekly totals prior to COVID-19. This is further reinforcement that churches are leveraging advanced technology solutions to connect with their people, maximize participation, and grow generosity like never before.
Research Indicates Majority of Donors Are More Optimistic for Economic Recovery in 2020 Than in Previous Years Despite Pandemic
A new survey commissioned by Dunham+Company, a global fundraising and marketing consulting firm to the nonprofit sector, and conducted by Campbell Rinker, reveals that a majority of donors (53%) will continue steady charitable giving in 2020, despite the current pandemic.
The survey, “Donor Confidence Strong in the Face of COVID-19,” reveals that while 13% of donors expect to give less in the coming year due to their financial situation, one in six donors surveyed (17%) indicated they expect to increase charitable giving in 2020. This sentiment is strongest among the key giving demographics of regular churchgoers (75%), self-identified conservatives (74%) and baby boomers (78%).
“This survey provides good news for nonprofits as it shows that the most generous donor groups are choosing to lean into generosity during this difficult time,” said Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company and Chair of The Giving USA Foundation. “It is also worth noting that the majority of donors who foresee that they will give more in 2020 cited the COVID-19 pandemic, and not an improved financial situation, as their main reason for doing so. It is clear that donors remain confident that the economic prosperity of 2019 and early 2020 will help carry the country through the current coronavirus crisis, making way for a quick recovery.”
A priority of giving was stronger among politically conservative donors compared to politically liberal donors (33% versus 21%) as well as older donors versus younger donors (33% versus 25%). Furthermore, households earning less than $25,000 were significantly more likely to say that they would increase their giving by 50% to 100% in the coming year than those that earn more (11% versus 2% for higher-earning households).
Interestingly, despite the current economic situation as a result of coronavirus, the underlying data from this new survey show that donors actually foresee a faster economic recovery than they did 20 months ago.
In August of 2018, according to “Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018,” 78% of donors felt it would take a year or more for the economy to improve, whereas, in April 2020, that percentage dropped to 66% of donors who say the same. In addition, half as many donors believe it will take the economy longer than two years to improve (down from 51% in 2018 to 24% today). Finally, in 2018, just one in five donors (22%) thought the economy would improve in a few months to a year, whereas in 2020, more than one in three donors (34%) believe the same.
In addition to the 2020 survey showing more optimal trajectories on the economic outlook and giving plans than previous surveys, results also revealed that giving priorities have shifted, presumably because of coronavirus. While churches and houses of worship remain the top priority for donors, the survey indicates their plans to give more to health and medical charities and less to educational institutions and programs than in past years.
“Indeed, COVID-19 is significantly impacting the nonprofit sector,” said Dunham. “But this data provides pertinent takeaways for nonprofit leaders, specifically helping them understand that donors are engaged and it’s imperative to communicate relevancy in spite of the pandemic. Even for nonprofit organizations that are currently unable to operate, it is critical to make a compelling case to donors that their support now is important to enable the charity to make an impact when they are ready to re-open.”
This online poll of 630 U.S. adult donors who had made charitable gifts of at least $20 in 2019 was conducted April 17-20, 2020, amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lowest amount given in 2019 was $20, and the highest was $66,500. Responses were weighted by age to reflect the general U.S. population per the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census. The margin of error is ±3.9% at the 95% confidence level. Percentages may sum to over 100% due to rounding.
To view the full survey, visit dunhamandcompany.com/fundraising-research/donor-confidence-strong-in-the-face-of-covid-19/
Dunham+Company applies more than 40 years of experience to fill in the gap between nonprofits and donors to help organizations reach greater impact by providing fundraising, marketing and media expertise. To learn more, visit https://www.dunhamandcompany.com/about/.
“COVID-19 Playbook,” a free eBook developed by Faithlife, a church technology company and makers of Logos Bible Software, provides practical resources, articles and tips to help church leaders ask key questions and utilize tech tools to function seamlessly as states begin lifting social distancing measures.
“Coronavirus is challenging churches in myriad ways, leaving leaders eager for a clear path forward,” said Faithlife Founder and CEO Bob Pritchett. “While we don’t yet know when churches will be able to resume services, if anything, this pandemic has caused leaders to embrace new ways to do ministry. This free eBook is concise yet comprehensive, offering every group of church leaders relevant tech solutions to their most pressing problems along with answers to commonly asked questions.”
The “COVID-19 Playbook” includes specific information for each of the key players within a church, including pastors, worship leaders, operations and admin workers, communications staff, technology teams, finance teams, lay leaders and volunteers. In addition to providing tech information and resources, the eBook helps leaders ask and answer lingering questions left in the wake of pandemic-induced changes.
“Church leaders know by now that there is much more to online church than simply streaming a sermon on Sunday,” Pritchett said. “It’s imperative that all facets of ministry continue to smoothly operate digitally as churches take precautions throughout this pandemic. The ‘COVID-19 Playbook’ is an invaluable tool through social-distancing mandates and beyond.”
To download the “COVID-19 Playbook,” visit https://faithlife.com/ministry-resources/equip/guide/church-coronavirus.
Church technology company and makers of Logos Bible Software Faithlife recently released results from a survey of church leaders across the country revealing that 15% of participants noted increased engagement in online midweek services and small groups.
“We believe that increased midweek attendance during this pandemic is significant for several reasons,” said Faithlife Founder and CEO Bob Pritchett. “We know by now that many people at home, both Christian and non-Christian, have been tuning into church services remotely, and that is wonderful news. But to see midweek attendance spike so sharply is encouraging because it shows that more and more people are seeking to not simply check off their Sunday service box but truly engage with God’s Word and connect with the Church.”
In addition to increased midweek attendance, results from Faithlife’s survey showed that 40% of participants have seen their services reach a broader audience, including non-members, non-Christians and individuals who have never been to church in addition to those who have not gone for several years.
“I believe we are seeing Romans 8:28 play out in real-time during this unprecedented season,” said Pritchett. “Amid all the tragedy in the world, God is very clearly still at work. Prayers are being answered that this pandemic would be used to point people toward Christ and our need for Him.”
Additional data from the survey showed trends in technology use during this pandemic, including:
- Less than 25% of churches reported that they had a live streaming solution in place prior to the pandemic, while a whopping 54% said they implemented live streaming because of the pandemic.
- Compared to 2019, churches without online giving saw an average giving decrease of 19% during Holy Week. Churches with an online giving solution saw much less of a reduction, decreasing 5.5% on average.
- While attendance overall was down for churches on Easter Sunday, those that streamed live or prerecorded services tended to see less of a drop in attendance than those that used a web conferencing solution.
- When asked, 36% of pastors said they need help with staying connected with the congregation, especially those who don’t have internet access or are not online, and 32% worry about the well-being of their congregants.
To learn more about the Faithlife survey, visit https://faithlife.com/newsroom.
Faithlife Corporation, based in Bellingham, Washington, has been using technology to equip the Church to grow in the light of the Bible for more than 25 years. Since 1992, Faithlife has developed multiple tools including church presentation software, academic study resources, e-books, and Logos Bible Software. For more information, visit https://faithlife.com/about.
The Unstuck Group releases new data on how churches are responding to the COVID-19 crisis
Larger churches were better prepared than smaller churches to make changes in how they offer services and support for congregations during the COVID-19 crisis, but they are also more quickly resorting to layoffs, new data released by The Unstuck Group reports. The organization surveyed more than 500 churches between April 2 and 6.
“We were not surprised to see that larger churches were in a better position to initially handle the move to online services and giving, but we have been encouraged by how quickly churches of all sizes have responded,” said Tony Morgan, founder and lead strategist at The Unstuck Group.
Churches surveyed include congregations ranging in size from under 100 to more than 20,000, and everything in between. Here are some key takeaways:
- Only 4% of churches were still holding in-person services at the church at the time of the survey.
- Half of churches surveyed offered online services before the crisis. The larger the church, the more likely they were to be offering online services. Nearly 80% of megachurches had online services before the crisis, while only 27% of churches under 200 in size had an online option.
- Almost all churches are now using online services in some format. Only 5% of churches have not shifted to an online option. The number of small churches with online services has increased to more than 90%.
- More people appear to be engaging in the online services than were attending services at church buildings. Two of every three churches indicated online engagement is higher than in-person attendance since the crisis began. Megachurches were more likely to indicate an increase in engagement.
- One in four churches may not have had adequate cash reserves set aside in preparation for a crisis like this. They either confirmed their cash reserves were not adequate, or they were unsure. Nearly 40% of small churches were not confident they had reserves to sustain through this crisis.
- Giving has decreased in the majority of churches; 58% of churches indicated that giving has gone down since the start of this crisis. Megachurches with more than 2,000 in average attendance were more likely to report giving declines.
- Megachurches have been more proactive with staff furloughs or layoffs and reducing compensation. One in ten churches have already initiated layoffs and furloughs, but almost twice that many megachurches have started that process.
- Four out of five churches have started to offer online small groups during this crisis.
For more information, including a copy of the full report, contact Tiffany Deluccia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blackbaud, the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good, heard customer needs and built and released technology to support virtual small group gatherings for faith communities in a matter of days.
The new capability streamlines the process for a small group leader to engage its members, automatically adding virtual meetings to small group communications and making participation easy. This capability — offered at no additional cost through Blackbaud Church Management™ or its native app, MobileMission™ — makes virtual small groups intuitive for both leaders and members quickly adjusting to meeting online. This further extends Blackbaud’s powerful church management capabilities that connect church staff, volunteers and congregations through one comprehensive platform.
“While church communities have been moving away from a single physical location for quite some time, COVID-19 accelerated that trend in an unanticipated way,” said Blackbaud Chief Products Officer Kevin McDearis. “We wanted to address that short-term need as quickly as possible, shifting the focus away from a physical room toward virtual meeting environments. Long term, we want to provide churches with the tools to engage more people and perhaps connect with an audience they never would have reached prior to this sudden digital migration.”
Blackbaud’s virtual small group capability came about after team members convened a town hall for faith customers in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing best practices for virtual gatherings and soliciting feedback on how Blackbaud could best support them during this unprecedented time. Engineers listened in on the call and spent a day the following week building technology to address their concerns. Because of its modern engineering architecture and powerful Blackbaud SKY® platform, the company was able to launch this capability less than three business days later.
Releasing this capability coincided with one of the most significant weeks of the year for churches — Holy Week, culminating with Easter Sunday. “We have churches that have been planning for months for the Easter holiday,” said Blackbaud Faith Solutions Product Manager Courtney Grainger. “Most had less than a month’s notice that they would need to completely revamp the way they engage their communities in this important season, so we wanted to offer a solution to support them now that would also empower them later.”
Amid coronavirus outbreak, InChrist Communications sets up free ‘Crisis CONNECT Network,’ weekly webinars
Christian organizations, churches, and other faith-based nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are rushing to join a “crisis communications support group” set up to help them navigate the coronavirus storm.
The online “Crisis CONNECT Network,” created by national integrated communications agency InChrist Communications (ICC) is gaining dozens of new members on Facebook and LinkedIn every week, eager to share their trials, triumphs, and lessons learned in the era of COVID-19.
Network members and other communications professionals also are signing up for free ICC-facilitated weekly webinars, discussing such key issues as how to inspire their audiences during the current lockdown, communicating with the news media, and how to keep donors engaged.
Signups for Crisis CONNECT Network groups and weekly webinars are at www.inchristcommunication.com/crisis-connect.
“Our hope is that by working together, talking with each other, and sharing ideas, we will emerge as communications leaders — and not victims — of the coronavirus crisis,” said Palmer Holt, ICC founder and CEO.
Weather the COVID-19 Storm
“This free support network and ongoing free webinar series are for all faith-based communicators, including those involved in branding, marketing, advertising, media relations, social/digital communications, and development, as well as ministry top executives,” said Holt. “We welcome anyone to join us, and — to be frank — need the active participation and combined wisdom of all of us together to weather this uncertain and changing storm.”
Established in 2002 with the goal of helping Christian nonprofits, churches, schools, and businesses communicate their vision, protect their reputation, and tell their story, ICC has helped many faith-based groups — local, national, and international — successfully navigate crisis situations.
A few years ago, Holt and his team helped missions agency SIM navigate through the Ebola Crisis.
Faith-based organizations, including churches and mission agencies, often lack media experience and are prone to panic during a crisis, said Holt, who offers a unique crisis communications strategy and methodology called SAFE.
These unprecedented times have created a growing need for a digital addition to your giving program. That’s why National Church Solutions partnered with Pineapple Payments to offer a simple, affordable and secure online donation platform to the churches that it serves.
- Online giving: easily create a hosted payment page for donations, fundraising, event registration and more!
- Recurring giving: store members’ payment information and setup automatic scheduled contributions for your church.
- Security: this solution is PCI compliant to reduce your liability and keep both your church and members safe.
- Accessibility: your hosted payment page can be shared in a number of ways. Embed it on your website, provide a link or even create a QR code.
- Reporting: easily track your members’ online giving with flexible and exportable contribution reporting.
Church Mutual Offers Resources to Guide and Protect Houses of Worship
Across the country houses of worship are taking steps to keep worshippers safe from the coronavirus. Yet their most important mission, offering refuge amid challenge and uncertainty is needed more than ever. Church Mutual Insurance Company, the nation’s leading insurer of religious organizations, is offering faith leaders resources to help them minister virtually using technology and navigate cybersecurity concerns that arise from online giving.
“As our nation battles the coronavirus outbreak, many houses of worship are creatively addressing the needs of their faith community, communicating and conducting services virtually. Online worship poses potential new risks faith leaders need to consider,” said Guy Russ, assistant vice president – Risk Control. “Key among them is online charitable giving. Knowing the cybersecurity risks associated with online giving options is critical now more than ever to keep congregations safe.”
In addition to online worship and giving, house of worship leaders are facing many additional challenges. Church Mutual’s Pandemic Planning Resources assist faith leaders in navigating the current crisis, as well as those looking to the future. Resources include:
- Information on safety and agreement considerations for telecommuting employees;
- The Paycheck Protection Program approved through the CARES Act; and,
- Stimulus package applications.
“As more organizations embrace new and creative ways to worship, it’s important that they have the technology in place to support them, as well as the policies and procedures to protect them,” added Russ. “To assist houses of worship that have not yet been able to convey their messages online, Church Mutual is developing a new technology to assist with virtual communications.”
Visit Church Mutual at coronavirus.churchmutual.com for resources, new updates and information. Policyholders interested in conducting services or giving online should contact Church Mutual at (800) 554-2642 to reach a dedicated consultant.
Right now, church leaders all over the world are wrestling with some tough questions, things like:
- How do I find time to focus on what only I can do while managing the chaos around me?
- How do I lead my staff when everything is changing so fast?
- How do I find the answers I need when there is so much information out there?
Join UnSeminary and listen to the discussion as experts talk through some practical solutions on how to shift your thinking about these questions (and more) to maximize this next season for your church. Here are some of the key resources created for you in this series:
By Jess Coburn, President/Founder of Applied Innovations
As the coronavirus situation intensifies it is becoming more and more apparent that we must become increasingly flexible and innovative in how we approach our day-to-day lives.
The move to a fully remote status requires a culture shift. For many church staffs, this is a major adjustment. They are accustomed to meeting – in person – with each other and those at home, in the hospital, and at services.
Fortunately, the technology exists to create a virtual workplace. As the current situation plays out, we’ll be seeing a much heavier dependence on technology to accomplish these tasks. The major hurdle could very well be cultural and an acknowledgment that virtual workplaces will likely be the wave of the future, well beyond the current pandemic.
The major change will be that having a virtual workplace will evolve from being simply a convenience to becoming standard, accepted, and mandatory practices for the foreseeable future.
Luckily, the technology allowing this already exists. Office 365 is perhaps the most efficient and comprehensive system. In short, it is a cloud-based integrated experience that empowers employees with the tools they need to collaborate efficiently, communicate on the go, and access files with ease. Its business apps allow you to manage bookkeeping, scheduling, and data in a secure environment.
The key element, though, is to utilize the communications tools such as video conferencing and conference calls. Many churches have these capabilities. But now the critical issue is to use them all the time. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Have a short 5- to 10-minute meeting at the start of each day to address anything the team needs to minimize delays and interruptions. Have weekly conference/video calls to review challenges, workloads and priorities. The most important issue is to continually use technology to enhance the church culture. Look at this as creating a virtual “water cooler” to focus not only on work, but also on camaraderie, social interaction, etc. When possible, it’s always preferable to use video communications.
- Use these same communications tools with members. This could be for counseling, comforting, praying, etc.
- Make sure all security protocols are in place and that files are password protected. It’s also best to set up your employees with church laptops as opposed to allowing them to use personal computers which are more likely to be compromised. If they have to use personal devices, bring them under management and help to secure and clean them before they can connect to the actual church network.
- Consider providing tutorials to members on how to best set up virtual environments
It will also be important to educate staff on best practices for working at home. It requires discipline, boundaries, and routine. Here are a few tips:
- Establish a schedule:
- Wake up
- Make coffee
- Get dressed for work
- Go to the office which will be a few steps away as opposed to a few miles
- If possible, establish a dedicated workplace in your home. This signals to your spouse and children that you’re “at work” and try not to disturb
- Recognize that it’s easy to “burn out” when working at home. It’s important to set boundaries by turning off the computer and walking out of your home office at the end of the day.
- Maintain the separation between days off and workday schedules.
Once this new workplace culture is adopted, you’ll find that there are many advantages, including a decrease in “sick days” related to children since employees can still get a full day’s work in even with trips to the doctor. This also includes workdays traditionally starting earlier and ending earlier, providing staff with more time with family.
The major challenge in managing a church is maintaining communication with the staff and members. There will be a time for adjustment so consider small steps as big victories.
This crisis will eventually end, but you may find a silver lining in that the shift to a limited virtual workplace could happen. A virtual work environment will never be complete simply because churches must have in-person contact with members and staff. Praying, meeting, and personal inter-action will return to our churches, but lessons will be learned from the virtual experience.
With your church empty from all the self-isolating members are doing at the moment, now is the perfect time to ensure your facilities are in good shape and not deteriorating from disuse. This great article from Smart Church Solutions offers nine ways to do this. Learn more at https://www.smartchurchsolutions.com/blog/9-ways-you-can-be-intentional-with-your-facility-during-covid-19.
This free webinar from NYC group Practical Resources for Churches provides practical advice on how to connect with your community in a time of social distancing. Get expert advice on forming a team, identifying needs, options for community ministry, partnering with local groups, self-care and many other topics!
As social distancing has become necessary of late, and is likely to last a while, nonprofits and especially religious organizations face a serious problem: How to retain donations coming in on a regular basis when religious services and other fundraising events cannot take place in-person.
Financial institutions and other service providers are perfectly positioned to help their nonprofit clients generate a sustained donation stream through recurring ACH payments.
Direct withdrawal via ACH helps to retain and cultivate recurring donors. ACH removes the hassle often associated with credit/debit cards because there are no expiration dates with direct withdrawal via ACH. ACH also eliminates the need to store and handle paper checks.
Additionally, direct withdrawal via ACH reduces fees and resources spent on processing donations made by credit/debit cards and paper checks, allowing donors’ resources to more fully support the mission. And when donors cannot be present at services, direct withdrawal via ACH ensures their donations continue.
Looking for a way to share the message about the benefits of direct withdrawal via ACH? Nacha’s Nonprofit Toolkit has a number of resources including case studies, FAQs and white label resources to help nonprofits reiterate key message points while offering easy-to-use templates. Also available are sample donor letters, emails for fund drives, renewal documents, and more.
ChurchStreaming.tv and easyTithe, Ministry Brands companies, reported an unprecedented surge in congregant online worship and tithing as in-person church attendance levels decrease. easyTithe saw a 99% increase in online giving and ChurchStreaming.tv saw a quadrupling of its streaming usage over the same period in 2019. The surge reflects churches harnessing technology to reach their most vulnerable members and provide continuity, while aligning with social distancing measures.
“More than ever, church communities need to unite in spirit to worship, find hope and comfort,” said Daniel Simmons, Managing Director, Ministry Brands. “Churches are protecting their most vulnerable congregants through social distancing, while embracing platforms that keep communities connected and forwarding their missions.”
Additional key findings for mid-March from Ministry Brands platforms include:
- 189% increase in individuals contributing gifts online.
- Thousands of U.S. churches registering zero attendance for Sunday services.
- Mass texting for churches jumping more than 1,000% on the ChurchCast platform.
- Digital streaming via ChurchStreaming.tv increased by 400%.
Ministry Brands recorded a sizable increase of 99% more online contributions than the same time period last year, with many giving via major debit or credit cards such as Visa and others. With most churches now using some form of online giving, and at least 30% or more of their members already utilizing these platforms, Ministry Brands expects to see significant growth in congregants moving to online giving this year due to the impact of COVID-19.
Ministry Brands provides online giving software to more than 30,000 churches, parishes and ministries in the U.S. and provides streaming services for more than 3,000 churches. The increases discussed reflect the combined growth across all religious and faith-based organizations that use Ministry Brands’ platforms.
In recognition of the many churches, pastors, parents and students who will be quarantined at home for the foreseeable future, Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software, is providing a plethora of its premium online resources and packages at little or no cost for the next 60 days to encourage community connectedness and spiritual growth at the individual, family and church levels.
“We must stay connected during this time of social distancing,” said Faithlife Founder and CEO Bob Pritchett. “To support the many churches and families who are doing their part to keep themselves and others as healthy as possible, we are making our resources for at-home church operations, education and entertainment readily available at an affordable price for everyone.”
Faithlife has set up Faithlife.com/coronavirus with information about accessing the following resources at little to no charge for the next 60 days:
- Faithlife Giving, Faithlife Proclaim and the newly released Faithlife Live Stream to help churches switch to a fully online format in less than 24 hours,
- Faithlive TV and Faithlife Connect as well as a 24/7 helpline to assist pastors as they migrate to a digital landscape and answer any troubleshooting questions,
- Logos and Faithlife TV to partner with parents schooling at home, and
- Faithlife’s digital theological library for at-home seminary students.
“It is our prayer and hope that making these resources more readily available will bless the Church and help us stay connected,” Pritchett said. “To get through these difficult times, we must continue to come alongside our brothers and sisters in whatever ways we can to meet our physical, emotional and spiritual needs.”
One of the largest faith-based research organizations has created a crisis resource for church leaders to give their voice, get expert analysis, know how other leaders are responding, engage with their community and lead with confidence. ChurchPulse Weekly is delivered every week with the latest updates as the situation progresses around the world.
Ministry Platform and Church IT Network have teamed up to put out a series of free webinars on Taking Church Online, each focusing on a different topic like Community Outreach & Care, Services & Prayer, Giving & Financials, and so on. In this current climate, many people may be realizing that they need God, which means they really need the church. Use these resources to help provide whatever resources, tips, tools, support, encouragement, prayer that the church can offer.
In this episode of The Church Engagement Podcast from Blackbaud, Dan Noonan details how churches can leverage live-streaming and digital content to reach their communities. Listen to Noonan discuss evaluating the pros and cons of live-streaming and digital content.
Blackbaud also offers a dedicated resource page for church leaders navigating the coronavirus pandemic, including:
- 10 things fundraisers can do from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 6 tips for managing a virtual workforce
- How to have church during coronavirus
- Tips to maintain momentum for your in-person fundraising events amidst COVID-19
Find them all at: https://faith.blackbaud.com/coronavirus
COVID-19 has closed down in-person worship, at least for the time being, but at Times Square Church in New York City, weekly Tuesday evening prayer services go on as usual because these online virtual gatherings have welcomed thousands of people from over 200 countries for more than five years. The weekly prayer meetings at this church in the crossroads of the world happen each Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET at tsc.nyc/webcasts/tuesday-7pm.
Times Square Church’s online prayer meetings began on Jan. 28, 2015, and prayers have been received from 207 self-reported countries and dependencies, with the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and India being the top submitters. Prayer requests and reports of answered prayers come in directly through a website submission form, on the church’s app or via text message.
As the coronavirus spreads from person to person in unprecedented numbers throughout the world, public officials have taken drastic measures to control the global pandemic within their own borders. People must work from home, schools have closed, local businesses are shutting down, the markets are plummeting and fear of the future looms in the hearts of many.
In the midst of the fear and uncertainty for the future, people are looking for answers.
“God knew this was coming,” said Times Square Church leader Carter Conlon, “and we need to cry out to him because he hears and he wants to answer our prayer. The Bible makes this clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If my people who are called by My name would humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal the land.’”
“When God called us to start the Worldwide Prayer Meeting at Times Square Church, all we knew was we needed to provide a way for people to submit their prayers online and have them display on the screen in our sanctuary so people would see them and pray,” he continued. “Only God could have called us to start this prayer meeting with people from all over the world for such a time as this. At Times Square Church, we knew then and we know now that the only way we are going to get through this is to come together and pray. It’s time to pray!”
Since its inception, the prayer meeting has received hundreds of thousands of prayer requests and answers to prayer. As the coronavirus pandemic causes panic and anxiety around the world, this Worldwide Prayer Meeting has seen a surge of participants online who have nowhere else to go voice their fears and concerns:
- “Thank you for making the prayer meeting happen last night. I needed it. Thank you so much for your work and sacrifice, it really means a lot to me right now.”—Anonymous, Florida
- “Please pray for us for protection from this virus. I have to travel by bus, have to go work surrounded with many people. We need a miracle, mercy. Thank you, Jesus.”—Anonymous, New Jersey
- “I am self-isolating with my roommates, one of whom is high risk. Please pray for health and financial provision. Thank you, and God bless.”—Pamela G., Brooklyn, New York
- “Pray urgently for my daughter, who needs a miracle healing from coronavirus, bad chest and body pains, and shortness of breath. Pray for her 18-month-old baby to be safe. Pray for a miracle.”—Anonymous, New York City
- “Please pray. Our income is greatly affected by coronavirus; the main source of income is temporarily suspended until further notice. We’re already late on rent and bills.”—Ana A., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- “Please pray for Ivan. A young man in his twenties hospitalized by the coronavirus. For his dear family. They love the Lord deeply. Thank you.”—Marga, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
- “Pray for my 31-year-old daughter who has the coronavirus. She’s getting worse but can’t get medical care until she’s in respiratory distress. She has pneumonia too.”—Connie, Huntsville, Alabama
- “My roommate is receiving coronavirus treatment as of yesterday here in Qatar gulf country. Requesting for prayers and strength from you all.”—George, Doha, Qatar
- “Please pray for Greece, there are two wars waging—one at the border and one with this coronavirus. Pray that our Lord gives us His peace.”—Evi F., Sparta, Greece
Pastor Conlon and Times Square Church congregants believe God has prepared them for this hour.
“The church has always served as a place of refuge, solace and provision in times of crisis,” Conlon said. “But the church is not the building. No time has that been clearer than now. The church of Jesus Christ is you and me. And we need to be the church wherever we are at a time like this.”
The Worldwide Prayer Meeting, as it brings together the Body of Christ from all over the world, is precisely that. It is the church gathering together because they know the answer to what to do in the face of the unimaginable. And that answer is clear and urgent: It’s time to pray!
Times Square Church is an inter-denominational, multinational congregation, located in the heart of New York City, at 51st Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, founded by Rev. David Wilkerson, author of the best-selling book “The Cross and the Switchblade.” Over 10,000 people, representing more than 100 different nationalities, gather to pray together each week, finding true unity is possible through Jesus Christ.
In communities all over the country, churches have no choice but to conduct worship online. For those who are unfamiliar with this experience, use this guide from Indiana United Methodist Conference to get you going.
ADDRESSING ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE
Social distancing and quarantine are life-saving measures that reduce the impacts of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, however; they also can be challenging for many people. Join us, Rev. Dr. Pamela Cooper-White and Bishop Chilton Knudsen in a conversation around family/partner violence, substance use and mental health as they relate to the current pandemic.
A MINISTERIAL RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Episcopal Relief & Development hosted a conversation on March 13, 2020 about the ways ministries can continue their work while being safe. We heard from Aaron Scott, Chaplain and Organizer for Chaplains on the Harbor in the Grays Harbor, Washington area and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ni, Associate for Chinese Ministry for The Church of Our Savior in the Los Angeles, CA area. Each discussed how COVID-19 has impacted their ministry. Listen below. Read our key takeaways.
Grace Lutheran Church’s current website is great example of a church website update for answering the common questions church members are asking right now. It’s a good idea to revamp your site as well to make it easy for your congregants to know how to connect with your church under the current conditions.
Episcopal Relief and Development Epidemic has developed a response plan template for churches to adapt and utilize as they deal with the evolving dynamics of the nation’s response to the health crisis.
This online group is a forum where worship communities can come together to share resources on conducting worship, small groups, discipleship online.
Churches, international and national ministries, Christian schools, rescue missions and a host of grassroots organizations are coping with “coronavirus shock” as they face unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Churches, Christian missions and ministries everywhere have suffered a significant jolt and are urgently trying to figure out the best path forward,” said Palmer Holt, founder and CEO of InChrist Communications (ICC), a North Carolina-based agency that helps Christian nonprofits navigate crisis situations. “But this is actually a pivotal moment. Now is not a time to shrink back, but the time to run toward the fight and show a panicked world that Christ is the hope they’re looking for.”
That message needs to be strategically and creatively communicated to key stakeholders, especially donors and supporters, the former newspaper editor and Fortune 100 media relations executive said. Holt’s firm helped international missions agency SIM successfully navigate the Ebola Crisis in 2014.
Across the United States and around the world, cancellations, lockdowns, travel restrictions and the era of “self isolating” have forced Christian ministries and churches to rapidly rethink the way they serve others. Many are refocusing and expanding ministry efforts, and thinking strategically how to keep vital communications open in the unforeseen crisis.
Many faith-based social services agencies that deal face-to-face with the public every day have already taken drastic action — curtailing programs, canceling missions trips, and putting special events on hold.
In the past few days, Serve Denton, a Texas-based church-run social services agency, has had to stop Bible studies in local nursing homes, fly 120 high school students back from a missions trip in Romania, and hastily set up church services via online live streaming because gatherings of more than 250 people were banned.
Communication is Key
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of clear, strategic communications at times like these,” said Pat Smith, CEO of Serve Denton, located in Denton, Texas. “People want leaders, and leaders have to communicate what they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, faith-based rescue missions across the U.S. are seeing a negative impact on volunteers — crucial to their service delivery. “People are worried, and rightly so, about serving folks who don’t have regular access to sanitation facilities,” said John Ashmen, president of Colorado Springs-based Citygate Network, representing some 300 rescue missions and homeless shelters across North America.
“The people we serve are already in crisis, even without COVID-19,” Ashmen said. “One of the biggest potential problems is finding places for homeless people to be quarantined, if necessary.”
Christian schools across America and around the world are wrestling with mandatory school closures and the shift to online distance learning, said Larry Lincoln, spokesperson for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
“It’s imperative that school leaders proactively engage in timely communication,” he said. “For many, life might seem currently unpredictable, but as believers it’s a perfect time to let the light of Jesus Christ shine through our words and actions.”
Doug Fountain is the director of Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH), an umbrella organization of faith-based healthcare workers across the globe.
“It’s vital to address any crisis early,” Fountain said, citing the importance of “clear and consistent” messaging. “All of us, especially under-resourced health ministries, are so focused on responding to the needs right in front of us. It’s a challenge to think about what could happen, but it’s a basic component of strategic planning,” he said.
With missions work around the world plunged into uncertainty, Missio Nexus, North America’s largest association of missions agencies and churches focused on global evangelism, has issued a coronavirus “contingency plan” for its members, urging them to “stay alert and prepare to respond appropriately as circumstances change.”
“It could be months before the full impact of the coronavirus crisis on world missions is known,” said Missio Nexus president Ted Esler.
Free resources to effectively communicate to stakeholders during the coronavirus outbreak — including a crisis communications checklist, courtesy strategy sessions and webinars — are available at https://www.inchristcommunication.com/safe/.
Join Ministry Brands for a webinar, guide & free tech. They review:
- How to make sure members know about changes to your services
- Ways to keep your staff connected and doing ministry, even if they work from home
- Best practices for connecting your congregation during disruptions (live streaming tips included)
- Free church technology you can quickly adopt to connect your ministry during this challenging time
You’ll find it all here.
Faithlife Corporation is hosting daily live Q&As during COVID-19 social distancing
Faithlife Corporation is helping leaders ensure COVID-19 social distancing doesn’t disrupt their efforts to be the Church by offering a number of free and low-cost tools to help them take their church online during this pandemic.
Faithlife has set up step-by-step online instructions to help leaders:
- Record their sermons
- Publish their sermons to their church website and social media
- Build a free streaming TV channel for their recorded sermons and other video
- Enable mobile and online giving for their church in minutes
- Provide a safe online community for their church to share prayer requests, facilitate small group discussion