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Lipscomb University Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 update and response.

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Lipscomb spiritual leaders feed the soul and face the future

Faith leaders provide spiritual resources to use at home and for churches planning for an uncertain future.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

Photo of an open Bible with a hand pointing to a scripture

In a time of online church services in the midst of fear and anxiety, feeding the soul has become more important than ever before. Check out some of the resources below to bring meaningful faith experiences within your family or, for church leaders, to face the future armored with Christ-centered resources and guidance.

For Families

The Christian Spirituality Summit, an organization of scholars and practitioners dedicated to promoting informed practice regarding children's spirituality, has an online forum that regularly posts ideas and activities for building children’s spirituality at home during the national lockdown. Activities for Holy Week, Lent, dealing with grief and resources for parents are currently available on the forum.

Lipscomb’s Professor of Family Science and Christian Ministry Holly Allen chairs the planning for the biennial Children’s Spirituality Summit.

For Church Leaders

Lipscomb’s Office of Church Services provides regular communications to engage churches and equip Christians to honor Jesus at the intersections of faith and culture. During this chaotic spring, the office has provided free online resources to build marriages, information on coordinated prayer groups and previously recorded virtual classes.

Currently, the office plans to hold a weekend seminar in August to guide church leaders in thinking about moving congregations forward after the virus has left a lasting impact and caused us to rethink our mission and methods.

Below is taste of the resources available through the Office of Church Services: a list of vital questions churches must consider as states begin to reopen during the pandemic. If you are interested in more information from the Office of Church Services or the August seminar, contact Scott Sager at scott.sager@lipscomb.edu and request to be placed on his email list.

VITAL QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER FOR YOUR CAMPUS

Helping Congregations Live at the Intersection of Faith & Health

By W. Scott Sager
 
I am proud of you and the work each of you is doing for the Kingdom. We at Lipscomb will continue to pray God’s wisdom upon you. As your state is thinking about reopening, please be mindful of what that means for churches. Here is a compilation of the best questions I have seen asked during the virus about reopening (special thanks to Russ King and Ken Braddy).

These are all questions churches may need to wrestle with before opening. We need to give ourselves time to develop strategies and policies for successful implementation. It could be that churches will have time to think through some of these questions in Phase One, then others before Phase Two, etc. Here are the 29 questions I can see as of now, broken down into five major categories:


A.   Structure and Timing Issues

1. What if your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 50 people?

Should we be planning on adding three or four services, reducing the time to 45 minutes with a 15-minute “passing period” so that worshipers can either go to Bible study or go home?

2. Should you add and/or shorten worship services to allow for social distancing?

If physical gatherings are limited in size, you have a few options: (1) offer more services (2) encourage people to continue worshiping online (3) remove chairs from your worship center to help people avoid close contact (4) block off pews so that people no longer sit right behind someone, reducing the chances of them sneezing or coughing directly into the back of a person in front of them. If your church reopens with the “worship only” option, you’ll have to decide these things now.

3. Are you going to continue offering children’s church?

Can you guarantee parents that their children will be safe in a room in which dozens or hundreds gather for a kids’ worship time? Should parents take their kids to worship, practice physical distancing and keep a close eye on their little ones?

4. Will churches continue offering virtual online worship?

Some churches may think of their recent foray into Facebook Live as a means to provide a worship experience for their people a thing of the past – a stop-gap measure during some really strange days. But will there be seniors and others who prefer to stay away longer?

5. Is this the time to end your church’s “meet and greet” time?

Because of physical distancing rules, it is a consideration for sure. 

6. Because people may return very slowly to church, how will you measure attendance and effectiveness?

The question has already been raised about should we or should we not take attendance during online worship and online group Bible studies. It’s almost a sure thing that worship attendance on campus will not be what it was pre-COVID-19. You need to decide now if you’re going to count on-campus only attendance, or merge and add online attendance, too.

7. Should you reopen the doors of your church with a “worship only” strategy?

We are hearing of more and more churches who plan to utilize this option whenever we are allowed to meet again on campus. They are adding services, removing chairs, practicing social distancing, and focusing on regaining momentum in worship. Bible study groups will remain online for safety in the short-term and will be added back to the on-campus experience in time.

B.  Safety Measures to Consider

8. Will churches need someone standing at the doors with a thermometer before entry?

Will this be required practice? How many thermometers will a church need to acquire for this—and people gloved and shielded to do it?

9. What are you doing now to sanitize and sterilize your church building?

Now might be the time to wipe down all classrooms (especially those where children meet because of the toys and other items they touch during the course of a Sunday or Wednesday class experience). Have you sprayed pews and chairs with disinfectant? Who is wiping doorknobs and handles? Have you had carpet cleaned and disinfected?

10. Should you continue to provide coffee stations on campus?

Many churches have invested in creating a coffee shop experience. Is that a good idea right now? Tables and chairs may need to be placed in storage so that people don’t congregate within a couple of feet of one another.

11. What’s your strategy to clean and sanitize your church in real-time?

It’s one thing to prepare in advance of people’s return to the church building, but how will you keep the place clean and disinfected on a Sunday or Wednesday? Does this give rise to a new team of people on campus whose ministry it is to walk around wiping doorknobs and other surfaces?

12. Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all?

We’ve always had door greeters. But in a COVID-19 world, do you really want a door greeter holding the door open while a parishioner walks by within a foot or two of them?

C. Organizational Issues

13. What is your plan when volunteers step down? Can you re-staff quickly?

We are already hearing that older volunteers are telling their church leaders they aren’t coming back to teach their preschool and kids’ classes until a vaccine is readily available – it’s just too risky for them because they are most at risk from COVID-19.

14. Do you have a plan for reducing expenses if your church’s offerings don’t rebound?

Churches need to be thinking, “What if…” – what if our offerings don’t hold steady because of the rising unemployment of members?   

15. What adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper?

16. What is the best strategy for baptisms?

17. What distancing will you need for a choir or worship ministry? 

18. Should churches be canceling camps and VBS or delaying them until later this summer?

There are alternatives and we know many churches that are delaying VBS until August, using it as a big back-to-school event. 

19. Is a physical “pass the plate” offering a thing of the past?

How would you feel if you were the 100th person in a worship service to touch the offering plate? Will you install boxes at the doors of the worship center, and perhaps place some of those in the lobby, so that worshipers can slide their envelopes, cash or checks into those secured boxes?

20. Should churches continue hosting weddings now?

21. How about funerals? 

22. How about Senior Graduation parties?

23. What about Wedding Anniversaries and Other Parties?

Which ones will continue, and which ones will be put on hold? And how will you explain which ones continue and which ones don’t?

24. Is this the time to return Parish Nursing to the church?

For many years, churches had a nurse that would visit the elderly and shut-ins, check on medications, food, housing, etc. They would report back any needs to the church to ensure care was provided. Does your congregation have a nurse or medical professional ready to fill this role?

D. Additional Programming

25. What are you going to do about larger Sunday School groups?

Few people will want to sit in a crowded room for Bible study, yet so many of our classes have grown to have a very large attendance. Do you feel good about letting 25 or more adults meet in a room that holds, well, 25 or 30 adults? 

26. What’s your plan for Sunday School curriculum?

Most churches have provided print products – we call them Personal Study Guides (for group members). Some adults still refer to them as “quarterlies” because they are distributed at church at the beginning of a new quarter. But because of social distancing and the new emphasis on virtual groups, should you keep print products but add digital ones for those groups meeting off-campus?

27. Are you going to cancel mid-week Wednesday night services, meals, and Bible studies?

This won’t be a forever thing, but in the near future, following the return of the church to its buildings, will you continue a virtual, online prayer meeting and Bible study time? Can you find volunteer workers to support a Wednesday night strategy on campus? Do you want to put many people around tables for the traditional mid-week meal on Wednesday nights?

E. Ongoing Online

28. Should you be investing in new digital equipment right now?

Yes, we’ve all joined the online world and used Facebook Live to broadcast our worship services, but is this the time to admit that online worship is probably here to stay? If yes, then it makes sense to invest in it.

29. Will a new staff or volunteer position emerge from COVID-19?

Because the church has permanently moved online in many respects, could it lead to the adoption of a new position of leadership? Will churches turn their attention to a Virtual Minister whose job it is to oversee the technical aspects of the new digital frontier? Will they become responsible to develop groups and strategies to reach people online? It’s highly likely that this is going to take place; the role may first be added to a staff person who is currently serving the church, but when it is possible to split that role and afford a new person, churches may hire online ministers.