Coronavirus: How Should Churches Respond? (Part 2)
Close or Continue—Is There A Better Option?
Length: 3-minute read
Hi again, this is Part 2 of our response to the Coronavirus crisis and the thought process behind #HOGCdecentralised. If you haven’t read Part 1, it can be found here.
To recap, there are 4 areas to consider:
- Scattered church
The third area we thought about is people’s SENTIMENTS, namely two groups—your church members and the public.
Most importantly, your plans must give your members the assurance that their health is of utmost priority. On top of this, the leadership must hit the sweet spot between overkill and under-responding.
Under-responding will send a signal that we are not taking this seriously. So mocking the fears of people or naively challenging members to have hyper faith will not help. One of the reasons WHO increased the outbreak level to pandemic is because of “the alarming levels of inaction” of some countries. Church leadership must communicate clearly and constantly to members to give them assurances.
On the other hand, if the church’s plans are knee-jerk reactions, then it sends a message of a loss of control. Therefore, having a master plan with different levels of action for different scenarios is the key (see Part 1). Your members need to be assured that you are responding to the crisis, not reacting to it, as Pastor Lia shared (video below). Furthermore, if the contingency plans are too drastic, it also sends a signal of panic.
So it is a delicate dance… a balancing act of not crying wolf too often; not screaming like Chicken Little, yet not burying our heads in the sand.
The other sentiment to consider is the public.
This is a time for churches and Christians to be a good testimony and even a role model for our community. Churches should not be seen as reckless and naive. Neither should we be seen as fearful and self-preserving. That is why we Decentralised and at the same time we freed up close to 500 volunteers who run our weekend services into the community to serve and encourage frontline workers.
From our experience, we have learnt that the public panic and paranoia will die down after a while (if the outbreak is being contained). The general population will get used to the new normal. So you just have to ride out the initial fears.
In Singapore, during the initial weeks, two churches were hit with clusters of infections. In South Korea, a big religious group was hit as well. Mosques were also closed. So there is a dubious highlight that religious gatherings are particularly vulnerable.
For HOGC, to continue with big gatherings might be viewed by the public as being reckless. This includes the families and friends of our members. So we decided not to go against these sentiments because we want to save our “trust equity” and use it for Easter. We still want to invite our families and friends for an evangelistic Easter, whether in big services or small groups. So it is important for us to plan ahead, pace ourselves and use our “trust capital” for the most important event.
In Part 3, I will talk about the SCATTERED church: how we had more people saved and more unchurched engaged during this Coronavirus crisis.
Know any pastors or church leaders who might find this helpful? Here’s a link you can share with them: pastor.how/covid-pt2