Basketball analogies are common among people growing up in Indiana, myself included. We compare most everything to a full-court press, slam dunk, or a variety of basketball terms. The Coronavirus is no exception and is certainly a game-changer for American churches. Suddenly we find ourselves without the comfortable lead we have always enjoyed. The preparations we make over the next few weeks will have a great impact on the outcome of our church and its congregation.

Pastors would do well to seriously consider the following five points:

#1 – Create a Six-Month Plan

A six-month plan for ministry, including sustainability, must be devised. This will look slightly different for each ministry context. The plan should be “broad strokes” provided by the pastor. Adjustments are made per the church board/leadership team. Pastors should not call a meeting of the church board without a proposed plan.

A six-month plan should be devised based upon the following logic:  If the virus is “cured” in the next three or four months, it will take a minimum of two months before normal activity resumes. The church body needs to be informed that the board is actively considering options for future ministry. It is very likely that “normal life” will be impacted by this virus for up to 12 months.

#2 – Develop a Plan for Giving

A plan needs to be developed that gives people an opportunity to give faithfully during this season. If possible, the treasurer of the board should have conversations with people who have an ability to bless the ministry of the church with increased giving. If people are averse to online giving, provide the church address and encourage them to mail in their contributions. Such conversations should take place regardless of the current status of income. The specific need should be presented, do not offer ambivalent requests. Additional incentives toward new ministry initiatives addressing the virus may be very beneficial with nominal contributors. The generation of income vs. expense reports should increase in frequency. The longer the expectation of social distancing, the greater the potential for nominal givers to suspend giving.

#3 – Conduct a Survey of Congressional Needs and Vulnerabilities

This is a good opportunity to incorporate the leadership of a board volunteer. If needs are not presented by the congregation, the congregation should see this as an opportunity to assist neighbors and coworkers. Survey results should be shared with the congregation with an expectation that resources may be discovered. Furthermore, this is not a one-and-done deal. Surveying should be revisited.

#4 – Share Stories

The “presence” of the congregation must be elevated. The primary method of raising awareness of congregational life is through the sharing of stories. A leader should be appointed to serve as the primary contact for the sharing successes and challenges. This must be a mature and trustworthy person with adequate writing skills. The pastor does not need to be the primary agent of communications, but the pastor or appointed board member should approve all stories before publication. The consistency of publication should be a priority. Ensure that the messages are coming regularly. One article followed by 10 days of silence will not suffice.

#5 – Prepare the Teaching Series

Should the impact of this virus last six more months, attendees of our churches who are on the fringe of commitment may choose not to return. The teaching series must focus on the role of the Church in our spiritual development. If little difference in spiritual formation is felt during this time of separation, why would people return? How can you demonstrate to people the difference that the church has made?  Make telling stories a priority.

When a coach draws up a play for a last-second shot when the game is on the line, they do not draw up something the players have never seen before. The best coaches prepare for such scenarios and the players draw upon the hours they have invested in practice. When the game is well in hand, plans are not needed.

For many churches, the Coronavirus is a make or break scenario. Now is the time to prepare and anticipate a winning outcome.

For more resources related to preparing your church to handle the COVID-19 crisis, see these articles:

COVID-19 Church Resources

What “Shelter in Place” Means for Churches

Video Conference Service Roundup

Fix Your Live Stream Audio Fast

7 Steps to a Clean Microphone