By Tim K.
President Donald Trump has urged all Americans to minimize contact with large gatherings of people for the next 15 days due to increasing concern over the rapid spread of the coronavirus. In response to this plea, David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director, has urged all Arizona Southern Baptist churches to suspend regular gatherings, including Sunday worship services, for the next two weeks. Johnson explained that everything we do should be motived by love not fear.
“In this situation, love means making sure we do not do anything that could spread the virus further and do harm to others,” he said in an email to pastors. “It also means caring for those in our congregations who will suffer in other ways during this time.” As all the churches of the convention are autonomous, this urging is not mandatory, but is encouraged.
Many churches are scrambling to figure out how to function in this new environment.
Fortunately, there are many ways to keep communication lines open without having to gather at the meeting house. Facebook Live, web page streaming, Zoom, Instagram stories, texting and YouTube are all media platforms that churches are currently using to continue providing worship and teaching opportunities during this crisis. Those who do not have a technology-savvy church member should not be embarrassed to reach out to churches who are already using these technologies and ask for help in setting up one of these communication methods.
For a story with helpful information about using Zoom video conferencing for Bible studies and meetings, click here.
Another challenge for churches regards receiving donations without having the opportunity for an offering during Sunday services. There are several affordable methods for online giving.).
Generosity by LifeWay has opened its digital giving platform to congregations for free. The “Special COVID-19 Digital Giving Plan,” which can be accessed at LifeWayGenerosity.com/coronavirus, provides any church with a custom online giving page that can begin receiving gifts within 48 hours. Churches will pay no set up fees and no monthly subscription fees, and the service does not require any technology or website experience.
Members can also set up a bill pay or mail a check as alternate ways to send their offerings to the church without being there physically.
For smaller groups that still choose to gather, there are precautions that can be taken to reduce risks of spreading the coronavirus.
If you or your children feel unwell, stay home and notify your medical provider. If you are an older saint or have serious underlying medical conditions, such as significant heart or lung problems, stay at home and don’t gather with groups of people.
Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds often throughout the day. One way to know how long is long enough is to sing the alphabet song while washing your hands. When you’re finished singing, you can be finished washing your hands. Wipe down and disinfect surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms often.
Christianity Today has produced a helpful brochure about managing your church environment during the coronavirus crisis – click here to download.
In keeping with the national call to avoid larger gatherings, several AZSBC sponsored events have been canceled, including Spanish VBS Conference (March 21), Coaching Skills Training (March 24-25), English VBS Conference (April 4), and Zona Men’s Retreat (May 1-3).
“It is not fear that keeps us from meeting. We are not afraid,” said Pastor John Guillott, director of evangelism/missions for Catalina Association and pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church, Green Valley. “What we are trying to do is to protect those who are most vulnerable and to keep our people safe.”