A Ministry Guide to COVID-19
Hello friends! As I’ve been planning what this coming week will look like, the one thing I have still been unsure about is this concept of ‘Social Distancing.’ For those of you still unfamiliar with this term, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for “community mitigation strategies” to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which include recommendations for “social distancing”—a term that epidemiologists are using to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully stymie community transmission of the virus. The idea here is that if people who may have coronavirus, which can stay dormant in your body for up to 14 days until you see symptoms (but during this time you can actually transmit it to others!), are kept from other people who don’t have it, then fewer people will end up getting coronavirus all together! And this virus is a tricky one: While highly contagious, for those of us who are otherwise healthy people, this virus is actually not that big of a deal. I’ve watched a couple of videos of people who contracted the virus and are now recovered, and the general consensus is that it wasn’t all that bad to have and it amounted to having light flu. Drink a lot of fluids and binge watch a couple of shows over the course of a few days, and you’re all healed up! But for those who have pre-existing lung issues, and the elderly, these are the ones who are dying from the COVID-19, and so for the sake of those people, we don’t want to spread it around any more than needed.
This brings up interesting questions for me this week. As is the case for many of you who are in ministry or are ministry-minded, I normally meet with a number of people for lunch, or a coffee, or a soda, either for discipleship, or a donor meeting or a board member recruiting meeting. I was scheduled to be out-of-town this week in the Southeastern United States, and although I could probably get there, airports and airplanes right now feel a little risky!
Is it OK for us as ministry workers to meet with the potential board member for an early morning coffee? What about meeting with several people as a part of a Bible study? I did a little reading to find out the answer to these questions, and I hope it may be helpful for you as you plan out the next week or two of your schedule.
One caveat before I continue: If you’re feeling a fever, cough, or you have difficulty breathing at all, see your doctor immediately. If you are symptom-free, here are the guidelines I’m using over the next couple of weeks:
Large Church Services at your Church
While it was hard this morning to meet online for our Sunday Service at Grace Chapel, I think is the right choice. For the foreseeable future, our Churches should forgo our regular meetings together on Sunday morning. Meeting together would go against everything the CDC is saying to do, and the risk seems to be too high toward some in the congregation having coronavirus, which means they would most likely infect others.
Coffee or Lunch with one other person
From everything I’ve read, this seems OK. Try to not meet in a busy restaurant or coffee shop. Because coronavirus is spread by touching something that has the virus, then touching your eyes or mouth, it’s probably best not to shake hands or hug during this time.
Can I have my community group over to my house for our regularly scheduled weekly meeting?
This is a tough one. I would say that this type of small gathering is probably OK as long as none in the group has respiratory symptoms. If anyone is sick, you all should not meet together. On the other hand, the idea of Social Distancing is that there is a distance between you and any group of people. It would not be a bad idea to try and meet on Skype for a week or two, out of an abundance of caution. Pray about it with the others in the group and come up with a consensus.
I have a ministry among the elderly. What should I do?
As hard as it may be, for the next couple of weeks, avoid visiting assisted-living facilities. The risk seems to be too high. What if you have the virus, don’t know it, and pass it along to them? If there’s any way to meet with them online, go that route for now.
Final thoughts: First, may we all pray that God would protect those who need protection from this virus, and that the total number of infected would be lower than anticipated. Also, if this virus scare is making you anxious or nervous, remember who is in control. This type of event gives us a chance to trust God in bigger ways that maybe we have in the past. Finally, this is a season for those of us in ministry that make take an extra dose of wisdom in terms of where to meet those we have on our schedules. And be praying that God would put into your path this week those who may be particularly fearful because the virus. What a great opportunity to share about the One who gives perfect peace!