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4 considerations for clergy during the Coronavirus outbreak

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communication, Dakotas UMC

Covid 1

With new cases being diagnosed seemingly every hour, you may have questions like: How concerned should I be about Coronavirus? What should I be being doing? Here are four things you can do as a spiritual leader shepherding your faith community.

1. Keep informed

There is a lot of information out there about what is happening. It is crucial to share reliable, accurate information.

In North Dakota, you will find the most accurate information here at the North Dakota Department of Health website. As of today, there is one active case.

As of March 11, 2020, South Dakota has six active cases, one death and 11 pending cases. The South Dakota Department of Health keeps the official count, and you can view the information here.

John Hopkins University has been identified as experts for COVID-19. They have an interactive map that tracks the number of cases, deaths, and the number of recovered patients across the globe. View the map here.

2. Care for people and the facility

Put best practices in place at your church for the facility, employees, and volunteers. One of the best resources is the Center for Disease Control. Here is a visual checklist that you can utilize and share with others.

Consider live-streaming or video conferencing; here are some free or low-cost options:

If you do not have cameras, projection, or a computer considering using your smartphone or tablet to do Facebook Live. If you do have some equipment like projection, camera—you can use your tablet and smartphone as a camera and get set up quickly. For $200, you can connect and follow copyright laws, check out the details here

If you have a small congregation, you can record the sermon, on your smartphone and post it to social media or text it to people.

Adjust your worship services to include waves, head nodding, smiles, rather than handshakes, fist bumps, or other direct contacts. If you serve communion, take extra precautions. Rethink how you collect your offering, instead of passing the offering basket, set it in one location and have people bring their offering to the one area.

This may be a great time to set up online giving to support those that are unable to come to a church, here are some ideas. You can also contact Jeff Pospisil, Dakotas Conference Finance Office for guidance in online giving, email, phone 605-990-7786

3. Communicate  

It is essential, no matter the size of your congregation, state what you are doing and why. Do not make assumptions that people already know. Be clear that you are aware and are responding to needs.

Communicate positively, state what you are doing, not what you will not do. Share accurate, correct information. Empower people by offering options and resources when possible.

Communicate frequently and in multiple ways. Digital messages—e-mail, test, social media (Facebook, Twitter) are the quickest, and cost-friendly to get your message out to those that you serve. Find some guidance on social media here. View an example of an e-mail sent by a pastor to members.

4. Take care of yourself

Lead by example, stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or any other illness.

Wash your hands with soap and water, wash your hands, wash your hands! Viruses can live on a surface for ten-days. So, wipe down surfaces with soap and water.  

Adjust care visits to phone calls when possible. Consider using video chat, like Google Hangout, or Facetime. You would be amazed at how technology savvy and innovative you and the members of your congregation can be, no matter the experience or age of the users.

If you have ideas, would like to share information or questions, please feel free to contact us by e-mail or phone 605-770-7794.


Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000