Getting a Congregational Dialogue Started

Steps Congregations Can Take to Organize Thoughts, Plans and Actions

A.  The congregation’s leadership body should conduct an initial review of their theological basis for a response to a pandemic, and then determine if the congregation should embrace a preparedness plan. 

B. If yes, then the leadership body should appoint a pandemic preparedness working group from within the congregation. The group should be composed of a pastor, spiritual caregiver; a worship committee member; a health care professional if available, a custodian or facilities trustee a finance person, and a communications officer.

C. The pandemic preparedness working group should develop a congregational plan that flows out of the following tasks:

  1. Review in some detail the resources and literature on the impacts of health emergencies such as a pandemic. For local resources they should contact municipal and health institutions.
  2. Contact regional health officials to understand existing public health plans, approaches, and resource people.
  3. Collaborate with these groups to share information and plans, establish communication links, and explore opportunities outside the congregation to be of service and extend the critical mass
  4. Hold a series of initial congregational conversations (see below) to explore and answer important questions about potential congregation-wide engagement in this initiative.
  5. Develop a plan for the congregation to prepare for a local health emergency based on the impact such an emergency could have on various congregational functions, especially:
    • caring ministries and mutual aid.
    • business function of the congregation, including staffing issues
    • worship and education
  6. Engage public health agencies, other neighborhood churches and community resources to help with practical organization and education.
  7. In collaboration with the education committee, worship committee and care group leaders, develop a plan for congregational education (adults, youth, and children) and for specialized practical training in pandemic response.

 D. The working group will present the plans to the congregation’s leadership body for discussion, congregational approval, and implementation.

Some Questions for Congregational Conversations:

Vision and Mission

  • In what ways could a major health emergency impact our congregation?
  • What do the theological bases outlined mean to us as a congregation and as individuals?
  • What does it mean as a follower of Christ to help others in need during a crisis, even if it means placing oneself in harm’s way to do so? 

Information

  • Is the church contact list current?
  • Who are the healthcare professionals and spiritual caregivers within our congregation?
  • Who in our congregation relates to other neighborhood churches/faith groups?
  • Which local health authorities should we contact regarding community emergency plans?
  • What other community groups, ministerial committees, and interfaith councils do we need to be in touch with?
  • Who are the people in our congregation who will be most vulnerable to a crisis? Do we know where they live?
  • Who outside our congregation depends on us for services, programs, and other resources or support? How will we stay supportive?
  • Who lives in the immediate neighborhood of the church meeting place, and who among them are the most vulnerable during an emergency?
  • Who in the congregation will be available to fill in for our pastors and church staff in the event some fall ill in a pandemic?

Strategy

  • How will we mobilize existing groups in our congregation instead of creating new caring structures? 
  • When a pandemic puts extra pressure on pastors, church staff, and leaders, how will we care for them and their families?
  • Will we close our doors until a pandemic is over?
  • Which ministries will we need to suspend during a pandemic? Will we continue to do only spiritual ministry and curtail other church and community programs? Will we do only humanitarian activities?
  • Will we reach out broadly, or will we minister only to our own people?
  • Will we work by ourselves, with sister churches or with the community?
  • What methods are available to communicate within the congregation and with neighbors, reliably, accurately, and in a timely way, when normal communication is curtailed?

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