By Dr. Steve McNeil.
I am not sure what frame of mind you are in as it relates to our current emergency and the COVID-19 virus. I am seeing people either doubtful that this is as bad as they are making it out to be and those who are taking things very seriously and they are self-quarantined.
You are probably asking the same questions most pastors are asking, “Do we continue to meet on Sunday? Should we postpone services? How do we do on-line worship if we postpone worship for several weeks?” And those questions go on and on.
I wanted to share some information with you as it relates to your State Convention of Baptists in Indiana work. Your SCBI staff met on Monday and we talked through many things and here is what we felt are the best actions for the next eight weeks. We have agreed to take these steps for the next eight weeks and we will be talking together each Monday at 1:30 pm on Zoom to update our team.
- We feel it best to cancel all events scheduled by SCBI between today and May 15. That means, Transformed, VBS Training, HILL Pastors Conference, Shepherds Conference Pastors Conference, MAN Camp. Other camps and events after that date will be evaluated over the next eight weeks. Those who have signed up for these camps/events need to contact our staff about a refund.
- We are posting information and updates on our Facebook page; see those on a nearly daily basis.
- There are three areas that you need to be concerned about during these days.
- Worship – if you choose to worship, know that our older adults are the most vulnerable. We have talked to an attorney and he tells us that you cannot be told not to meet, but it is recommended and most churches that we have heard about are self-complying to the governor’s recommendation.
- Small groups/Sunday School – how can you as a church keep the sense of community and connection as the church that you usually get from being in worship and small groups. Ramp up phone calls, emails, texts, FaceTime, meeting in your group through Skype or Zoom or other internet-based meetings so that you keep your relational connections. We need these now more than ever.
- Your giving – it may sound insensitive at this point to be thinking about the financial aspect of the church, but if your church cannot or does not meet for eight weeks, how will that affect your church, your ministry, etc.
- How does the church respond if they do not meet together?
- Go to www.SCBI.org and find resources where you can learn how to conduct an online worship service.
- How can your church begin to offer online giving so that people can give even if the church is not gathered together?
- Go to www.SCBI.org and see our recommendations about how to add an online giving aspect to your ongoing ministry.
- DO we comply with the 50 limit on groups?
- Many churches fall under that number so they are OK. Remember that many of your people will opt out of attending. They are going to choose to stay at home. Some churches are meeting but maintaining the 50 limit and meeting at different times or in different rooms in order to keep the under 50 limit. AND consider that the president has suggested a limit of 10.
- As one church leader said in a meeting I was in this week, “we are trying to create a fire break on this virus.” The safe solution right now is to stay home away from people where you could be infected or you could unknowingly carry the virus to others. The more people who participate in this self-quarantined process the sooner the virus can be contained.
- In 2008, the SCBI saw a big drop in giving as I am sure your church did (about $600,000 over a four-year time frame). Consider how you will prioritize your fixed expenses and variable expenses. Be prepared now so that if the day comes and offerings are down, you know what you have to pay and what you can delay. What if your weekly offering went down by 10% or 20% or 30%? What would that anticipated offering be?
The bottom line is this. Fear is not an attribute of God. We need to stand for and with our people and be reminded of what God said to Joshua in chapter 1,“I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the who instruction My servant Moses commanded you.”
The Psalmist also reminds us in Psalm 40, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. How happy is the man who has put his trust in the Lord and has not turned to the proud or to those who run after lies! Lord my God, You have done many things – Your wonderful works and Your plans for us; none can compare with You. If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told.”
May we find our courage in the Lord and may this be a time to tell the story of Hope, the story of Jesus who comes to take away every fear of this life as we put our trust in Him. Your SCBI staff is praying for you as God leads you to be that voice of hope and salvation during a difficult time.
Please know that you can contact your SCBI staff team if you have questions or need a place to bounce off ideas or concerns you may be having.
Call another pastor or contact us. We are here to help.
Bob Weeks firstname.lastname@example.org 812-592-3755
John Horn email@example.com 812-454-6615
Jim Shields firstname.lastname@example.org 317-850-2879
Nate Millican email@example.com 812-697-0677
Kyle Brennan firstname.lastname@example.org 317-481-2400
Steve McNeil email@example.com 317-250-6552
Dr. Steve McNeil
The State Convention of Baptists in Indiana