Churches and coronavirus – how churches can continue serving people via Social Media?

COVID-19 became an international pandemic in January 2020. The first cases of the disease were reported in China at the end of December 2019 and soon after, global panic started to increase because of the rapid infection rate. Since then, churches has moved to social media to reach people.

When the virus was confirmed to be COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on the 7th of January 2020, people became concerned about the spread of the infectious disease. Since then, more than 172,000 people have become infected with coronavirus and it has claimed the lives of more than 6,600 people worldwide.

In this post, we’ll explain how coronavirus has affected churches and how churches can use social media to continue serving. If you’re in a rush, jump ahead to sections here:

  1. Corona virus summary
  2. Social distancing
  3. Coronavirus affecting churches around the world
  4. Examples of churches using social media to serve during coronavirus
  5. Making church announcements during coronavirus
  6. Going live for church services
  7. Small groups virtual meet-ups
  8. Pastors message
  9. Can we still do tithes and offerings?
  10. Boosting spirits
  11. BONUS email newsletter templates

Here’s a summary of events

  • 31 December 2019 – China raised the alarm when it reported cases of unusual pneumonia-like symptoms in patients in the port city of Wuhan, Hubei province.
  • 7 January 2020 – experts confirm the virus as COVID-19.
  • 17 March 2020– Australia declares human biosecurity emergency and banned non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people.
  • 17 March 2020 – EU plans to close external borders for 30 days
  • 18 March 2020 – total worldwide confirmed cases stands at 198,000 and total recoveries stands at 81,000

Because the disease spreads so quickly and people sometimes have no symptoms, the World Health Organisation asked that everyone practice social distancing. They also recommended 14 days of self-quarantine for people that have traveled to countries with high infection rates. People that display symptoms should immediately self-isolate in their homes.

What this actually means is big group gatherings are not allowed – like ones in closed spaces with poor ventilation. This has caused quite a bit of chaos – with churches, schools, workplaces and colleges having to shut down. International borders have been closed and travel heavily restricted causing havoc for people who travel for work or church related reasons.

Statistics are changing frequently as the disease spreads. But here are some statistics of the seven countries with the most infections👇

  1. China – 80, 881 confirmed cases
  2. Italy – 27,980 confirmed cases
  3. Iran – 16,169 confirmed cases
  4. Spain – 11,279 confirmed cases
  5. South Korea – 8,320 confirmed cases
  6. Germany – 7,974 confirmed cases
  7. France – 6,633 confirmed cases

Social distancing – what’s that?!

Social distancing is when you create space between yourself and other people – it helps stop the spread of infection. For example, leaving 2 seats open between yourself and the next person in church. Or when in a queue, standing 1 metre away from the next person like in the image below 👇

I’m sure you can imagine how ‘social distancing’ has been a bit of a bummer for churches. The whole point of church is to get together in a group and do stuff together! So because we can’t do that for now – churches have been forced to adapt the way they ‘do church’ and have moved to social media at breakneck speed.

For those who already have online campuses, this has been a smooth transition – they just have to shift more activities online, like small groups and prayer meetings, admin staff meetings.

For churches who are not familiar with serving online or in virtual spaces, this pandemic has pushed them to think outside the box.

How has coronavirus affected churches worldwide?

Across Europe, church communities have struggled to come to terms with the social distancing rule and are now looking to social media as a solution. Pope Francis announced that the Holy Week celebrations are cancelled at the Vatican in Rome until 12 April and that Easter services will take place without a congregation present.

Slovakia has banned all religious gatherings and churches in Lithuania have stopped using holy water. Catholic churches and synagogues in Belgium have suspended all services until further notice. The Grand Mosque of Brussels decided to close its doors to the public and in Turkey, prayers have been suspended in all of its 90,000 mosques.

In the US, the White House has called on churches and faith-based groups to promote hygiene practices like washing hands and using sanitizer. US states like Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina have shut down all in-person church services immediately to stop the spread of the disease, with more states following their example.

In South Korea, a church has become the center of the coronavirus outbreak after a member tested positive for the virus and the pastor refused to cancel in-person gatherings. More than 1,250 church members of this church have since shown symptoms of coronavirus.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city of the Islamic faith is supposed to take place between 28 July and 2 August. Because of many international air travel bans, people are having to cancel their travel plans and reschedule them for next year.

🙏 Churches and religious communities can use social media to continue serving

At this point, social media is the safest and quickest way to continue serving and reaching people. Because many people are in self-isolation and probably panicked, this is the time to get stuck in and learn new technologies and ways of communicating.

This is also a valuable skill for all churches to have post-coronavirus – start growing your online campus and use social media and other online communication tools like social media to expand the reach of the church.

The best part is that most tools are not that expensive and offer many free extras that are super useful – like templates, content suggestions, how-to guidelines and the latest industry news and trends.

Some examples of churches worldwide using social media to serve

Because of coronavirus, many churches across America have started to use software like Zoom, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts for small group gatherings. Facebook live and YouTube are the most popular options for broadcasting live sermons.

The Santa Maria ai Monti church in Rome set up a Whatsapp group for church parishioners. They are also using Facebook to communicate with members. San Francesco church in Pisa started broadcasting mass on their YouTube channel. Other churches have turned to Facebook live to reach their congregation.

Email newsletters and text messages for church announcements and general information are increasing by the day – especially for those who do not have social media accounts.

👉 Now for some practical tips of how the church can use social media during the coronavirus pandemic

#1 > Wording for church announcments

You will have to inform church members of the change of plans and cancellations. Post these announcements on social channels, make a short video and post it or send it out via email newsletter and the church website. If you want to get creative, make them into a graphic and post on all church social channels and ask members to share it.

  1. Hi everyone! We at [enter church name] have decided to postpone all events for now. We will communicate the change of plans with your via our social media pages. If you can, please join our online community this week and keep an eye out for updates 🙂
  2. We are rescheduling all planned activities for coming weeks, including Sunday service to keep members safe and stop the spread of disease. We ask that you please adhere to best hygiene practice during this time. We will post updates on our website regularly.
  3. Dear church,in an effort to adhere to government’s advice of practicing social distancing, we made the decision to stream our services on YouTube and Facebook indefinitely. Please like our social pages and join us online this Sunday at 9AM.
  4. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, we are moving our small groups to a virtual platform. Please consult with your small group leader for more details.

#2 >Go LIVE during coronavirus pandemic

  1. Live– why not go live? Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are perfect for this. Make the link available before the livestreaming starts. This is a good option because you could do live sermons from home or the church auditorium.
  2. Recording – if going live seems scary, you can always record sermons in the empty church auditorium. The best bit is that you can do this during the week even! Make sure to edit the video (there are some good free software options) and post it on social media for everyone to enjoy.
  3. Cameras – you can really keep it simple, like using a mobile phone or tablet (that’s able to connect to a steady internet connection) on a tripod (you can get them cheap) for live streaming services. The same applies for pre-recored sermons (this is DIY but we are all learning!)
  4. Software – Free software OBS Studio is really useful for editing and live streaming. This video has some info on software that you could use. if you don’t want to use software, Facebook live and YouTube are very popular. Instagram TV is another option you might want to look into. The best part of using Facebook, YouTube or Instagram is that the videos will remain there after the live stream is done – so people can watch it later!
  5. Copyright – if you are going to be live streaming or pre-recording, make sure that you are clued up copyright licenses in your country. You can find lots of info on all the laws of copyright here. If you’re unsure about licenses or do not have the budget for this, you can play live or pre-record original music from the worship team – no licenses needed!

#3> Small groups virtual meetings during the coronavirus

  1. Voice calls – apps like Facebook, Whatsapp or Facetime work well here, its free if you have internet and you can add multiple people to a call.
  2. Video calling – Lots of churches have recommended Zoom, Google Hangouts, Jitsi Meet and Skype for virtual meet-ups of small groups. Other options include Whatsapp video calls, Facetime from iPhone to iPhone or Facebook messenger video call.
  3. Facebook groups – you can make small groups on Facebook and send members invites. The invite link can be sent through the chat features on social media, Whatsapp, text and email.
  4. Group chat –Apps like Whatsapp or Facebook messenger allow group chats. Send an outline of the topic before the virtual meet-up and discuss it virtually.

#4>Pastor’s message

  1. Social media – the preacher might consider doing a live video on social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube), explaining the state of events, what the church is doing to spread disease and how the services will continue online.
  2. Recording – why not shoot a short video? A selfie- video of the leaders in a relaxed state – maybe drinking a coffee 😉 will help keep everyone calm. Talk about how to stay healthy, ask people to stay in touch via social media and watch out for updates online.
  3. Email newsletter template– make an email newsletter with all the information of the church services and meetings, link to social media pages (super important!), include some motivational scriptures and practical hygiene advice.

#5>How can we do offerings &donations now?

* these tips don’t use social media, but it’s still important info for churches 🙂

  1. EFT – members make bank transfer from their bank account >straight into the designated church account.
  2. Post– ask members to post a cheque by to the church admin offices.
  3. Text to give – this is where you send church members a text with a link, then they register their credit card and it automatically links it to the church mobile number. To give, members just have to text the amount to the church mobile phone number.
  4. Apps –online platforms like Tithely are user-friendly and cheap.

Try to boost the spirit and keep everyone positive

People might feel very lonely because of social distancing and being isolated from other people for long periods of time. This was reported in China after the government started quarantining entire cities. Feelings of loneliness are actually common when in isolation and when people’s normal routines are disrupted. If people are used to going to church every week, they might start missing the social interaction.

For older church members or people that live alone, social contact is very important. Social media is great to keep in touch, you can use the chat function, video call and even send pictures with updates or fun activities. It’s just a way to stay connected and still create community while practicing social distancing.

person jumping
Source: Unsplash

How to stay in touch and boost spirits:

  1. For emergencies – make an emergency chat line through the church social pages . Members can then message if they are feeling ill or if there’s any other emergency. Everyone that lives alone should have this chat line made available to them.
  2. Make phone calls – have church members make calls to the sick or elderly and find out if they are fine. A normal chat about anything is a great way to boost spirits! You can also make calls via Facebook and Whatsapp – save money on the phone bill where you can🙂
  3. Make video calls – make video calls via (Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype etc) especially when people are sick or their health compromised.
  4. Prayer requests – members can send their prayer requests via Facebook Messenger/Instagram DM . Select a few people in the church that will answer the prayer requests from home.
  5. Send scriptures – post daily scriptures on social pages or a quick bible study plan for members to follow while they are at home. Use an email newsletter to send out reading plans to people who are not on social media. Also send daily motivational scriptures via text, email, social media or the church website.
  6. Make a playlist – who doesn’t love music? Make an awesome worship playlist YouTube channel and post the link online.
  7. Regular updates – use social media to keep everyone in the loop, post regular updates and inform people of the different online platforms the church will use during this time.

BONUS 👉 Email newsletter templates churches can use to give coronavirus advice

Make email newsletter templates to send to members with general hygiene advice.

Here’s some email templates we created > get some inspiration and make some yourself 😉 You can use them / customize them for your needs if you sign up for a Get a Newsletter account (for FREE!) here.

Example 1

coronavirus newsletter template
Made using Getanewsletter

Example 2

coronavirus newsletter template
Made using Getanewsletter

Example 3

coronavirus newsletter template
Made using Getanewsletter

If you are stuck indoors why not take the time to learn HOW to use social media for your church? This is a good a time as any to get familiar with all the awesome features of social media – you will probably find good use for it post-COVID-19. Stay safe and healthy and happy learning!

Published with StoryChief