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Congregations and Pandemics: What To Do?

Concern about the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is dominating the news—and maybe coming up at your church, too.

What role can churches play during what might become a pandemic? How can they respond practically as the hands and feet of Jesus to their members, their neighbors and the wider community?

MDS has some resources that can help! See below for links to a downloadable documents such as Preparing for Disaster: A Guide for Congregations; a Theological Framework for the Church in emergency Preparedness; and An Emergency/Disaster Preparedness and Response Checklist for Congregations and Parishes.

Although these resources are not specifically about pandemics, they provide good information for general disaster preparedness—including if a pandemic happens.

Also find links to free downloadable resources about pandemics from MennoMedia: Beyond Our Fears (for adults) and Don’t Be Afraid (for children).

But what about if a pandemic happens? What can churches do? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Plan to modify worship practices and rituals, staffing and possibly assembly in order to mitigate disease transmission. (e.g. no shaking hands when passing the peace, no common cup or intinction for communion; ushers refrain from shaking hands as people come in the door, etc.) This could also mean canceling services upon the advice or urging of local officials.
  • Think about how your church will do its ministry if it is short-staffed due to illness. Who will visit people who are sick? What about conducting funerals? What about shut-ins or people in hospital?
  • Prepare ahead of time a list of all in your congregation who have special needs, are elderly, ill, disabled, vulnerable or marginal—people who may be at greater risk for either becoming ill from the pandemic or in deepest need of care and ministry. Who will visit them or otherwise check in?
  • Connect with local emergency officials to indicate how your church might be of service in a pandemic. Can people sleep in your basement? Do you have showers and a kitchen that can be used? Could emergency vehicles use your parking lot?
  • Proactively connect with other congregations in your neighborhood. What are they doing? What can you learn from each other? What services can you provide for each other?
  • Make sure everyone in your church is aware of the resources you can provide, along with other resources from the community. And tell them to wash their hands!

There are other things as well, but this is a start. We pray a pandemic won’t come, but we also want to prepare in case it happens. And in all things, we trust God and pray for God’s will to be done.

Resources for Churches 



Preparing for Disaster: A Guide for Congregations

A Theological Framework for the Church in emergency Preparedness

Also see these free downloadable resources from MennoMedia.

Beyond our Fears: Following Jesus in Time of Trouble. (Leader’s guide)

Beyond our Fears: Following Jesus in Time of Trouble. (Participant)

Don’t be Afraid: Stories of Christians in Time of Trouble (For children)

For information about COVID-19 (coronavirus), including prevention, check out the following government websites.

Centers for Disease Control (U.S.)

Government of Canada Health

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