Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 For Faith Leaders and Communities

This document answers commonly asked questions from faith-based communities on the COVID-19 pandemic. Faith-based communities, an important source of comfort and structure during uncertain times, must now seek alternatives to the rituals traditionally practiced through close physical gatherings. Read below for information on the outbreak and suggested practices to engage faith-based community members while remaining safe.

For Faith Leaders

What is social distancing and why does it matter? 

Social distancing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), means maintaining physical distance from others to prevent the spread of infectious disease. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this involves staying home as much as possible, avoiding large gatherings, and keeping at least 6 feet of distance from any person outside of your home. 

This is an important way to limit your chance being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, as COVID-19 is shown to be spread through close person-to-person contact.

What is the best way to engage a congregation safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Practicing social distancing by connecting with your congregation virtually is the best way to protect your congregation right now. 

These tips can help you stay connected virtually:  

  • Engage members on social media with daily devotions and updates, using multiple social media platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, and others).
  • Live-stream or record worship services and upload videos to your house of worship’s website.
  • Appoint active members and leadership to check in on individual members, offering prayer or other forms of spiritual support.
  • If you have a choir or music ministry, post and share recorded musical performances with your community members (note: be mindful of copyright laws when posting recorded music).
  • In Christianity Today’s Coronavirus Guide for Churches, you can find a few more recommendations including: 
    • Arrange virtual meetings through video chat platforms.
    • Send mass texts to engage and update congregants on upcoming virtual services.

How can we safely maintain tithing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Try one of the virtual tithing platforms recommended by the United Methodist Church in their guide to COVID-19. When choosing a tithing platform, look for user-friendly apps that are accessible on computer and mobile devices.

For those unable to use online giving, you may want to direct them to send tithes to the treasurer’s home if this is an option, as long as they are able to do so safely.

How can we best inform seniors and/or other people who may have limited technology literacy on accessing these virtual services?

You may consider assigning younger members or any IT experts in your congregation to call or video chat seniors to walk them through viewing live-stream services, using social media, and giving tithes online. 

Here is a quick guide from Aging in Place to help seniors become tech savvy in a few days. 

How do we keep our faith community members safe and calm?

Create a disaster response task group to monitor COVID-19 updates and create a response plan. The Wheaton College Humanitarian Disasters Institute’s Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus contains an excellent guide to all the planning steps necessary to respond to coronavirus.

Share information from trusted public health sources, like the CDC and your state or local health department. The CDC COVID-19 site contains resources on identifying COVID-19 symptoms and following the right protective measures.

These emotional health tips from the Wheaton College Humanitarian Disasters Institute’s Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus guide can keep your faith community mentally healthy during COVID-19: 

  • Pay attention to your body and your emotions
  • Embrace best health practices
  • Access reliable resources
  • Share reliable information
  • Practice self-care
  • Support each other

If congregational members are looking for additional emotional support, you may point them to the 24/7 Disasters Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990, or these other helpful tips from the CDC on coping during the pandemic.

The American Psychological Association maintains a list of mental health resources for COVID-19. Check out this site for tips such as practicing deep breathing and staying connected to a support system via phone or social media. 

Who is at the highest risk in our community? 

Those above 65 years of age and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk to severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

How can we help protect our highest risk community members? 

To lower everyone’s risk of infection, you may consider sharing these with members:

  • Wash your hands often, and for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from people.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily.
  • Use a cloth face covering when you leave the house.

You can also share these additional tips with congregants with specific medical needs:

  • If you use prescription medications, Rx on the Run to print a personalized wallet card with your prescription information and other important medical information.
  • If you have conditions such as asthmaHIV, or diabetes that may require regular medication, talk to your pharmacist about your options to ensure you have enough supply on hand to avoid frequent pharmacy runs.
  • Kidney disease: Make sure you have access to dialysis treatment and consider using the renal diet.
  • Cardiovascular disease & hypertension: Try to refrain from high-salt and fatty food and aim for 30 minutes of activity a day to manage your blood pressure.
  • Pulmonary disease: Work with your supplier to understand options for keeping resupplies of oxygen with you.
  • Disability or functional access needs: Identify a trusted caretaker to check on you daily and run grocery or pharmacy trips for you. 
  • Cancer: If you have a cancer survivorship care plan, keep a copy handy.

How can we safely continue volunteer work in our community? 

Your faith-based community may consider continuing community service activities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These tips can help you do this important work safely:

  • Avoid bringing together groups of people for in-person gatherings. Host all volunteer meetings and community events virtually.
  • When making food or supply deliveries in the community, no contact deliveries are recommended. Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between people. 
  • If volunteers cannot avoid direct contact with people, make sure they are properly protected with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as facemasks and gloves. You may work with your local public health department to request supplies or contact the BIO COVID-19 Coordination Hub for assistance finding sources of PPE.
  • Screen volunteers daily using the CDC symptom checker.
  • Encourage volunteers to practice proper hygiene and sanitation practices, by following the CDC guidelines for infection control among community organizers.

Can I receive government assistance, or stimulus money, for my church?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act offers financial assistance to individuals, families, and businesses to support financial recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your house of worship may qualify for assistance. 

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina breaks down the stimulus options available for houses of worship. These options include:

  • Payroll tax credits 
  • Tax deferrals
  • Small business loans

The U.S Small Business Administration is providing loan to help small business during COVID-19, such as the Paycheck Protection Program that may help you keep your employees paid.

How can we find COVID-19 testing for our community?

Testing for COVID-19 is currently prioritized for those that are sick (or symptomatic), healthcare workers, and first responders. If community members believe they may be infected with COVID-19, you may encourage people to talk with their healthcare provider to determine their options to get tested. The CDC symptom checker can help people make an informed decision on seeking medical attention and testing.

You may also consult this guide to drive-through testing sites in your area. Always call ahead before going to a testing site to ensure they can serve you.

For Faith-Community Members

Why can’t I attend regular worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 is shown to be spread through close person-to-person contact, which means the best way to limit your chance being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others is to practice social distancing.

Social distancing means staying home as much as possible, avoiding large gatherings like worship services, and keeping at least 6 feet of distance from any person outside of your home. 

Many houses of worship are streaming services virtually to maintain faith practices during this crisis. You may consider these tips to stay connected:

  • Call or email your faith leaders to ask how they are continuing worship services during the pandemic.
  • Follow the social media accounts of your house of worship and faith leaders and turn on post notifications. 
  • Subscribe to email updates on your church’s website if they are available.

How can I help my church and community during this crisis?

Practicing social distancing and basic hygiene are the best way to keep yourself and your community safe right now:

  • Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from people.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily.
  • Use a cloth face covering when you leave the house.

Here are some other creative ways you may consider supporting your community:

  • Call seniors and any others who may have trouble using your house of worship’s video streaming service or online giving platform and guide them through the process of using these services. 
  • Share information on the importance of social distancing with your fellow community members, especially those that may be most resistant to staying at home. 
  • Donate to local food pantries and/or relief funds, or support fundraising for community service groups in your house of worship.
  • You can share resources like this FAQ and other resources from Healthcare Ready with your community members.

I think I may be infected with COVID-19, what should I do?

  • Use the CDC COVID-19 symptom checker to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you do, call your doctor, and let them know your symptoms. They will determine a plan to for any necessary treatment or testing.
  • If you are sick, try to stay home and keep distance from others. Work with your employer to determine their sick leave policy, which may be more generous during an outbreak. Cover your hands and mouth when you sneeze and cough.

What is the best way to continue receiving healthcare during the pandemic?

Going to the doctor – Before going to the doctor or your healthcare facility, call ahead to your healthcare provider to determine if they can support you virtually using a telehealth service. 

Telehealth is a way to receive virtual care from a healthcare provider, through a phone call or video chat, for example. You can learn more about the range of services encompassed by telehealth here. During the pandemic, when physical distancing is an important way to protect yourself and your community, you may want to talk to a provider about your options to receive virtual care.

Find out more about using telehealth in our COVID-19 FAQ.

Prescriptions – If you use any prescription medications, you may consider getting an early prescription refill and using delivery or drive-through services to avoid going to the pharmacy often. Find out more on filling your prescription medications during the pandemic in our COVID-19 Pharmacy and Patient FAQ.

Emergencies – If you have a health emergency, call 9-1-1.

Resources made possible through support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy