As many organizations enact preventative measures related to the rapidly changing landscape regarding the coronavirus, church and ministry leaders are also responding in a variety of ways.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina encourages local churches to continue to use wisdom and discernment to help prevent the spread of the virus, while also looking for opportunities to engage the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ during these days of uncertainty. Above all, pray that God would stem the spread of the virus, for those impacted, and wisdom for health and government officials who are making decisions on how to deal with the situation.
Following is updated information related to COVID-19.
Call to prayer
- Southern Baptist Convention leaders are calling on all Southern Baptists throughout more than 47,500 churches across the country “to commit to a dedicated time of prayer this Sunday, March 15, 2020.” More information and prayer points are available at www.sbc.net/covid-19.
- Continue to monitor conditions and the response to the coronavirus through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Practice preventative measures outlined by the CDC, which include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially if you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at a higher risk of getting very sick.
- Convention staff are evaluating all BSCNC-sponsored events for the next six weeks to make determinations about possibly canceling or postponing events.
- Details about events that are canceled or postponed will be communicated with registrants and through other BSCNC communication channels.
- Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on people who are at a higher risk from getting sick from the coronavirus, the BSCNC has adopted these policies for convention-related events:
- Anyone with a fever higher than 99.1, cold or flu-like symptoms, cough, runny nose, sore throat, or trouble breathing should not participate in convention-related activities.
- Anyone who exhibits cold or flu-like symptoms at a convention-related event will be asked to go home, and event organizers will disinfect the area and notify health officials.
- Individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions, including, but not limited to, lung disease, heart disease and diabetes are discouraged from participating in convention-related events.
- Older adults are at higher risk for serious illness from the coronavirus and are discouraged from participating in convention-related events.
- Churches are encouraged to continue monitoring local and state reports from health and government officials related to the spread of the coronavirus and use wisdom and discernment in enacting measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
- The CDC has developed recommendations for preventing the spread of the coronavirus at mass gatherings and large community events, including worship services. These recommendations offer guidance on what to do before, during and after an outbreak of the coronavirus.
- Thom Rainer, former president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, provides some additional guidelines and considerations for churches in an article written on March 6 titled, “Coronavirus and your church.”
- The International Mission Board released a statement on Monday, March 9, recommending that “mission volunteers from U.S. churches postpone international mission-trip travel through April 30. This date could be extended and will be reevaluated by April 15. IMB also recommends that people who have not yet purchased tickets for future travel wait and monitor continued risks of travel before buying tickets. Individuals with pre-existing conditions or immunocompromised health issues are encouraged not to travel.” The complete statement is available online.
- N.C. Baptists on Mission will provide updates on the status of its partnership mission trips, mission camps and rebuild centers. To find the latest information, visit www.baptistsonmission.org/coronavirus.
Additional resources and statements
- The LifeWay Leadership team has developed pandemic response resources that are available for free for pastors and church leaders. The free training course “How to Prepare for the Coronavirus at Your Church” walks leaders through developing a plan, phases of implementation, attendance metrics that should be monitored, how to alter regular ministry practices and more. The resource is available at MinistryGrid.com/coronavirus
- N.C. Baptists on Mission has compiled resources from the CDC and World Health Organization to assist church leaders in the prevention and spread of the coronavirus. Resources include downloadable posters and handouts and a brief video. These resources are available at baptistsonmission.org/coronavirus.
- The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention conducted a Q&A with an infectious disease specialist “about (the) coronavirus, increasing fear, and how Christians should respond.” The Q&A is available online.
The Baptist state convention will provide updates as more information is available and governmental agencies make any additional recommendations related to the coronavirus.
The BSCNC encourages churches to use wisdom in helping to prevent the spread of the virus.
Previous BSCNC statement on the coronavirus (March 6, 2020)
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) encourages churches to pay attention to local reports related to the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, government officials announced North Carolina’s first confirmed diagnosis of the coronavirus in Wake County. On Friday, March 6, state health officials announced that a second person from North Carolina, unrelated to the first case, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The BSCNC encourages churches to use wisdom in helping prevent the spread of the virus, while also looking for opportunities to engage the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ during these days of uncertainty regarding the virus.
The Great Commission instructs Christians to make disciples, and the BSCNC believes that healthy disciples experience health in three spheres — spiritual, emotional and physical. To say the local church has no interest in the physical health of its members or its community reflects an incomplete understanding of disciple-making.
While the Baptist state convention is not an organization whose primary mission is to impact community health, the goal of making healthy disciples should motivate each of us to seek the total health and well-being of those we reach with the gospel.
With these foundations in mind, the coronavirus provides a unique opportunity to proclaim the hope and peace that the gospel brings. Experts are still learning about the coronavirus, and uncertainty can breed fear. However, the growing fear in our communities demands that the church proclaim the truth of Scripture. Consider the words Paul wrote to Timothy:
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” — 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Therefore, the BSCNC encourages churches to boldly proclaim the life-changing message of the gospel, through the power of the Holy Spirit with the love of Christ Jesus. At the same time, the BSCNC encourages churches to use wisdom (“a sound mind”) in helping to prevent the spread of the virus.
The following information, which is compiled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization and other sources, is provided to assist church leaders in the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus. The information also includes guidelines related to participation in BSCNC events, ministries and partnership missions activities.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The current incubation period ranges from two to 14 days, meaning you could be symptom-free up to 14 days prior to symptoms becoming evident.
BSCNC events and activities
In an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus or any other flu-like illnesses, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina requests that anyone with a fever greater than 99.1, cough, runny nose, sore throat or trouble breathing, not participate in convention-related activities. Event participants who show any cold or flu symptoms will be asked to go home, and the area they were occupying should immediately be disinfected.
Preventing disease transmission
Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Stay at least 3 feet away from anyone who may be infected. If you are the one feeling sick, cover your entire mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use either your bent elbow or a tissue, and throw the tissue away immediately afterward. Try to avoid direct physical contact with others as much as possible, including shaking hands and hugging. Keep your hands away from your face, nose and eyes as much as possible.
Cleaning & disinfecting procedures for churches
Gloves should be worn when performing disinfection. Surfaces (e.g. desks, mattress covers, tables, etc.) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards, phones, doorknobs, etc.) need to be sprayed and/or wiped with disinfectant regularly. Lysol disinfectant spray, Clorox disinfecting wipes and Shockwave appear to be approved products at this time. The CDC makes clear that no additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
Put hand sanitizer dispensers in prominent places. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled. Ensure that tissues are readily available along with closed trash bins for disposal of used tissues.
Should you have questions about these suggestions and procedures, please contact Crystal Horton, a registered nurse who serves as the health screening coordinator with Baptists on Mission, at [email protected] or 800-395-5102 ext. 5610.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other sources was used in this report.