6 Key Issues in Preparing your Congregation for a Pandemic Flu Outbreak
Pandemic flu is very different than the usual seasonal flu. The first step is to understand the difference. Read the Introduction page to clarify this distinction. A pandemic illness is expected to disrupt normal activities for up to three months. Your congregation needs to think about how it will deal with a prolonged disruption, both in terms of church administration and in terms of pastoral care of the members during this stressful period. Your church needs to tune into Public Health Announcements and mirror them to the congregation.
Small congregations may want to band together in order to pool their resources in case of a pandemic. Congregations cannot count on a the assistance of helpers from outside the region - each individual church must be ready to mobilize and join the local community effort dealing with this emergency.
Churches are often used for gathering the community together in big and small ways. Churches should facilitate discussion on social distancing (isolation) and what that might mean for the church. For example: "How do we minister to people's spiritual needs if we cannot gather as a community?" Potential solutions could include Cable Access TV or videotaped/DVD services delivered to homes or conference phone calls to small groups each week. Also think about: "Who will reach out to those living alone and other vulnerable people?"
Do not forget to "care for your caregivers!" Churches must consider the mental and physical implications for Pastors and pastoral associates whose responsibility is visiting the sick, counseling the grieving and conducting healing services and funerals.
Consider the following questions relating to the proximity of your church's social network: "How do we communicate with our members who may be living all over the area, not just in near proximity to the church?" and "What will be our interaction with those non-members living near our church facility?"
Many churches ask, "How will the church survive financially if we do not gather?" Because people's income will be disrupted, the church needs to have a "rainy day fund" to cover such a disruption. Most churches do not have such a fund. Some churches may have a building fund or other designated funds, but there are no deep pockets. Churches will have to pull together and share the limited resources, much like the early Christian church did!
This resource was provided by Paula White, BSN, RN, MSA, the Faith Community Nursing Coordinator for Borgess Health in Kalamazoo. Please note that this resource should be considered applicable to places of worship for any religion.
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