Outbreak resources - Church communications

1.  How does your congregation currently communicate with one another?

This is the first question to ask yourselves. You already have practices and methods in place. Name and list these. These might include: phone trees, church mailboxes, the Sunday morning bulletin, an email group list, a website, local radio announcements, local newspapers announcements, church phone pre-recorded messages, etc.

Do your current practices take into account persons in your congregation from different language groups, reading levels, and those coming from different cultures? Crisis communication with these groups will become increasing complex if not already addressed in ordinary times.

2. How are you going to communicate with each other in crisis?  How will your communication methods be affected?  What will need to change?

In answering these questions, at least these three factors need to be kept in mind:

i)  a percentage of the congregants will be housebound and/or ill; 
ii) your congregation may not be able to gather as group;
iii) services (internet, phone, newspaper etc) could and most likely will be diminished due to staff absenteeism in those work places.

In preparation for crisis including pandemic, communication methods to develop could be: a website for your church where announcements can be posted, an email group (if enough congregants have email and read it regularly), or a phone tree. These tools would best be created and practiced in advance of any crisis.

3. Rumours, misinformation, anxiety, fear and confusion are likely to multiply during a crisis/pandemic situation. Think about how your church and its members will address the fear and rumours that will inevitably circulate.

Some considerations:

  • Your members will very likely trust what the church leadership has to say on the current situation, possibly more than they will trust the media and the government.
  • Some of your members will read everything they can get their hands on and some will stay away from all public information.
  • Leadership in your church could take the most current news each day from reliable sources (see link below) and disseminate it amongst your members through methods developed above.  Keep the messaging as consistent as possible with what local and/or federal or world health authorities are communicating.
  • Include clear directions and simple facts that are informative but do not increase anxiety and fear. Communicate in ways that are appropriate to each of the social and demographic groups in your congregation.

4. Communications Summary: 

The church’s checklist of next steps:

  • ____Evaluate current practices/methods of communications evaluate how they will work/change during times of crisis.
  • ____ Develop new ways of communicating now such as a website or relationship with a local radio station.
  • ____ Practice your chosen methods during “normal” times or any small “crisis” (such as blizzard conditions on a Saturday evening).
  • ____ PLAN and PRACTICE! Include all of your congregational subgroups.

For further information: