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The Church Guide to Coronavirus

POSSIBLE DISRUPTION #1: Temporary Closure of Church Services

The U.S. government has the right to shut down church services of a certain size. According to the Centers for Disease Control on February 8, 2020:

Public health orders are legally enforceable directives issued under the authority of a relevant federal, state, or local entity that, when applied to a person or group, may place restrictions on the activities undertaken by that person or group, potentially including movement restrictions or a requirement for monitoring by a public health authority, for the purposes of protecting the public’s health. Federal, state, or local public health orders may be issued to enforce isolation, quarantine or conditional release. The list of quarantinable communicable diseases for which federal public health orders are authorized is defined by Executive Order and includes “severe acute respiratory syndromes.” COVID-19 meets the definition for “severe acute respiratory syndromes” as set forth in Executive Order 13295, as amended by Executive Order 13375 and 13674, and, therefore, is a federally quarantinable communicable disease.

When a federally quarantinable communicable disease is threatening public health, one of the first places evaluated is “congregate settings.” According to the CDC, “congregate settings are public places where close contact with others may occur. Congregate settings include settings such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums, workplaces, and schools and other classroom settings.” Churches are not in that list, but they definitely fit the criteria of “congregate settings” and may be required to practice social distancing.

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The CDC further explains:

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others. If social distancing is recommended, presence in congregate settings should only occur with approval of local or state health authorities.

There are two reasons your church must be prepared for potential closure of your church services.

1. Your church leadership may choose to close its services for the sake of public health.

2. Your church may be required to close your services for the sake of public health.

How would you minister to your church members and community should your church services close?


If your church service is temporarily closed, you will need to have plans in place for communication, worship, pastoral care, leadership, and community outreach.


Temporarily cancel extracurricular group activities and large events.

• Discourage congregants and staff from gathering or socializing anywhere.

• Discourage gatherings at places like a friend’s house, a favorite restaurant, or the local coffee shop.

Keep reading this Church Guide to Coronavirus to discover practical solutions.