Frequently Asked Questions






The COVID-19 outbreak raises many questions for people across a large number of subjects. Here are some frequently asked questions we've been made aware of to this point. Check back later for more as information becomes available.


What happens if someone in your congregation tests positive? What happens if you or someone on your staff has been exposed to someone who has tested positive?

The CDC or health department will instruct you about appropriate precautions if someone from your congregation has tested positive. There is a chance they may ask you or others to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. Like the strong social distancing practices encouraged by the Federal government, we would suggest:

  • For staff, please offer paid sick leave (at the Conference Office, we are not “charging” PTO for employees who test positive for COVID-19);
  • Be prepared to shut down your office and work remotely;
  • Be prepared to change your church schedule, postponing non-essential events and activities.

What happens if someone in our congregation dies from the virus?

First, treat the death as you would any death. It’s a tragedy but also calls for a celebration of life. At the request of the National Funeral Directors, the CDC released postmortem guidance: Family members may have to wait for a period of quarantine to end. Certainly, the local Medical Examiner may need to be involved and the processes may take longer than normal. Be sure to work with the family’s funeral director and be in conversation by phone, video or online with the family to do the planning and to make accommodation. See below question on funerals in general.

What about Easter?

Every Sunday is a little Easter so there is nothing stopping anyone from celebrating the resurrection of the Lord any Sunday of the year. We would suggest to all our churches that they throw the biggest party ever when corporate worship begins again. When we can reassemble as a congregation, whenever that may be, we will sing resurrection songs once again, because in a profound sense, Christ is risen, every day is Easter and every moment is Resurrection. 

Once the all-clear comes, hold Palm Sunday on the first Sunday back in worship and Easter on the second Sunday gathered as a group.

In the meantime, how might your Church plan to do something creative for your scattered congregation and the broader community on Easter Sunday? How about inviting your congregation to go out on their front yards that Sunday morning, read the Easter story, sing as many Easter hymns as they can, and pray for the world. How about door-drop delivery of Easter lilies with a prayer card/order of worship that includes one of the Gospel resurrection stories, prayers of the people, an invitation to online worship and a blessing for the home? Connect with colleagues and leaders in your congregation (safely with social distancing or virtually) to brainstorm creativity for April 12 and for when the limitations are lifted.

What about weddings and funerals?

For weddings, it is always best practice to consult with the bride and groom about every aspect of a wedding and this includes the current climate. Consider postponing or limiting the wedding to a smaller gathering (less than 10 people) and livestreaming it or recording for others and/or postponing it until this time passes.

For funerals, discuss with family about holding a small service (in church or graveside) now (under 10) with a larger memorial service after this time passes. The new guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) limiting public gatherings suggests that funerals should be limited to a small number of mourners – perhaps to immediate family only – for the next 15 days (which may be extended).

The National Funeral Directors Association suggests that funeral directors or, in our case churches, could offer livestreaming as an option for these services/viewings and, perhaps, recommend the family hold a larger memorial gathering at a later date. Services could also be recorded, and the video shared with whomever the family deems appropriate. Severe limitations on public gatherings and social distancing is particularly crucial for events where many guests are considered vulnerable, either because they’re over 70 years old or because of underlying health conditions. If your church has a way to record or stream the service, call your local funeral home and offer these services to anyone in your community.

What if we can’t make payroll?

Failing to make payroll is a significant and serious problem. It can raise the possibility of civil penalties. Failing to pay the associated payroll taxes is a form of tax evasion and leads to penalties and interest owed to the IRS. Avoiding this situation requires advanced planning. Look at the church’s bank balances now. Know what current assets are and how long they can last.

Be aware of patterns of giving and don’t be afraid to talk to people about the church’s financial situation. The whole congregation should be told the importance of continued generosity even if worship must be suspended (payroll and bills notwithstanding). People need to give and should be given the means for doing so. This may mean:

  • sending weekly reminders to mail or drop off your tithe at the office (e.g., have a lock box or notify the congregation when they can drop-off their gift);
  • having two people go door-to-door to collect offerings if the social distancing restrictions allow;
  • speaking individually to regular givers about the ongoing ministries and the importance of keeping those going through financial generosity and ask them to call five more people;
  • making strategic asks of people with a history of giving generously above and beyond their tithe;
  • inviting generous givers to post and offer testimonies about how they are continuing to give.

Be honest about the church’s position, but emphasize the connection between giving and ministry, not a problem with payroll. And, of course, provide lots of ways for people to give even when not meeting for worship in person. Giving can be continued, but it will take strong communication with people.

Here are some additional ideas for giving from the Lewis Center.

Even as you work to keep giving up, understand how a reduced offering may impact payroll and other bills. Develop a prioritized plan for paying bills. Payroll should be at the top. And, think through the issues with leaders. Do not isolate yourself and try to be a hero. Use the whole leadership to tackle hard problems produced in hard times. As a last resort, if payroll is at risk, especially that of appointed pastors, immediately notify the DS.

Will there be a bailout?

Conference staff and the Cabinet are actively brainstorming ways to be a resource for local churches. The annual conference has some assets, but those only exist because of the sharing of resources by all the local churches. We are better and stronger together. We can certainly assist by shifting how resources are provided. The resources it has are those given by the local churches themselves.

That said, we are fully aware that the COVID-19 crisis may generate a situation in which a local church is unable to meet its apportionment obligation or at least delays that ability. The Conference staff and Cabinet are prepared for that and will offer grace when churches legitimately have their existence threatened.

Should we keep sending in our apportionment payment? What about our pension payment?

For now, yes. We will certainly take struggles into account. We will be looking at ways to be of help to struggling churches. Part of that might include apportionment or benefits relief, but we haven’t yet instituted that.

Will we delay the start of appointment season?

It is premature to decide about delaying pastoral moves. We are moving forward with planning as if it will happen.

What about Part-Time Course of Study?

Until the group restrictions are lifted, Course of Study will be going totally online with no in-person interaction. All other Course of Study questions should be directed to the sponsoring seminaries.

What about Annual Conference?

Our team is monitoring the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical professionals and state and local health departments related to our upcoming events.

It is premature to decide about our annual conference scheduled for May 27-30 in Topeka. We are moving forward with planning as if it will happen. We will keep the Conference apprised of any decisions should that change. Thank you for your patience! Bless you as you prayerfully discern how to navigate these challenging times as spiritual leaders.

What about summer camp?

Our team is monitoring the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical professionals and state and local health departments related to our upcoming events.

It is premature to decide about summer camps. We are moving forward with planning as if it will happen. We will keep the Conference apprised of any decisions should that change. Thank you for your patience! Bless you as you prayerfully discern how to navigate these challenging times as spiritual leaders.

Will Congregational Excellence continue to financially support our new church or multi-site project?

Yes. Funds have been set aside to complete the agreed upon funding cycle for each project New Church Development and Congregational Excellence supports. 

I’m stressed out. Where can I go to get additional help?

It’s normal to feel anxiety and stress in this season of exponential change. Taking care of yourself is essential when you care for others. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  There are so many people who want to support you during this time. Clergy Excellence staff offers to set up zoom calls to debrief.  The Great Plains has over 40 coaches who are available at Lean into your network and trusted colleagues in this time for perspective, ideas, and to lean into the arms of our creative God that reminds us of God’s presence and peace amid times of uncertainty. 


Send your questions to the Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of congregational excellence,