(RNS) — A new website guiding churches and ministry leaders as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic was launched Thursday (March 12) as a partnership between two Wheaton College institutions — the Billy Graham Center and the Humanitarian Disaster Institute — as well as Saddleback Church in California, led by pastor Rick Warren.
"Churches often don’t know what to do and yet churches are the most common way people gather in large groups in America,” said Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center.
Churches are grappling with decisions of whether to cancel services, continue to meet or go online, Stetzer said.
"They may have to forsake the gathering for the sake of the vulnerable for a season," he said.
The website, coronavirusandthechurch.com, provides links to Saddleback Church’s Purpose Driven website, which details steps to embrace Facebook and YouTube streaming of church services, as well as to a podcast episode titled “Harnessing the Potential of an Online Campus.”
It includes links to recent articles written by Stetzer. In those articles, Stetzer interviews a senior pastor of Wellspring Alliance Church in Illinois to learn what measures his congregation has taken to care for their members. He also details advice from Surgeon General Jerome Adams on how to deal with the coronavirus.
The website also has guidelines from the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, including a link to access a 28-page step-by-step manual on how the church should "faithfully prepare, not fearfully panic." It encourages working with other churches and consulting with local public health agencies.
Stetzer said they wanted to provide a hub for resources that could be an alternative to certain posts on Facebook and Twitter “that maybe aren’t the best things."
He said the website was created after President Trump addressed the nation about the coronavirus on Wednesday.
The website, Stetzer said, can help churches that maybe have never gone online to do so. It's a clearinghouse for good research, he said. Information from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is also listed on the site as well as a link to a free webinar series held by the Humanitarian Disaster Institute and the National Association of Evangelicals.
Stetzer said the website will continue to be updated.