Making The Decision
Context matters as local churches, camps, and retreat centers make decisions about canceling or postponing events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each local leadership team will have to make the best decisions they can with the information they have, following guidance from the CDC and their respective diocese, conference, or synod leaders.
That being said, last week’s Lifelong Learning Open Office Hours brought together over 30 formation leaders from across the country and the vast majority of the group was planning to cancel or postpone in-person summer programing. Participants were especially concerned that proper physical distancing would be impossible during planned events, cleaning supplies would not be widely available, and they would not have enough volunteers to run the event safely. Even if stay-at-home orders are lifted, members of our congregations who usually serve as leaders may be exhausted or may not feel comfortable leaving home.
As you ponder this decision in your own context, here are a few resources:
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Forecasts for the United States offers death projections for about a month out.
- Building Faith Post from April 13th with a few things to consider such as the cancelation of EYE, a major event from the National Episcopal Church.
- Information from American Camp Association on updating health-related plans and procedures as well as communicating with camp families and staff members.
- Survey data and quotes from families about Christian camps during Covid-19 – includes desire for future and what families value about camp experience.
Communicating the Decision
I recommend communicating as clearly and directly as possible in multiple methods. Here are two resources to help you craft your communications:
- This is a sample event cancelation letter. This letter is available as a Google Doc. You can save a copy to your own Google Drive and edit from there.
- Here are some possible “frequently asked questions” to think through as you prepare your communications. Or, you could provide a FAQ page with your communications.
Providing an Alternative
If it feels right for your context and you have the capacity to do so, you might want to provide an alternative to the trip, camp, or program you have canceled. If you do offer something, I recommend making clear that it is optional. We don’t want people to participate out of a sense of pressure, obligation, or guilt. If people are overwhelmed by daily life, online faith formation may not be a helpful way for them to connect with God right now.
Here are a few resources to inspire and help you create alternative summer programs:
- CrossRoads Camp & Retreat Center in Port Murray, NJ has been offering “Virtual Campfires” with sing-alongs and skits.
- Content and guidance from United Methodist Church on creating a virtual camp program.
- Article about Trauma-Informed Distance Learning strategies and perspective.
- Article from NPR about how to grocery shop safely. This guidance can be used for creation of craft/activities packets sent out or dropped off to families.
- Quest in a Box is a download that comes with 14 printer ready devotions/activities and an amazon shopping list. Your church puts together the boxes and distributes them to your community.
- Here is a list of publishers’ policies for reading books aloud online from the School Library Journal.
Sounding Board: Lifelong Learning Office Hours
Each Thursday, Lifelong Learning offers Online Open Office Hours via Zoom. These office hours are “drop in” and we are happy to serve as a sounding board for folks considering what it looks like to cancel or postpone summer events. Register here to join us!
This Thursday, April 23rd, we will again offer special office hours focusing on “when to cancel summer events.”