Churches all over the world are strategizing about relaunching their services. In this session of Chemistry Conversations, Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, discusses relaunch strategies with David Fletcher, founder of XPastor. XPastor is a great leadership resource for executive pastors and church leaders.
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David Fletcher: Happy to be with you Matt.
Matt: So we've been talking a good bit over the last couple of weeks about, as churches begin to make a shift towards thinking through a reopening. We've got states like Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia have started to open up again, roll out a phased approach to this. And so the conversation we've been having with ministry leaders is, what are the things we need to be thinking through as we prepare to open our churches. We're not necessarily talking dates or times, but how do we approach this as a church leader. David, I know that you've been doing a couple of classes on how churches need to be thinking through COVID-
David: Tomorrow will be the 10th class, and I'll be very glad to be done with that two-course series.
Matt: I'm sure there's not a whole awful lot of joy in some of this right now, I would imagine.
David: It's been a challenge.
Matt: I bet. So tell me, what are you teaching? What are you sharing with people in your network about how to approach reopening? What should church leaders be thinking about?
David: Well Matt, let's start with this latest news item from the New York Times, just published about 15 minutes ago, which says "projections from an internal report of the White House show that the CDC forecast 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month." And then they go on to say, let me scroll down here, "the Trump administration projects about 3,000 daily deaths by the end of June." Now that's a little higher than my numbers if we stay at the current rate of growth. And the thing to note is not the number of cases - that's significant, and we heard from those people and their families - but the rate of growth. Right now we're at about 3% rate of growth, and if it stays at that then by the end of the month we will have 81,000 new cases a day. If they're right on the mortality tables, it's like 4,000 people a day will die because we're at a 5.9% mortality per documented cases. And we've been at that for a couple of weeks. So that's pretty rough. You know, I can show you a chart Matt, that might help. This really bears right on our topic. Can I share the screen for a minute?
Matt: Sure, yeah.
David: Okay. The mortality [red graph on left], and you can't notice the current day because that's today, we're not there yet. Cases per test [blue graph on right], so that's, we have like 100,000-300,000 people who are tested every day. And that's been right here, that's been good. Again, don't notice that because I wasn't planning on sharing this. But we've been holding steady at the number of people tested. Here's the big number though is the daily rate of growth, which we've been on a great sliding decline. But we really need to get below this 3% number right here because obviously when the rate of growth slows, hopefully to zero, then you have no new cases. So whether you have a million people who are infected and infecting others or 100,000, it's a decimal point in terms of the number of new cases. So if the White House is right and CDC is right, that will have direct impact on your question. Because if we're going to have, even by my numbers, 81,000-200,000 new cases a day, then our churches are not going to open nearly as quickly as we hoped they would. Because there will just be too many new cases. Our hospitals will again get overloaded. Instead of it just being New Orleans, Washington, and a bit of San Francisco, and then we heard a lot about New York City, it could be a lot more cities.
I was at the gas station today, and gas was $1.45 a gallon. It was great! But then, I only needed three gallons for the last couple of weeks, didn't save a lot of money in the long run. But as I was putting on my mask, there was a 30-year-old guy ahead of me getting in his car without a mask. He looked back, saw me age 60 putting it on, and said oh if this old geezer is going to do it I will. So he put on a mask, but he only had it here. It wasn't covering his nose, and that's what you also need to cover. So if we're not as a nation going to be smart on social distancing, hygiene, and masks, it's going to be a really tough time for churches. And what do you want to do, you want to open your church up at 25% occupancy which is the current CDC guideline and the governor's guideline for Texas. So you have 600 people supposed to be in the room, and now you only have 150. That is below critical mass for this sense of excitement and worship feel. So the numbers are going to drive the cleanliness. Discussions that I'm sure you had with Tim Cool who's just so good on facilities stuff and has a great four-page paper on that. So it really makes more question marks. XPastor community churches tend to be a little more conservative, and they're targeting either late June or July at the earliest to reopen. Now some other folks say, well, open when your children's ministry is open. Okay, well the CDC for phase one and two says, I think it's phase two also, says children age two and above should wear a mask. I don't know about you, but our grandkids if they started wearing a mask and seeing everybody else at church wearing a mask, it would be better to tell them that there's a live alligator under the bed every night that's going to come out and bite them. Just the nightmares would be horrendous. So I would tell you as of today, we have more question marks than answers on reopening.
Matt: And so it sounds like you're cautioning people, hey, let's wait and see, let's wait it out through May, see what there is to learn come the end of the month. I've heard some people talking about how we should be stocking up on thermometers and masks.
David: I would definitely have - for churches they're still available on Amazon, at least as of last week - a non-contact thermometer. Because about 50% of cases that go to the hospital have a temperature above normal. That's the easiest symptom. The hard thing about COVID, it's not like the flu. “Man, I was throwing up all night.” Easy symptom. “My stomach still hurts.” COVID, for 25% of people has no symptoms. I could have it and you could have it right now. And the other symptoms, until it gets severe - shortness of breath, temperature, and a dry, hacking cough - you know, those don't come about until you really have it bad for most folks.
Matt: So start stocking up on that stuff for June/July?
David: I would for churches. Buy it now. Sanitizer too. Talk to your wholesalers. Or restaurants. I had someone say they couldn't get it, because their church opened last Sunday. It was legal in Texas. And they said, hey, we can't buy sanitizer, what do you think. And I said, man, talk to your restaurant wholesalers, and they may be able to, people who own those facilities in your community may sell you a gallon of the stuff.
Matt: That's a great idea.
David: I mean, we bought milk and eggs from a local restaurant a couple weeks ago.
Matt: Did you?
David: It was a little more expensive, but hey they had what we needed.
Matt: Cool. So you get the mask, you get the thermometers. Are you scanning everybody as they come in?
David: Well that's a tough one isn't it? Iger, the president of Disney said, bag checks and thermometer scans may become normative whenever Disney reopens. They also laid off 100,000 people. So I don't know that I would want to scan everyone at church, but if this continues, if we just do this wavy line, it may be the safest thing to do. It sounds terrible.
Matt: It really does. It makes me wonder what that guest experience is like and how we embrace that. Well David, thank you for your time. One last question before we wrap up. What's one thing that as you look at the climate, as you talk to church leaders, what's the one thing that maybe we aren't thinking through as we prepare for relaunch?
David: Well, use the CDC numbers. And you can go to arcgis.com for the Johns Hopkins numbers, which I use. And compute every day the daily rate of growth. That's a number that very few people are talking about. But that gives you an indicator of are we on the uptick or are we on the downtick of this thing. And we're going to be numbers driven for a while. In the class, we covered all sorts of tips and techniques for reopening, from ushers and greeters, letting people go by rows and having families sit by groups and six feet apart from other families, etc. And those are all good, but it's really a question of, when can we reopen safely. And the jury for many is out on that.
Matt: Well that's really helpful. David, thank you so much for your time. Greatly appreciate you being here and all the work that you're doing with XPastor.
David: Pleasure to be with you.