A Chemistry Conversation with Jake Moore and Stephen Dupree
What do you do when you restart church only to find that one of your key volunteers tested positive for Covid-19? Watch this fascinating Chemistry Conversation with the co-founder of Chemistry Staffing, Matt Steen, along with Jake Moore and Stephen Dupree of Ignite Church.
Jake Moore is the Executive Pastor and Stephen Dupree is the Communications Pastor at Ignite Church in Winterville, North Carolina.
We'd love to hear your strategies for addressing this with your congregation (just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org). As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for churches and teams all over the United States!
Read the Full Transcript
Stephen Dupree: Sounds good.
Jake Moore: Sounds great.
Matt Steen: So Jake, why don't you just tell us a little bit about - you guys opened up, everything was going well. Tell us a little bit about what happened.
Jake Moore: Yes, we did our very best to create a plan like most people did. Researching data and trying to figure out what the best fit is for our church, our community. We really try to evaluate community readiness as well as church readiness. We did survey our church as far as, "Are you guys ready to come back into physical in-person gatherings?" The results of that survey were pretty astounding to be, "Yes. As soon as the doors are open, we're going to be there." And so we were excited about that, and so we did launch back June 7th. We increased our service numbers. We did social distancing in our auditorium, chairs and seating arrangement. We also, you know hand sanitizer stations, all kinds of precautions. Kind of building fog with sanitizing spray. All these things to help say we are doing everything with integrity in order to be health and safety minded for our people. We launched back at about 61% of our pre-COVID attendance, which statistically is pretty good right now. So we were excited about that, and things were going really well. What happened recently though is one of our kid volunteers did test positive for COVID-19 that was a result of employment connection with a boss that later on found out that they tested positive. So that was on Friday that they had interaction with that employer. Sunday that volunteer served large group kid worship, also in one of our kid rooms. And then on Monday he was made aware of the positive test from the employer, which obviously radars went up that we needed to be [INAUDIBLE]. He was very closely related to some people that were on our leadership team, including one of our pastoral staff. So long story short, what happened was he went and got tested and it came back positive.
Matt Steen: Oh no.
Jake Moore: Yep.
Stephen Dupree: Oh no.
Matt Steen: And that's what nobody wants to hear in this season, right?
Stephen Dupree: Absolutely.
Matt Steen: So you hear that. I'm sure the first reaction is, "Oh no" or something worse that you had to repent for. What's your next reaction? Are you panicking? What's going through your leadership team's mind when that information hits you?
Jake Moore: I would say luckily enough we created a plan that created the opportunity to go back and forth in the event that something happened. We didn't want to make it so rigid that we couldn't bounce back as far as steps or phases. And so we knew that if that was the case that we would have to go back a step, which would be going back to online only. We knew that was going to be the next step. What we didn't know was how do we communicate that and also for how long, what does that look like as far as what CDC recommendations and things like that. And that's where Stephen comes in as far as communication and how we were able to pull that off with our teams.
Matt Steen: So you guys already had a plan in place to be able to shut back down. I'm guessing at that point, were you doing Eventbrite or something like that to be able to keep track of who was in place?
Jake Moore: We were doing registrations [INAUDIBLE]. We had tracing. We were able to know who was here, who was in those kid rooms, all that kind of information.
Matt Steen: Great. So then the job comes to be able to communicate to the entire congregation, right?
Stephen Dupree: Yeah, yeah, so fun for us, the fact that Jake left out - Jake left for vacation that Tuesday afternoon. So don't know how that, God was just laughing at us a little bit. But it was myself and the remainder of the executive team basically huddled in my office and different places throughout the day Wednesday. It was kind of a trickle of information. First we found out someone tested positive, we only started to answer the questions of what rooms was he involved in. Later it came out like Jake said, he was involved with large group, eh was involved with the kids classroom. So long story short, he had contact potentially with everybody involved with kids ministry, kids and volunteers, on Sunday morning. Not direct contact but just vicinity. We determined pretty quickly that this was not one of those, he had two or three interactions and that was it and we just contact those people. This was something that was broad. We had to let parents know. We had to let those volunteers know. And this impacted basically 50+% of our church. So from there is shifted to we have to respond, we have to react. And it turned to, like Jake said, you go to Google, you go to the Facebook, you go to all the Facebook groups. And it's like, we can't be the first people to have encountered this, we can't be the first people to have asked this question. But how do we respond, the proper things we need to do. So we looked into from a legal standpoint what guidelines do we need to go by. And through that process landed where basically we needed to convey the facts but not get into telling parents how they needed to go about testing kids or something like that. We needed to just say this is what happened, this is how we're responding. That's what we have for you, and as a result of that we've decided for the next two weeks to go back to online only. And then at the time - it was Wednesday. Like I said, Jake was on vacation. He was hours away physically. So it was like, instead of trying to figure something out right now, we're just going to put out a statement that says this is what happened. We put together, like Jake said, we had the registrations, so we knew what kids were there on Sunday, we knew what volunteers were there on Sunday. So we were able to contact the exact parents to say, hey, your kids were exposed to a leader that tested positive for COVID. So we were able to touch all of the bases as far as... but that is a testament to our exec team, especially Jake, putting together that plan in place, making sure we registered. I know I've seen some churches say, "Why do we need to register for church?" whatever. This is the example of why it's a great reason to have people register. I know it can be aggravating, but it is well worth it in a situation like this. We weren't guessing what kids were there on Sunday morning. We knew exactly who was there. So we - long story, long - we ended up making official video with Pastor Jason, the lead pastor here. Just set him up in the sanctuary. Camera. Let him take a minute, two minutes and just describe what happened. And in a more official statement, typed it up, put that on our website as a post and attached that link to the video, put it on social media, spread it all over the place as wide as we could. And then from there it went to the different team leaders and said, "Share this with your teams. Let all your leaders know so they can tell the people on their teams who they're leading. Spread this as far as you can, and we will be evaluating that two-week timeline, going from there, seeing how people are responding to this. We don't know." From here, it went to, we can maybe bounce back to Jake, all of our, from there it's like different people had to get tested and different things had to go down from there just moving forward. But from a communications side, that's how we handled that.
Matt Steen: So let me clarify something. So you individually emailed out to all of the parents and all of the people that were directly impacted by that, or did you send the same email out to everybody that showed up on Sunday?
Stephen Dupree: Social media was our main send out to everybody. But then we did, through the registrations, we used Planning Center. And so we knew exactly who was there and we did send out an email directly to everybody that was there on Sunday with the same information, but was just directly contacted to them versus a broader, broad stroke.
Matt Steen: That makes total sense. Well very cool. So everybody was alerted. Now Jake, as the Executive Pastor on vacation, one, everybody wants to know did you come back or did you finish? But then, how do you lead a staff team through that? How do you guys care for a congregation that's probably ripping their hair out saying, "Am I impacted by this?" What happens then?
Jake Moore: Luckily, we have a great team here, so I stayed. I was able to take a little bit of time away. All of our staff did get tested, and the kid volunteers that were there on Sunday did get tested as well. Now the problem with that is there's such a delay in the results, and so that's where I think some of the biggest problems of leading comes because, like the fear of the unknown. I don't know if I have this. I'm not sure. And it's going to take 5-7 days for you to find out. Some people got results back quickly, and it was easy to celebrate negative results there. And then other people still lingering on. Luckily we use Asana. We use project management. We are able to communicate well with our team and staff. We were able to share that information. We have our team leaders, as far as in the kids ministry, kids pastor down, they do a great job of communicating with [INAUDIBLE], many platforms of communication. The one thing that I've seen personally is that when you're proactive and you're not hesitant in these events of crisis or chaos is that people respect you a lot for that. So generally speaking the feedback that we've gotten so far isn't, "I can't believe this happened," which I expected some of the, "I knew this would happen." But what we've seen and what we've gotten back so far is, "Man, thank you for being proactive. Thank you guys for thinking about our church. We're praying, and we expect God to great things." So what we tend to think of as possibly being negative, it's turning out so far to be more positive, and that's just because of being proactive, having a plan, communicating that plan really well, not hesitating and not trying to hide anything. Because it would be real easy to just pretend like it didn't happen. So we've seen some positive things come out of just good communication.
Matt Steen: Very cool. So as results trickling back in, is the spread limited or are you finding that there's people that can directly trace cases of this back to the event on Sunday?
Jake Moore: The blessing behind it all is it is literally confined to four individuals. There have been a couple others who have tested positive, however their connection wasn't from Sunday morning, it was from other means. So these four individuals - for instance, two are roommates, one's dating one of the roommates of somebody, another was hanging out with them for the entire weekend, they drove in a car for two hours on Sunday. It was literally because they were together constantly for a long period of time. What we're not seeing is the fact that I sit across from the desk from one of those individuals twice after Sunday. It's not like just being in the room with them caused a positive case. However, you know, it does create that fear. But so far, we've seen it as just confined to those four individuals.
Matt Steen: That's cool. That's a relief. God is protecting you guys well. So the question that's going to come up, what's next? When do you guys go back to meeting, or are you just pushing pause for a little while? How are you guys approaching what this next season looks like for y'all?
Jake Moore: Our first step was we got our building sprayed again. We did two weeks, so that way nobody's in the building. Literally by the time it's Sunday to Sunday, it's three weeks’ worth of time. So three weeks saying that we're not going to be meeting physically, going back to meeting online. And luckily we had a great online presence from Stephen, our worship pastor Chris, and some of the others that work so well to make that a super positive experience for our people. So our plan is that we're going to go back to in-person gatherings on the 12th. So that is two Sundays off, but three weeks away from the building. So as far as the isolation and the 14 days, those kind of things, giving enough window for that, and we'll see where God goes. We're still doing registrations. We are upping our cleaning, upping our sanitation. We are requiring volunteers to wear a mask, which we did not do that at first. We are going to do temp checks of our volunteers, which we did not do that at first. However those four individuals were totally asymptomatic, just as a side note. So we wouldn't have even known in the first place when they came in. But just upping those kind of measures so we can make sure we're communicating health and safety as number one priority for our people. Stephen might add some good stuff to that too.
Stephen Dupree: Yeah, I mean, it's something that... I mean, checking everybody's temperature, I've in the past before this happened for a couple of weeks I was going to a gym, and every time I walked in the door they're taking my temperature. I could just not have a temperature and still be positive, but it does make certain people feel good. So a lot of that stuff is for peace of mind, you know. But we did determine just as an exec team that moving forward we're not going to treat it with cookie cutter responses. Just like this situation is going to be addressed situationally. It's going to be addressed... you know if we did have some sort of case that really was isolated to a certain area or something like that and there was not a lot of people involved, it might not warrant shutting everything down. It just really depends. But spreading is something that's hard to keep confined in situations, so it's like you just kind of got to weight every situation individually. I would definitely encourage churches that are watching this, don't try to cookie cutter this. Don't try to make it one size fits all. We were very fortunate in this situation that the spread was really confined to those individuals, and it was really more of a separate thing rather than Sunday morning, everybody else on Sunday morning. Talked to a guy two days ago who he directly hugged the guy who tested positive for COVID, and he tested negative. So it's something where we've been very fortunate, very very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse in terms of spread, and that would have probably impacted some of our timeline even. We've been able to say with confidence, because of the steps we've taken we're going to be able to get back open sooner rather than later. It's been fun. it's been a fun two weeks.
Matt Steen: That's a way of putting it, huh? Well I'm going to ask - this is a heads up - I'm going to ask Jake and Stephen to share a last word of wisdom here in a minute. But I really appreciate, Stephen, the work that you did on the website communicating this stuff and pushing this stuff out. I guess it's going to be up for at least another week or ten days or so, so it's ignitechurch.com. Go check it out. You can see the video, you can see the messaging that they put behind it. Pretty clear and concise. Just saying, hey this is what's going on. Good on you guys for communicating that well and getting the message out. I want to be respectful of y'all's time, so before we finish up, anything in particular that you just want to put out there and say, hey if you're wresting through this or if you're thinking through the potential for how to work through something like this. Any words of wisdom that you can share with people who are watching this?
Jake Moore: Yeah, I'll steal what Stephen said a minute ago and just the fact of addressing situations as the situation occur. Don't be cookie cutter. Don't try to force something into a box that's not there. And just making it what fits for your church. So one of the things we really try and evaluate ideas, our community readiness and our church readiness. And so you have to evaluate those two things when you're trying to make those decisions. It might be beneficial for you to hold off. It may be beneficial for you to come back. It might be fine for you to come back sooner. It's just you have to evaluate those things. Obviously saturated in prayer and communication and advice from the people that are a part of your teams. It's not one person running everything. It's a team effort, collaborative effort. You've got to seek advice from others.
Matt Steen: That's great. So one size doesn't fit all. How about you Stephen?
Stephen Dupree: That's great. One thing I would say, just kind of attribute some to Jake but also like you said a team effort, numbers are your best friend during this kid of stuff as well. You don't need to be living in a hypothetical world in this, and it's very easy to do that, especially with the widespread overall fear of the coronavirus in general and the fear of you're not going to please everybody. So numbers are your best friend. That's one of those things like I said before, registrations are your friend. They help you. They give you real numbers. They give you those things. like Jake's throwing out percentages. We had 61% of our normal attendance back on day one. If you're not keeping up with some of those things when things are good, you're not going to know when something bad happens. So try to, if you don’t have those systems in place to keep up with some of those things, you need to look at starting to try and do some of those things because they're going to really, really help you out in situations like this because it's going to be very easy to let fear lead the way and lead you to making decisions, rather than making good, informed decisions based on facts and not hypothetical situations of what could be or what might happen. So that's something that's been a big benefit to us I know. And I know and would be a benefit to others.
Matt Steen: That's great, that's great. Jake, Stephen, thank you guys so much for just sitting down with me and sharing a bit of y'all's story. Grateful that this has been as minor as it has been. You hate saying that because there's four people, but grateful that this has not been a full-blown issue. So much of that I'm convinced is because of the work you guys put in going into this, so thank you guys for that.
Stephen Dupree: Appreciate it.
Jake Moore: Thank you.