This qualitative participatory research (using a workshop methodology) sought to understand challenges faced by faith leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Ituri and Nord-Kivu) in engaging with current public health strategies for the COVID-19 pandemic; to explain why long-standing collaborations between government, faith-based health services and leaders of faith communities had little impact; and to identify novel approaches to develop effective messaging that resonates with local communities. Findings indicate that public trust in faith leaders is crucial in health emergencies. The initial request by government authorities for faith leaders to deliver set health messages rather than co-develop and design messages appropriate for their congregations resulted in faith communities not understanding health messages. Delivering public health messages using language familiar to faith communities could help to ensure more effective public health communication and counter misinformation.