Ken Braddy is the director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources and disciples a group of adults at his church in Shelbyville, Tenn. He is the author of several books, including “Breathing Life Into Sunday School.” He blogs regularly about Sunday School and groups at kenbraddy.com, where this post originally appeared.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Last week we all received good news: The country is going to slowly reopen, and that includes houses of worship.
But if you think we’ll all rush back to church and pick up where we left off, don’t kid yourself — it’s not going to happen. Or at least it shouldn’t happen.
We need to think and plan carefully so we don’t endanger people simply because we let our guard down and believed that the coronavirus crisis had passed.
As believers, let’s agree to live by faith and not operate in fear. But let’s also agree to be proactive and to act in wisdom toward members and guests, especially those among us who are most susceptible to becoming infected with COVID-19.
We have a short time to prepare for the return of the church to the church campus.
As I’ve thought about my church and listened to friends and ministry experts over the past several weeks, I’ve compiled a list of things most of our churches aren’t thinking about.
Don’t let the excitement of finally coming back together cloud your judgement or cause you to ignore the “new normal.”
Let’s think through some issues before the church returns to the building:
1. What if your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 100 people?
Never happen, you say? Remember that we’ve been limited to gatherings of no more than 10 people in the recent past.
Take my church, for example. Before COVID-19 we averaged 350 in worship (two services).
Should we plan to add a third service, reducing the time to 45 minutes with a 15-minute “passing period” so worshipers can either go to Bible study or go home?
One friend in ministry said, “My church runs 2,000 people in worship. We can’t have 20 worship services all weekend long! What will we do?”
If we’re limited to a smaller number of people by our government leaders, what’s the plan at your church to provide a place and time for them to worship?
2. What adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms and your choir ministry?
Do you believe you can conduct communion like you have in the past?
Your church’s tradition may involve passing a plate of elements, or it may include drinking from a common cup in some denominations. Will you use self-contained juice and cracker cups?
What about baptism? It’s going to be impossible to practice physical distancing in a baptism pool.
And as one reader said, “What do I do about my church’s choir program?” He realizes people standing side by side won’t be practical.
3. How will you go forward with VBS?
This is a burning question on church leaders’ and parents’ minds.
There are practical alternatives, and I know many churches are going to find new times and ways to provide a VBS experience.
4. Is a physical, “pass the plate” offering a thing of the past?
How would you feel if you were the 100th person in a worship service to touch the offering plate that 99 other people just touched?
Would you be worried about COVID-19 transmission? Sure, you would. So how will you take up your weekly offering?
Will you install boxes at the doors of the worship center and perhaps place some of those in the lobby so worshipers can slide their envelopes, cash or checks into those secured boxes?
5. What are you doing now to sanitize and sterilize your church building?
Now is the time to wipe down all classrooms — especially those where children meet because of the toys and other items they touch.
Have you sprayed pews and chairs with disinfectant? Who is wiping doorknobs and handles? Have you had carpet cleaned and disinfected?
Now is the time for all this to take place, not the week of the “you can go back to church” announcement by government officials.
6. Are you going to continue offering children’s church?
As a short-term alternative, can family worship be encouraged as the primary option in these COVID-19 days?
Should parents take their kids to worship, practice physical distancing and keep a close eye on their little ones?
7. Are you going to continue hosting special events?
Will your church continue to host weddings? How about funerals? Revivals?
You get the idea. There are a number of special events that our churches might host. Which ones will continue, and which ones will be put on hold?
And how will you decide — and explain — which ones continue and which ones don’t?
8. Are you continuing to provide coffee stations on campus?
Many churches have invested serious dollars in creating a coffee shop experience. My church has a self-serve coffee station in the center of our foyer.
Is that a good idea anymore? Tables and chairs may need to be placed in storage so that people don’t congregate within a couple of feet of one another.
9. Will you continue offering online worship?
Some churches may think of their recent foray into Facebook Live worship experiences as a thing of the past — a stop-gap measure during some really strange days.
Happy they can meet together again, churches may dissolve Facebook Live services as they return to worship experiences on campus. But is stopping online worship services altogether the right strategy?
I’ve heard of church after church whose leaders tell me their worship attendance and small group attendance are up significantly because people are finding them online.
One church in Las Vegas had 1,300 people watch their service online a few weeks ago. Why is that a big deal? They normally average 100 on campus.
10. What is your plan when volunteers step down?
I’m already hearing that older volunteers are telling their church leaders they aren’t coming back to serve until a vaccine is readily available; it’s just too risky for them because they’re most at risk from COVID-19.
Will you be able to fully staff your classes like you did back in February?
11. What’s your strategy to clean and sanitize your church in real time?
It’s one thing to prepare in advance of people’s return to the church building, but how will you keep the place clean and disinfected on a Sunday or Wednesday?
Does this give rise to a new team of people on campus whose ministry it is to walk around wiping doorknobs and other surfaces? Who’s going to clean restrooms throughout the morning or evening?
Depending on your church size, you may have hundreds — or maybe even thousands — of people touching things while they’re on campus.
12. Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all?
We’ve always had door greeters. But in a COVID-19 world, do you really want a door greeter holding the door open while a parishioner walks by within a foot or two of them?
That’s not in line with good physical-distancing practices given to us by the Center for Disease Control and our state governments.
The new normal may be for greeters to stand back six feet, inside the church building, and welcome people verbally without opening the door for them.
You experience this at big box stores now. A greeter is there to say hello, but they don’t make you pass within a foot of them. Welcome to the new world COVID-19 has created.
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Source: Baptist Press