When the government announces that groups of 200 can gather, 85% of churches in America will be able to gather again. But what should that look like? How do you reopen safely? How can we start preparing for operations after such an unprecedented change in the way we preach, gather, and worship? To start working through these challenges, I discussed life after COVID-19 with highly esteemed leaders of small to mid-sized churches.
- Jon Ritner, Lead Pastor, Ecclesia Hollywood
- Leonce Crump, Senior Pastor, Renovation Church
- Jim Gribnitz, Lead Pastor, Rockland Community Church
- Dr. Lillian Daniel, Senior Pastor, First Congregational Church of Dubuque ·
- Dr. Matt Waterstone, Senior Minister, The Reformed Church of Bronxville
Primary Ways Leaders are Forecasting for Gathering Again
The most common strategy leaders are planning to begin regathering is finding ways to interact with their church community in small numbers. Each panelist shared the ways they are relying on data-driven results and the directives of their state’s governor right now.
It’s vital for churches to truly take time to pray and think through creative ways to initiate the transition into the physical location of their church, ensuring the safety of their community is prioritized adequately. Here are a few ways churches are practically planning to move forward:
- Gather in phases: Create a system that allows the community to gather in small phases to continue healthy social-distancing measures throughout the week. Then eventually return to larger gatherings on Saturdays and Sundays. One church is using an RSVP system to monitor the number of people that can attend each service until we can gather in large numbers again.
- House parties and small groups: Most churches are looking to late-summer as they prepare to gather in groups again and are planning to implement small groups or “house parties” as some are naming them. This will include people gathering within each other’s homes and streaming services together with 10-15 people. It’s going to be vital to keep these groups as small as possible and obey social distancing guidelines initially.
- State guidelines: Churches are taking cues from state guidelines while also evaluating the level of comfort of the congregation. Even if your state allows larger gatherings, your congregation might not be ready. Leave space for flexibility as you communicate with your members, and be comfortable with not having all of the answers. Lean on your leadership team to help you brainstorm creative solutions.
- Accept changes in the norm: Take time to acknowledge that some yearly traditions, such as celebrating teachers during a Sunday service, may not happen this year, and intentionally care for those most affected by these changes.
- Balancing virtual churches: It will be common for churches to rely on the technological process and systems that they have developed during COVID-19. Pastors may find themselves becoming even busier because they’ll be balancing both virtual and in-person worship experiences. During this time before we gather again, pastors may find it helpful to think about what methods will be most effective for them and their congregation to move forward without burnout.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, William Vanderbloemen