Church Plants That Meet in School Buildings Face Reopening Challenges

Jason Dees (far left) preaches a message for the Christ Covenant Church livestream in a venue rented for the purpose. The church is unable to use its regular location — a middle school. Submitted photo

ATLANTA, Ga. (BP) — As the state of Georgia continues on a path to reopening, Christ Covenant Church is cautiously planning to resume in-person gatherings. But decisions about when and how to return are complicated by where.

Christ Covenant has called Sutton Middle School its Sunday home for 2 1/2 years. The church, which averaged about 500 in attendance before the COVID-19 pandemic, will be ready to reopen before the school does — which has Jason Dees, Christ Covenant’s pastor, searching for options that might even include a local synagogue on a temporary basis.

The church plans to begin Sunday (May 17) holding small gatherings of perhaps 30-40 people at a venue known as The Collective, while continuing to livestream the services. Meetings of the full congregation likely wouldn’t resume until August, but securing a larger venue for later in the summer hasn’t been simple.

“A lot of them are saying, ‘well you can’t meet here until we meet here,’ so whenever they’re comfortable having people in their building is a factor also,” Dees explained.

Christ Covenant’s quandary isn’t unusual. Although numbers weren’t readily available, Travis Smalley, Send City missionary with the North American Mission Board and pastor of Lakota Hills Baptist Church in West Chester, Ohio, said the practice of church plants holding services in schools has become “a large part of church planting.”

“There’s a lot of renting and leasing agreements,” he said.

For those church plants, the ability to reopen is tied not only to general guidelines and safety protocols, but to school district policies.

Smalley noted that in Ohio, for example, where some school districts are contemplating alternate scheduling for the fall semester in order to protect students from the coronavirus, some school officials are newly hesitant about renting their facilities to outside groups. Some church plants might have to find new venues to meet.

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Source: Baptist Press