We’ve all been impacted by COVID-19. People have died, habits have changed, and many believe things will not be the same again. The government has begun discussions to plan the reopening of businesses and lowering restrictions on meetings. While many of us wished we could go back to the way things were, the time has come to prepare and adjust to a new normal. In thinking through how our past and present experiences will shape our future, here are the top five questions we need to ask ourselves as we transition out of the “Stay At Home” order and being to see the church reopening.
We have to ask ourselves the “why”, always! But especially as we begin to rethink what is normal, asking “why” is even more vital than ever. So, why do we, as a church gather? Why do we come together every Sunday? You may have a lot of reasons. Consider prioritizing them so your goals and priorities meet your “why” answers.
Here are some examples of why that can get you started as you begin to think this through your why. We gather because the Bible tells us living in community is healthy and for the good of ourselves and our community. We gather because we are stronger together than apart. And we gather because iron sharpens iron. Also because God has given us the ability to and our country has given us the freedom to do so. Why do you gather?
Once you know why you’re gathering the next logical step is thinking through where to gather. As the “Stay At Home” order begins to lift in your area in the future, your phases may look different than you thought. The white house created phases, including meeting first in groups of no more than 10, than in groups of no more than 50, and so on. Perhaps opening the doors to wherever you meet all at once won’t fit your church’s needs. It’s important to think through what the location you gather offers these new parameters and how you can be safe, handle concerns, and begin to open in your space or find new temporary spaces if needed. For some, the “where” might still be online through your website.
Where and how we gather start to entwine when we think about the safety measures that may need to be taken above the typical level of precautions. Maybe the number of at-risk church members or congregation will pause your reopening, maybe meeting in small groups until all social distancing has been lifted, maybe you have a new way of gathering (such as online through your website) that is working so well you’d like to keep that available for those who are at high-risk. Perhaps additional cleaning measures and safety precautions will need to be planned for your gathering? There are no simple answers or right answers here, but we must think through how we can gather in each new phase of the “church reopening” that allows the congregation to continue to worship as a group.
“When” is the question on everyone’s mind right now, right? It is a great question and again this does not have a simple answer. The question isn’t just when will things go back to normal, it’s also not “what time do we gather” it’s what phase will allow us to begin gathering, it’s when in the process of reopening makes sense for us, it’s do we need multiple services and times to accommodate our congregations? Ask yourself not just when can we begin stepping through these new phases once permitted but is there another “when” to consider for your congregation?
Is there anything more important than the “Who” of it all? This all started with who is most at-risk, who are we protecting, who are we doing this for? There’s also a lot of “who” to consider in all of this. We have several groups of “who” to consider as we begin to plan to reopen in the coming days, weeks, or months. Will families with small children be able to gather, will high-risk individuals begin to gather, who in your congregation will be willing or even able to gather even as restrictions are lifted, there will still be cautious individuals as well as those who are not cautious. We must plan for them all and keep them all in mind as we lay out the plan to reopen the church gatherings. Think through the “who” as well.
Some of these questions may seem too big to answer yet, or too early to answer, some you may think you have the answers to now but maybe you need a few back up plans just in case. Maybe you need to get the leadership, elders, or members together to discuss opportunities or phase plans. Perhaps a simple survey sent to your congregation could help you best figure out which direction will work for the majority of your congregation. There are a lot of questions still being asked and we’ll get more answers from government officials soon but in the meantime start to think it through. There are a lot of resources coming out every day to help you plan and strategize the reopening church next steps. Check out the latest episode of Replant Bootcamp that covers some of these answers and more.
If you need help we can help you think it through with your online strategy and communication with your congregation. We can also help you survey your congregation if you need help getting started.
What comes next is up to you, your church, your congregation. And in the words of Gandalf the Grey, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”