Coming Back Together After Coronavirus
I’ve heard lots of people talk about their longing and excitement for the grand reunion that will take place once life gets back to “normal.” Many churches even promoted their Easter Sunday worship as merely a mini-celebration of the resurrection—anticipating the real party once the congregation gathers together again in person.
I think this longing points to the fact that we were created to be in community—and I love hearing stories like this (but that’s for another article). Many churches wish that one Sunday a switch is going to flip and everything will go back to the way things were before. But this scenario seems unlikely. As we look to other parts of the world that are ahead of North America in the fight against COVID-19, there are few options we can consider. And, of course, this all depends on your area’s restrictions and guidelines.
Option 1: Continue to Meet Digitally Until Mass Gatherings Are Allowed
Looking at other places around the globe, the trend seems to point to a relaxing of rules followed later by more contracting—and this back and forth might continue until a vaccine has been created, approved, and available. So one option might be to remain fully digital until your region says all mass gatherings are safe to commence again. This is an especially attractive option for larger churches (more than 250) because being required to stop gathering in person a second (or third or fourth) time might be a lot harder on the congregation than the first time around.
Tip: If your church goes this route, it is vital to have a solid communication and connection strategy in place.
Option 2: Midweek Only
Chances are, your church gathers all together just once a week. Throughout the week, though, you have smaller ministries, gatherings, prayer times, Bible studies, and more that happen. One way to help provide in-person connection while also avoiding large gatherings would be to open your building to midweek ministries—those smaller gatherings of 10, 20, or even 50 people (depending on what government guidance is)—while keeping worship services all online. This might allow for quicker and deeper connection with your congregation because it’s smaller groups of people who are centering on a subject or theme. If you choose to go this route, be sure to communicate clearly your church’s plans to help keep the virus at bay through disinfecting and other means.
Tip: This could also be a great way to start (or revamp) your church’s small group ministry.
Option 3: Take a More Fluid Approach
Another option that your church may want to consider is taking a fluid approach to how your church is gathering each week. Most of our congregations have a strong desire to gather together again. While we can’t just snap our fingers and get back to normal, we can provide as many opportunities as possible for people to come together again. This could look like following your area’s guidance for group gatherings and amending your worship service schedule to meet the current needs. For example, let’s say you’re a church of 400. What if your state is only allowing groups to meet together 100 at a time? Your church could offer four service times on Sunday, along with live streaming. As the guidance expands and contracts, you could add or reduce services as needed. You could also ask people to RSVP to which service they plan to attend and make it more of a “ticketed” event to help ensure you’re following the guidelines in place. With this approach, in-home watch parties might also be an option for those unable to make the service in person.
Tip: Make sure you’re on top of your communication game if you want to take the fluid approach. There will be lots to communicate over the coming weeks, including changing service times, need to RSVP, etc.
As church members, we're extremely excited to be back together in person. However, we need to recognize that in all likelihood we will not resume "normal" church life as soon as restrictions are lifted. Instead, let's plan wisely so that we can lead our churches into new seasons of uncharted territory.
Has your church discussed ideas on what this next phase of ministry might look like? I’d love to hear what you’re planning—add a comment below!