As the Church of God and the nation plan to re-open following Covid-19, P. Douglas Small, president of Project Pray and coordinator of Church of God Prayer Ministries, presents excerpts from a recent white paper he has written.
As we consider how to re-open our churches for worship, please consider these quick reflections:
1. Maximize ON-LINE engagement. Don’t lessen the social-media or virtual engagement even when your sanctuary services resume.
2. Be sensitive to community opinions about the risk of large gatherings. Perceptions may matter more than reality. To be quick to sponsor gatherings may suggest a sectarian interest over community good. That privatizes the church, even more, creating an impediment to your serving the community.
3. Be sensitive to local regulations and norms for crowd size and gathering restrictions. Don’t be defiant, simply to be defiant, simply to make a point. First Amendment rights are critical – but we want to win the war, not a battle, and we don’t want needless casualties.
4. Over-perform on safety issues – double-up on janitorial services and disinfect surfaces before and after every use. Make the safety-staff visible!
5. Overcommunicate your sanitation and safety efforts. Create and publicize a “Safe” facility.
6. Don’t plan to reopen at full capacity. Reopen with multiple services and a limited crowd. Ease back into the old normal. Communicate your standards. If you are a large church, create an online event registration process for each service that allows you to post a “this service is full” notice. This is a good thing. Limited supply increases demand!
7. Continue your outside services for the wary and the cautious, the vulnerable.
8. Continue your online services for the same reasons and more. Online viewing will give those who watch an opportunity to ‘see’ the new normal – crowd size, distancing measures, nursery, etc. Let them see what you are doing to increase their sense of safety about returning.
9. Urge new contact guidelines. Instead of “shaking hands,” consider “elbow bumps,” “nodding heads.” And “give your nearest neighbor a smile.”
10. Develop guidelines for staff, ushers, nursery, children’s church, and youth gatherings, as well as other small group experiences. Bathrooms may need a live attendant to monitor usage and immediately clean surfaces.
This is not your grandma’s church. “The times, they are, a-changin’.”
11. Preach faith to fear. Preach God’s faithfulness. Preach order-disorder-new order. The old order is gone and may never return. We are in disorder, but we are only passing through to a new order (40 psalms fit into one of these three classifications). Preach hope. Preach love and care. Preach God’s Sovereignty. Preach joy. Sing. Resurrect the ‘sing-along-hymn service.’ The church must now sing – the city needs a song. Preach Jesus. Expect new believers and seekers.
12. Create multiple connection points during the week. One service will no longer be enough.
13. Stop thinking about the church as a building that offers a weekly worship service. Embrace the notion that the church is a relationship community of believers, centered in Christ and missional. They may now connect in different ways at different times.
14. Make ministry more important than ceremony. The church is more than Sunday morning. In the aftermath of Covid-19, survey the debris. Who died, and needs comfort? Who is homeless due to a lack of employment? Who is jobless? Who is hungry? (Reports from missionaries indicate food supply issues globally.) Who lost a business? This may be a time to create a financial cooperative (apart from the church’s 501 (c) 3). Find the best and legally sound means to finance some recovery efforts.