There are two questions rising to the surface during this stage of the COVID-19 crisis: When will we be be coming back to the church building? How will will we be coming back to the church building? God tells us in the book of Proverbs that, “Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.” (Proverbs 11:14, CSB) We have church leaders all across this country seeking wisdom from one another so that they might not “fall” or “fail” when reopening the church building. Seeking wise counsel when planning to reopen is vital for putting together a plan for your church.
As I have looked at how other church leaders are addressing this, some thoughts and questions from pastor Jimmy Scroggins’ twitter account (@JimmyScroggins) were shared with me by my own pastor. Jimmy is the pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. His thoughts and questions prompted me to reach out to him and ask permission to share it with others, which he very graciously granted. While it might not provide answers, it certainly can lead us to develop plans for “How” and “When” to reopen our church buildings.
- Why most churches are going to have difficulty reopening anytime soon – That possibility isn’t realistic. Schools can’t reopen. Sports aren’t coming back. Neither are concerts, movies, or malls. Not anytime soon because of current quarantine protocols.“So unless we completely raise our tolerance for virus-risk as a society there is no scenario in sight that will put kids back in school, athletes back on the field, or people back in churches.”
- Current quarantine protocols – Right now if someone tests positive for COVID-19 they are expected to quarantine for 2 weeks. Likewise, everyone who was directly exposed to them is supposed to quarantine for 2 weeks. Think about the implications of this for the church.
- Think schools – School buildings are not designed for social distancing. If a kid in English class tests positive the whole class has to go home. If a kid on the football team is positive the whole team has to go home. Schools & sports can’t function like that.
- Church gatherings aren’t designed for social distancing – We sit close together, sing in groups, hug & shake hands, pray in “groups of three,” etc. Imagine church services with no more than 50 masked people all 6 feet apart at all times, and no physical contact? Sounds fun huh?
- Before we get large groups back together some combination of things has to happen: a) a vaccine, b) effective treatment, c) a more targeted approach to distancing (only required for people with known vulnerabilities), and d) relax our approach to quarantining exposed people.
- Absence of an effective vaccination or treatment – Anything we do to “open America back up” will almost certainly increase infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the virus, at least until “herd immunity” occurs.
“So unless we completely raise our tolerance for virus-risk as a society there is no scenario in sight that will put kids back in school, athletes back on the field, or people back in churches. Churches have to think clearly, realistically, & missionally about what this means. In many communities our current strategies for worshipping at home may be extended through the end of the year and perhaps beyond. This will most likely have huge impacts on staffing, funding, organizing ministry. Whatever happens the gospel is still mighty to save and God’s churches are still His outposts on this earth. We can’t wilt. We can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed because of the loss of what we are used to from the past.”
— Source: @JimmyScroggins THREAD
Develop a Plan but Remain Flexible
This situation is very fluid right now. Information and guidelines are changing daily so what’s decided today, might not be the best decision for tomorrow. Be careful how you communicate plans to your church. I suggest that church leaders put together a multi-phased plan based upon the best wisdom and guidelines they can gather from trusted sources. But, I don’t suggest communicating the entire plan to the church because the plans could change. Communicate one phase of the plan at a time. You might allude to the fact that the leadership has developed a phased in approach, but because the situation could change, you are only communicating one stage at a time. However, you should be guiding your church leadership to be working on all phases of the plan so they can be implemented quickly and communicated clearly when the time is appropriate.
Resources for Reopening: Updated COVID-19 Resource Page
The BACE COVID-19 Resources page has been updated with several implementation plans and other information that can help you develop your church’s plans. There are ideas on that page that you probably haven’t ever considered, so I highly recommend you check out the information and links.
We know that reopening the church building during this season is something no one has ever experienced, so it will take a lot guidance. Might I also add that we must not forget to seek the guidance from the wisest Counselor who says, I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel. (Psalm 32:8, CSB)