Like pressure from a shaken can of soda, tremendous factors contribute to the anxiety churches and businesses feel as they engage the public once again. While some say the reopening is happening much too fast, I’m so grateful that most local churches across our state are beginning to reopen for corporate worship and personal witness. Digital communications are here to stay, but sometimes people simply want to move beyond the two-dimensional world of a flat screen.
For your marvelous service throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I would personally like to nominate you to the Lord for an award. From all the information we have, you carefully balanced faith and health concerns with the necessity for community and fellowship. The stories we are hearing from our 1,800 churches testify to your creativity, faithfulness, and perseverance.
Last week, we submitted a survey to Missouri Baptist pastors, asking them to share your church’s experiences in two areas: (1) At least one creative step your church is taking to re-engage for corporate worship; and (2) One adjustment that has proven most beneficial for future ministry.
Within the course of a few hours, we received more than 100 responses. We know it is not a complete list of all the creative things you are doing, but it is a great sampling.
Rob Phillips, MBC’s director of communications, compiled an executive summary of the survey that categorically condenses the ideas into several general ideas:
(1) Increasing the number of services. This step enabled churches to engage all people while maintaining social distancing. Some churches added a service specifically for those at higher risk of the corona virus, such as those 65 and older, and those with compromised immune systems. Others divided services alphabetically, or staggered them throughout the week.
(2) Adding venues. Some churches are leveraging technology to host live services at multiple locations. Others are continuing to host popular drive-in services, in addition to regular services. One church has rented a large tent and is holding outside services for the next several weeks. Others are utilizing church grounds in creative ways to foster community under the open skies.
(3) Altering church facilities. Some churches are blocking off every other pew, or setting chairs in such a way that families may sit together while maintaining their distance from others. Many churches have put together teams to clean facilities between services. Others are offering face masks and hand sanitizer to attendees. One church is even making masks for attendees. Some churches have foregone passing offering plates and are placing them at the back of the church. At least one church is organizing “house churches” for a time so that people are able to meet in a community without risking large-scale gatherings.
(4) Enhancing technology. Many churches are using FM transmitters, YouTube, Facebook Live, Zoom, and other services either to live stream or record and share services. Many of these creative services will continue for the foreseeable future. In some cases, they are permanent enhancements. Also, online giving continues to grow in popularity as church members become more comfortable with the concept. At least one church is using electronic surveys to get ideas from church members about when and how to reopen their churches. At least one church has transitioned to electronic bulletins. In January, one of our churches launched a brand-new app specific for their congregation. It certainly has become handy during these days of social distancing. Several churches report professions of faith as a result of gospel presentations through new broadcast means.
(5) Maintaining personal – but not physical – contact. Emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, Facetime, Zoom and other electronic tools have enabled pastors, deacons, and other church leaders to stay in touch with church members and even reach out to visitors. Some pastors report highly organized outreach activities that will continue long after the threat of COVID-19 fades.
These are just a few of the many great ideas you are putting in place at Missouri Baptist churches. I’m so very proud to be counted among Missouri Baptists who have prayed for one another and for people without Christ. You have contacted one another, given sacrificially and given biblical responses to those who are overcome with fear. You chose to lean into the Lord’s heart to discern the times and celebrated the presence of our living Lord Jesus. You are a special treasure to the Lord.
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Another resource for you:
Scott Brawner and his ministry, Concilium, are experts in the field of security and risk management. He has provided one of the more comprehensive resources on preparing churches and associations for the new normal of COVID-19 ministry. With his permission, we have posted his resource on our webpage: “Return: A Resource to Prepare Churches and Christian Organizations.
You may find it at mobaptist.org/covid-19.reopening/.