By Kevin Freeman
It may be difficult to imagine right now, but the glorious day is coming when God’s people will again be able to gather—physically—to worship together. How can your church help make that a success?
For starters, you’ll have to quit wearing pajama bottoms. What else should you consider?
Here is a quick list of six considerations to get your team thinking about returning well.
1. Plan to celebrate and give thanks together.
Your church family has been yearning for fellowship together. When you return, how can you celebrate and make it special?
This might include a special worship service with prayer and praise offered by those gathered. It might be a picnic on the grounds with games for people to play.
Your fellowship and event planning folks may be chomping at the bit to do something! Consider floating the idea by them and see what they develop.
Celebration helps reassure your people that things are okay. Just remember that some may be leery of crowds for a while.
2. Communicate your cleaning procedures.
The effect of COVID-19 on the psyche shouldn’t be underestimated. People will want to know what your new cleaning and sanitation standards are.
Will you have someone wiping handles, handrails, and other commonly used surfaces? Let your people know.
Do you have a good toy sanitizing plan in place for preschoolers? Remind those parents.
Are you replacing your seat hymnals with hand sanitizer dispensers? I hope not!
But tell your people about any current or new procedures, such as the placement of hand sanitizer stations, so they know you take their health seriously.
3. Care for those with tangible needs.
During quarantine, many people have had unmet needs in your congregation. This will be a time when church members can minister to each other.
Who among you has had unmet needs that the body of Christ can now handle? Encourage your people to think about those needs.
Some have felt the financial impact of lost income and may need assistance. That is a tall order for churches who are themselves struggling, but our God provides.
4. Consider those who are hesitant to return.
The time when the church is allowed to gather and the time when people will feel comfortable gathering are likely not the same.
Your small groups may need hybrid meetings for a spell, with some present physically and others by video chat.
You may still need video services for a third of your people. Expect for some to not be ready to return right away.
And not everyone who does return right away will be ready for that hug or your time of greeting and handshakes. Your church might consider substituting a new greeting practice for your current one.
5. Continue new endeavors.
You’ve been innovating a lot lately. A record number of churches have moved to online worship and online giving.
At no other period have so many churches adopted a technology so quickly.
Your communications have likely changed somewhat, too. Perhaps you’ve sent more regular email updates that you want to continue or begun calling those who need a special touch.
You and your team should evaluate which initiatives are worth continuing.
Would your shut-ins and vacationing members still view streamed services?
Did families appreciate the resources and ideas you sent their way?
Could you move some standing meetings to Zoom, at least occasionally?
God may have led you to some new, temporary practices; others may become permanent.
6. Center on your mission.
God has called your church to a mission.
All of us are called to the Great Commission, but each local church has developed its specific mission and its current vision. Remind your people of it.
Hold a “Remembering Our Call” service to renew your commitment to your church’s calling.
After years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites reaffirmed their covenant with God. Doing the same will help your people remain rooted in your church’s specific identity.
Think through how to transition well. Ministry leaders who spend time praying about this now will serve their people well, please God, and enjoy greater stability going forward.
KEVIN FREEMAN is the associate pastor for discipleship, youth, and families at Redland Baptist Church of Rockville, Maryland.