24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return

*This post initially had 20 questions – but several comments from readers revealed the need to add to this list.

 

This week we all received good news from our president: the country is going to slowly reopen, and that includes houses of worship.

I can guarantee that we will not go back to “business as usual” as a country, and that includes our churches. If you think we’ll all rush back to church and pick up where we left off, don’t kid yourself – it’s not going to happen. Or at least it shouldn’t happen. We need to think and plan carefully so we do not endanger people simply because we let our guard down and believed that the Coronavirus crisis had passed. Now, as believers let’s agree to live by faith and not operate in fear, but let’s also agree to be proactive and to act in wisdom towards our members and guests, especially those among us who are most susceptible to becoming infected with COVID-19.

We have a short time to prepare for the return of the church to the church campus. As I have thought about my church, and listened to friends and ministry experts over the past several weeks, I’ve compiled a list of things that most of our churches are not thinking about. Don’t let the excitement of finally coming back together cloud your judgement or cause you to ignore the “new normal.” Let’s think through 20+ things that we must think about before the church returns to the building:

  1. What if your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 100 people? Never happen, you say? Remember that we’ve been limited to gatherings of no more than 10 people in the recent past. Take my church, for example. Pre-COVID 19 we averaged 350 in worship (two services). Should we be planning on adding a third service, reducing the time to 45 minutes with a 15 minute “passing period” so that worshipers can either go to Bible study or go home? One friend in ministry has said, “My church runs 2000 people in worship – we can’t have 20 worship services all weekend long! What will we do?” If we are limited to a smaller number of people by our government leaders, what’s the plan at your church to provide a place and time for them to worship?
  2. What adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms, and your choir ministry? Do you believe you can conduct communion like you have in the past? Your church’s tradition may involve passing a plate of elements, or it may include drinking from a common cup in some denominations. Will you use the self-contained juice and cracker cups? What about baptism – it’s going to be impossible to practice physical distancing in a baptism pool. And as one reader said, “What do I do about my church’s choir program?” He realizes that people standing side-by-side won’t be practical.
  3. How will you go forward with VBS? This is a question on people’s minds. There are practical alternatives, and I know many churches that are going to find new times and ways to provide a VBS experience. Click here to read an article by LifeWay about VBS in the wake of COVID-19.
  4. Is a physical “pass the plate” offering a thing of the past? How would you feel if you were the 100th person in a worship service to touch the offering plate that 99 other people just touched? Would you be worried about COVID-19 transmission? Sure you would. So how will you take up your weekly offering? Will you install boxes at the doors of the worship center, and perhaps place some of those in the lobby, so that worshipers can slide their envelopes, cash, or checks into those secured boxes?
  5. What are you doing now to sanitize and sterilize your church building? Now is the time to wipe down all classrooms (especially those where children meet because of the toys and other items they touch during the course of a Sunday or Wednesday class experience). Have you sprayed pews and chairs with disinfectant? Who is wiping door knobs and handles? Have you had carpet cleaned and disinfected? Now is the time for all this to take place, not the week of the “you can go back to church” announcement by government officials.
  6. Are you going to continue offering children’s church? As a short-term alternative, family worship be encouraged as the primary option in these COVID-19 days? Should parents take their kids to worship, practice physical distancing, and keep a close eye on their little ones?
  7. Are you going to continue hosting special events? Will your church continue to host weddings? How about funerals? Revivals?  You get the idea – there are a number of special events that our churches might host. Which ones will continue, and which ones will be put on hold? And how will you explain which ones continue and which ones don’t?
  8. Are you continuing to provide coffee stations on campus? Many churches have invested serious dollars in creating a coffee shop experience. My church has a coffee station in the center of our foyer (a self-serve station). Is that a good idea anymore? Tables and chairs may need to be placed in storage so that people don’t congregate within a couple of feet of one another.
  9. Will you continue offering virtual online worship? Some churches may think of their recent foray into Facebook Live as a means to provide a worship experience for their people a thing of the past – a stop-gap measure during some really strange days. Happy they can meet together again, Facebook Live services may give way to worship experiences on campus. But is that the right strategy? I have heard of church after church whose leaders tell me their worship attendance and group attendance are up – significantly – because people are finding them online. It was reported that one Hispanic church in Las Vegas, Nevada, had 1300 people watch their service online a few weeks ago. Why is that a big deal? They normally average 100 on campus.
  10. What is your plan when volunteers step down? I’m already hearing that older volunteers are telling their church leaders they aren’t coming back to teach until a vaccine is readily available – it’s just too risky for them because they are most at risk from COVID-19. Will you be able to fully staff your classes like you did back in February?
  11. What’s your strategy to clean and sanitize your church in real time? It’s one thing to prepare in advance of people’s return to the church building, but how will you keep the place clean and disinfected on a Sunday or Wednesday? Does this give rise to a new team of people on campus whose ministry it is to walk around wiping door knobs and other surfaces? Who is going to clean restrooms throughout the morning or evening? Remember you’ll have hundreds (some of your churches may have thousands) of people touching things while they are on campus.
  12. Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all? Not have door greeters? Seriously?! We’ve always had door greeters. But in a COVID-19 world, do you really want a door greeter holding the door open while a parishioner walks by within a foot or two of them? That’s not in line with good physical distancing practices given to us by the CDC and our state governments. The new normal may be for greeters to stand back six feet, inside the church building, and welcome people verbally without opening the door for them. You experience that at big box stores now. A greeter is there to say hello, but they don’t make you pass within a foot of them! Welcome to the new world COVID-19 has created.
  13. Is this the time to suspend or end your church’s “meet and greet” time? Because of physical distancing rules, it probably is – at least temporarily. This practice has been on the decline in recent days, and many churches have already abandoned it because of its ineffectiveness with guests, not because of COVID-19 concerns.
  14. Because people may return very slowly to church, how will you count attendance and effectiveness? The question has already been raised about should we or should we not take attendance during online worship and online group Bible studies. It’s almost a sure thing that worship attendance on campus will not be what it was pre-COVID-19. You need to decide now if you’re going to count on-campus only attendance, or merge and add online attendance, too. And how will group leaders take a count in their online groups and go about reporting that?
  15. Should you add and/or shorten worship services to allow for social distancing? I touched on this in #1 above, but let’s drill down a bit. If physical gatherings are limited in size, you have a few options: (1) offer more services (2) encourage people to continue worshiping online (3) remove chairs from your worship center to help people avoid close contact (4) block off pews so that people no longer sit right behind someone, reducing the chances of them sneezing or coughing directly into the back of the person in front of them. If your church reopens with the “worship only” option, you’ll have to decide these things now.
  16. What are you going to do about larger Sunday School groups? No one is going to want to sit in a crowded room for Bible study, yet so many of our classes have been allowed to grow to have very large attendance. Do you feel good about letting 25 or more senior adults meet in a room that holds, well, 25 or 30 senior adults? If you have space to start new groups, now is the time – help people spread out. But if your church is out of space, like mine is, what’s the next step?? One option is to start another hour of Sunday School. For my church, we’d go from two hours to three. Yours might go from one hour to two. Or another option is to place some groups online while others remain on campus. There’s not going to be a quick and easy solution to this.
  17. What’s your plan for Sunday School curriculum? Most churches have provided print products – we call them Personal Study Guides (for group members); some adults still refer to them as “quarterlies” because they are distributed at church at the beginning of a new quarter. But because of social distancing and the new emphasis on virtual groups, should you keep print products but add digital ones for those groups meeting off campus? Thankfully, my company, LifeWay, creates digital versions of all its ongoing Bible study products, so we can meet whatever demand the church has. I have been providing print products at my church, but I’m about to add digital so my groups can be flexible in meeting on or off campus.
  18. Will you reopen the doors of your church with a “worship only” strategy? I am hearing of more and more churches that are choosing this option whenever we are allowed to meet again on campus. They are adding services, removing chairs, practicing social distancing, and focusing on regaining momentum in worship. Bible study groups will remain online for safety in the short-term, and will be added back to the on-campus experience in time.
  19. Do you have a plan for reducing expenses if your church’s offerings don’t rebound? This is the time for a “budget scrub” – while offerings are still decent and expenses have been lower because of reduced activities. Churches need to be thinking, “What if…” – what if our offerings don’t hold steady because of rising unemployment of members? Before the church returns to the building, every church needs a “plan B” strategy just in case giving drops in late summer or early fall. I have friends in ministry that I deeply respect who believe we (the church) have not felt the financial impact of COVID-19 like we will in the days and months ahead. I think they may be right.
  20. How will you deal with the rise of COVID-19 related addictions? One mental health expert said in a webinar meeting last week, “I’m hearing that porn sites are giving away free memberships during COVID-19…just what people don’t need.” In that same webinar last week on mental health, the presenter assured the audience that substance abuse is on the rise, too. Alcohol sales are soaring. He cautioned us to be ready to do lots of counseling and referring of people to professionals in our post-COVID 19 reality.
  21. Are you going to decrease the fellowship time between on-campus worship services? Some churches that have multiple services and Sunday School hours schedule up to 30 minutes of time between those events because they value the opportunity to gather, have coffee, and fellowship. In a COVID-19 world, it is a good idea not to let that happen. Shorter times between worship services, and the elimination of coffee bar areas (yes, I know….it’s sacrilege to think about not having coffee stations around the building!) will help keep people moving to their next destination, a worship service or a Bible study group, and it will help reduce the “let’s hang out and give each other COVID-19.”
  22. Are you going to postpone mid-week Wednesday night services, meals, and Bible studies? This won’t be a forever thing, but in the near future following the return of the church to its buildings, will you continue a virtual, online prayer meeting and Bible study time? Can you find volunteer workers to support a Wednesday night strategy on campus? Do you want to put people around tables for the traditional mid-week meal on Wednesday nights?
  23. Should you be investing in new digital equipment right now? Yes, we’ve all hopped online and used Facebook Live to broadcast our worship services. Some of us are doing that with iPads and other devices, but is this the time to admit that online worship is probably here to stay? If yes, then it makes sense to invest dollars now so that cameras and other equipment can be purchased that will help the church be more professional in the new online world of worship.
  24. Will a new staff or volunteer position emerge from COVID-19? Because the church has permanently moved online now, could it lead to the adoption of a new position of leadership? Will churches turn their attention to a Virtual Pastor whose job it is to oversee the technical aspects of the new digital frontier? Will they become responsible to develop groups and strategies to reach people online? It’s highly likely that this is going to take place; the role may first be added to a staff person who is currently serving the church, but when it is possible to split that role and afford a new person, churches may hire online pastors.

This list of questions is not exhaustive. It’s representative of many things we should be thinking about right now, before we get the OK from government leaders to gather again.

What would you add to this list? What have I left out? Let’s pool our experience and wisdom to help Jesus’ bride be prepared for the new world we find ourselves in. I’d love for you to respond to this post, share your thoughts, and then share it in social media. We’ve got to get the church thinking and talking about these things.

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358 comments

    • Great job on this Ken. One of your best! I am quite sure we are going to look closely to these on our church staff. I have passed this on to our other staff and the Interim Pastor. A number of people are sharing it from my Facebook page.

    • What about going “back” to the times of New Testament, and have the believers gather in homes ??
      We have done, we do, and hopefully, will do in future …
      I pray: many more will enjoy !!!
      Just think about ALL the positive points, you will win with this !!
      I am serious !!

  1. I am the Preschool minister at our church. I cannot even imagine how I will handle preschool Sunday school. Babies need diapers changed. Toddler and twos need help with everything. Threes love hugs and still need hands on experiences. Fours and kindergartners may be able to stay 6 feet apart but I doubt it. Lots to think about. Lots to pray about.

    • Lea you are dead on! I hadn’t thought of some of those things. Wow. We’re all in for quite a ride when the church reopens. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Helpful for sure. For sure the practice of handing out bulletins, newsletters, taking up offering, communion, etc…anything that requires various hands to touch will have to be rethought. Doors will need to be propped open so dozens of hands don’t have to touch them. If you use giving kiosks how to keep those open while at the same time disinfected for people to use. Is there no more food, coffee, etc… In our church we rent facility space to two different cultural churches, Haitian & Filipino, so how do we negotiate through the idea of bringing in different subsets of the population through our building and trying to keep everyone safe. Here in South Florida very concerned for all the churches who meet in schools, literally dozens and dozens of them, and whether that practice will be ended because school boards will not want all those extra outside people flowing through their buildings. Lots more to think about for sure.

    • Jerel, those are some great thoughts my friend. We will have a lot to deal with when we get the OK to return

  3. Thanks for the brain candy! I had thought about some of those (offering plates, greeting times, etc) but the idea of canceling (for a time) midweek bible studies might be something we need to do. I know what I’m digging into Monday morning.

    FYI pray for me! The pastor retired March 1 and I’m the only full-time ministerial staff trying to lead the church. While I’m 50 years old with 25 years of experience, as well as an ordained pastor, some people balk at the youth pastor making decisions!

    • Jim, I will pray for you. No doubt you are the exact right person to lead at this moment or God would not have you positioned there! I know you will lead well. Just do what He says and what you know to be right and the people will get behind you.

      • Great job on this Ken. I am quite sure we are going to look closely to these on our church staff. I have passed this on to our other staff and the Interim Pastor. A number of people are sharing it from my Facebook page.

  4. Ken, this is a great, great piece. Some of this list I have already been preaching about to my pastor, some I haven’t t thought about. Thank you!!! Stephanie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. I am a church music director, and the children’s choir and Chancel (adult) Choir ministries have been vital ministries in our church. I have already determined that the children’s choir is done at least until next August. Right now I cannot imagine how we will be able to get the Chancel choir together for rehearsal….there are several precious people in that group who, if they were to contract this virus, I fear would not survive. I managed to pull together several people to produce a worship piece as a “virtual choir” (everyone doing their own part home alone and I edited it together), but that is not sustainable and not everyone has the ability to video themselves. I just don’t know where we go from here.

    • Dru, thank you for sharing your situation…I had not yet considered the effects on choir ministries. Oh my. My company is providing free music/worship resources at Lifeway.com/coronavirus…I don’t know if you can use any of it, but you might take a look. The director of Lifeway Worship, a large division inside our company, would be glad to talk with you, I’m sure. His name is Mike Harland. If you want me to connect you two, just let me know. I’m praying for you and I know God has placed you where you are because He wants to use you to lead His church through these difficult days. Blessings, brother.

    • We are using Zoom to get our chancel choir together for practice. When we are pleased with the sound, then the host records it. The Zoom video can be converted and uploaded to YouTube.

      • Robert, that’s so creative and such a good interim way to deliver music to your church members and others who discover it on YouTube. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s not just choir ministries, but any singing in a physical worship space. Breath and spittal travel farther than 6 ft when singing, just like a cough or sneeze. How can we make sure everyone is far enough apart to just sing hymns?

  6. We are even going to have to rethink the “Right hand of Christian Fellowship” when welcoming a new member. Maybe we could give the “Jazz Hands of Christian Fellowship” instead.

    Also, what about VBS. We do ours towards the end of June. Each of our rooms are packed to the max due to lack of space. We have already purchased about $6,000 worth of literature. Will Lifeway take all that back? Maybe we keep if for next year. Or even VBS during Fall Break.

    Also, what about Youth and Children’s Camps. We are locked into going to Falls Creek the first week of June every year. They normally have 5,000+ teenagers there every week! Talk about your petri-dish!

    I am going on 66 and not really able to really consider retiring anytime soon. As for the new title of Virtual Minister that is exactly what I have been doing for our church since March 16th. I have probably videoed, edited, rendered and uploaded over 35 video’s to our website, FB and YouTube. Kept up with our website, Facebook and YouTube Channels along with about 6 other church related FB groups and pages. The title I have at my church is Minister of Music & Education, so I am definitely going to add Virtual Minister to my card! Job security!

    Thanks for the great article!

    • Hello Kirk. Thanks for responding to the post. Lifeway is taking a posture of generosity toward the church and will gladly refund your VBS purchase if you wish. I am hearing of churches postponing VBS to August (making it a big back to school event). Other churches are having it one night a week for 5 weeks in a row. Some churches are even planning on sending craft bags home with parents and letting them lead their own children. The church is being very creative! Try looking at Lifeway.com/coronavirus. There are free articles, materials, and you should find some help there for VBS alternatives. But if you choose to return the merchandise, we will give you full credit. Blessings, brother!

    • Handshaking is the nastiest habit in the world. I have tried to avoid it for more than 50 years, but it is quite difficult to escape it sometime. I remember when a cousin turned away from the urinal in the Shoney’s bathroom here and tried to shake my hand. I have been disgusted by that habit ever since!!

  7. Dr. Adams, thank you for sharpening this conversation. You are correct that physical distancing is the better term, even though social distancing has been a popular term that has evidently been misapplied so far. I will be sure to make that corrective going forward. Thanks again for calling attention to the profound difference.

  8. One more question. What about the Lords supper. How will that be handled? Do we set cups our six feet apart with the bread? Do we get to go communion packets (they are nasty) one thing we don’t do is stop having communion.

    Which brings up one more question. What about baptisms? How do we deal with that? I remember two things we should never forget to do I. Our
    Ministry is serve Communion and
    Baptize. Thoughts?

    • Hey Steve. Yes…those two things should have made my list! How’d i leave THOSE out?? I have heard that churches are considering the Lord’s Supper packs that have a self-contained juice cup with a cracker on top in a separate compartment. I agree…we find a way forward because we are commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper. Your question about baptism is also very valid…I haven’t heard anyone address how they might perform that ordinance. I’m putting together a panel of pastors and educators and I plan to ask these questions next week when we go online. Thanks for speaking up…great insights!

      • I had already considered the prepackaged communion that I currently use for my shut ins. I am however worried about my large elderly group getting them open without making a large mess. One idea that I was thinking about is letting my communion steward sanitize up and preset them on the communion rail. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks for the blog

        • For years our church has placed one of the little breads in a plastic communion cup, then set a 3/4 full cup on top of that. Then we only had to pass the elements once. I figure we could set them all on a table spread out and members could walk by and get a set as opposed to passing the trays. It’s twice the cups. We didn’t care for the “sealed” combo communion cups.

        • With spills coming, what about using the white grape juice prepackaged communion? Less stains than the grape!

        • I don’t see how that helps other than reducing the number of times the communion plate is passed. Someone still has to prepare the cups, and they still have to be distributed, and every person that comes near the plate can potentially contaminate a surface that is going to come into direct contact with members’ mouths.

        • Janes, I believe the answer to your question/statement is that precautions can be taken in the preparation. You’ve identified the real problem, though, which is the passing of plates and the potential contamination from coughing and sneezing. All we can do is what we can do, so hopefully each church will decide how best to co to us the Lord’s Supper in the safest way possible. Who thought we’d be talking about this just six weeks ago?

  9. Another thing to think about is coffee service on Sunday mornings. Many of our churches have started some type of coffee station on sundays. Is this still a good idea?

    • June, what a great addition! I’ve added this to the list. These are going to be special challenges for churches. Wow.

  10. What about the “invitation”? This is typically performed at the end of the service while the congregation sings. The pastor meets whoever comes forward and closely interacts and prays with them so they can hear them over the singing and music. This may well become an instruction to meet in an office or room after the service where an appropriate social distance can be maintained.

  11. “This week we all received good news from our president: the country is going to slowly reopen, and that includes houses of worship.”

    But since the president’s subsequent Twitter posts called for the immediate “liberation” of states that advocated for this thoughtful course of action, how will church leaders respond when agitated members suddenly demand that your churches be immediately “liberated” as well? Would that this weren’t coming, but there’s no way it’s not happening now – in all likelihood, starting today.

  12. Great questions that will get a lot thinking of some of the logistics of a return!

    I also think churches should ask, “What will be the needs of the people as we return?” “What will be the needs of the community?” The needs will or should shape all of what we do in restarting in all the areas mentioned, but I’m also not just talking about sanitation. The need to connect. Emotional needs. Physical needs. In an unprecedented way for our community, spiritual needs. Hope. We may need to get creative. For some, this has been a season of great loss and grief. And though this loss is to varying degrees, none are unaffected. Grief brings needs, and unless you are a community that has suffered a massive tragedy (I’m not), we’ve perhaps never collectively shared grief in this way. Certainly we’ve never experienced it globally. We had reasons why we ran everything we did before, in the way we did before at our churches. Or at least when those things were started, there were reasons. But now we have a chance to look everything over prayerfully, think about this season we’ve had, and design something that will truly meet the people and our community where they will be at. Just some thoughts!

    Great job on this list!

    • Absolutely true, Martha! A time for us to grow closer to God as we face this as individuals, families, churches, communities, and a nation

  13. I’d also suggest at least a temporary person or small group responsible for assessing safety compliance. This person would also make recommendations to improve safety measures in real time.

  14. Very good article, Ken. While I do not agree that current practices should continue exactly as before, some changes must be made now, at least temporarily. In our church of 140 or so attendees, the meet and greet time has been a positive experience for most and we will continue — but in what form??? It is important to welcome and get to know new attendees and new members without pressuring them. Future times will tell. I truly only know one thing — God remains in control! Bill Reese. Lake Center Baptist, Monkey Island, OK

    • I agree, Bill. Let’s hope these changes are temporary in nature and that one day we will no longer have to practice them. But for now, let’s do what we can to protect people’s safety. Thanks for your response. Blessings, brother!

    • Our church has a tear-off attendance form on the bulletin for recording, asking for prayer, update on information. It will be safe to handle after a few days, so useful to continue. A former church years ago added a third worship service between the 9:00 and 11:00 ones, and split the 10:00 Sunday school classes between 9:00 and 10:00. This was done to accommodate parents at the time, but would help with crowding now.

      And why not put in a station of disinfectant wipes at the door like Walmart has. Everybody take one and disinfect what you touch.

      • Check with your local Janitorial Supply for Hand Sanitizer dispensers. They will normally give you the dispenser when you buy a case of the replacement bags. We have these in every foyer, bathroom, fellowship hall and preschool rooms. You can’t walk through a main area without being close to one.

        • There has been a shortage of these supplies for the last month. I’m not sure if the supply has returned to meet the increased need. We were unable to buy refills for ours.

        • We currently use large bottles of hand sanitizer gel, but they are no longer available. I spoke with our church supplier yesterday about hand sanitizer and other “clean” topics. He said it will be the end of June before any are available, and that he is looking everywhere to find suppliers. I live in Kentucky and like elsewhere, local distilleries are making hand sanitizer (80% ethanol) but in a liquid form with no added skin conditioners, for use as a spray. It runs about $20/gallon plus shipping.

  15. Shelley, I am not fueling fears. We must be proactive and not reactive. People’s lives, esp. those who are older and who have compromised immune systems are very vulnerable. I much prefer we have conversations than funerals.

  16. Great information with some really important questions to ask. As outreach director at my local church, my biggest concern is staying connected with (a)members who have converted to an online worship experience and how to safely bring them back to the physical church and (b)new people who have joined us online since this experience started that have not worshiped with us before. This second group is really important to me as they are, perhaps, new Christians that need a local church. Not to discredit group A, as they are equally important. I just feel that group B has to potential to be lost if they don’t continue to receive ministry when “this is all over”.
    I am also concerned with recording attendance. We use an online platform that allows us to easily record attendance online of all worshipers who worship with us from wherever they are located. Great investment and opportunity.
    Blessings. Keep up the great writing.

    • Chris, man you are right in all counts. I know people around the country asking questions you’ve raised here. So good! No one knows yet how we may (if we even can) move online worshipers to becoming on-campus ones); and church leaders are concerned that their people will be so used to online meetings that they won’t come back to the campus, ever. One fellow asked last week in a webinar i was in, “So how do we track attendance….or should we?” All great questions. Thanks for throwing them out there!

  17. Does pre sanitization have to take place? The virus only lasts a few days on any environmental surface in a viable manner, so a few days of vacancy is the same as sanitizing. The same would work for a worship space ongoing if needed and achievable.

    • Larry, you raise a good point. My church has sanitized rooms, children’s toys, play centers, and pews. While we may not have needed to do that because of the life expectancy of the virus on a surface, we decided (1) to err on the side of caution and (2) communicate to parents and seniors that we are doing what we can to proactively keep them in as safe an environment as possible. We hope it helps people feel better about returning to the campus. Thanks for your insight and question!

    • I think a one time deep clean before services started back would be fine. Then if you only use the sanctuary once a week, regular cleaning would be fine.

    • I contacted the janitorial service we use at my church this week about a pre-opening deep clean. The rooms we use most often are 75% of the church square footage. We discussed deep clean vs disinfection; both are expensive undertakings. Since the building has been vacant for 8 weeks except for essential staff and the pastor (12 socially distancing people who clean after themselves), it is unlikely to harbor the virus. Sterilization or disinfection are impractical because it only takes one person and one touch to negate their effects. So deep cleaning is our choice for when we consider reopening in late June. Cleaning services after we reopen are another matter we’ll consider.

  18. Thanks for thinking about this. Although I wonder. If seniors arent ready to come back, and people with kids aren’t ready to come back… are we really ready to start offering in-person worship? I dont see this happening for a long, long time where I am.

    • Susan, you raise a tremendous point. I believe people of all ages will be slow to return. Many, many churches I hear from are starting back with worship only for 6-8 weeks, then phasing in small groups for Bible study. Whatever happens, it won’t be normal, just our “new normal.” Thanks for your thoughts on this! Great!

  19. God is able in all areas. If we pray and ask for wisdom, He will provide a way for His people to carry out the news of Jesus. It is sad that it took a pandemic for people to wash their hands and practice good hygiene.

    • Denise I completely agree! God will grant wisdom if we ask, and He will use the pandemic for our good and His glory. Just think how many churches have been “forced” online and how many new people are hearing the gospel! I hear of churches all over this country that are growing and reaching new people weekly. One Hispanic church in Las Vegas has averaged 100 in worship. Two weeks ago they had 1300+ in their online service. I hear story after story of Bible study groups that are growing, too

  20. I would like to get back to going to church on Sundays instead of watching it online which has been good but miss my Sunday School class and the church service as well.

  21. Thank you for quite a comprehensive listing of what a Congregation can think of and do about Covid 19, prior to ‘getting back to normal’. This listing is indeed useful and functional. God bless!

  22. Alisha, this post is absolutely not fear-based. We must proactively protect our members, esp. those who are older or who have underlying medical and physical conditions. And yes, the church is made for physical interaction, but that isn’t the new reality at the moment. Online services won’t replace the on-campus worship, but it will remain a new alternative for people who can’t attend or who are afraid to attend.

  23. What about church daycare? In our small town the church daycare is only one of a few in town and all are church based. Our daycare area is also used on wed pm Sunday am/ pm as our SS and nursery areas? I teach SS in this area. After outbreaks of illness in our daycare I have gone and cleaned my room but every week now 2-3 times I week?? It takes me several hours for just 1 room with all the toys etc I don’t mean to ? Our daycare staff but ? If this will/ was being done daily

    • Edward, terrific insights! Cleaning rooms after each use will be a definite need. And yes, it’s going to be time consuming, but if we don’t do it, we’ll put people, kids and adults, at risk. Thanks for all you’re doing to make your room as safe as possible.

  24. Great ideas, and I’ll be passing them along. I attend a small church where we receive communion at the altar. Now, during livestreamed services, the few people in attendance walk up and slide the wafer off of a tray, not touching the tray itself. It wouldn’t work in a much larger setting, but could work for some. Also, about ten years ago our pastor changed from passing a collection plate to everyone coming forward to deposit their contribution into a basket or, if they give online or for any other reason don’t have something to drop in, they offer themselves to God as they come forward.

    • Angela, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and to give us more to think about in our new COVID-19 world. Things will definitely be different, but I think they can be even better than before. I’m hopeful we’ll navigate these choppy waters and find a safe harbor.

  25. Great ideas to think about, but one thing not memtioned. And anybody who has ever worked in a bank or grocery store can attest. The dirtiest part is counting and depositing the money. Lots of hand sanitizer and or gloves.

  26. #11 – Do they have advanced air filters that will filter out viruses? Use ozone machines overnight? Sisendect mics between users? Encourage (or require) every single person to wear a mask?

    #12 Maybe greeters ensure everyone has a mask? Requires everyone to use hand sanitizer upon entry? At work places, they’re requiring a temperature check at the door!

    • Diane, thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions. I haven’t thought about masks, or even “mandatory masks”

      • We resumed services May 10, 2020. For the most part very smooth, but attendance is a 1/3 of what a normal service is. We are having the mask debate now. The CDC “recommends” a mask, and depending on the medical professional one talks to, they want them required. Then there are other questions that need to be answered about forcing visitors to wear them, others wanting to exercise their freedom to not wear them, etc. We’ve decreased the size of our worship team, installed spit guards on the music stands and pulpit and have created as much “no touch” options as possible. But this mask debate is turning into fodder for the enemy.

        • Rodney, that sounds just like what has happened at my church and churches all over the country

    • Thank you, George. I hope the church returns to the building ready to receive her people in the safest ways possible.

  27. Singing has been shown to spread the virus Massively in congregations! One choir member spread Covid to 45 choir members, and 2 passed away (you can google the news story).

    This situation has been repeated around the country. Apparently, singing causes your breath to forcefully travel much farther than speaking. How will a church handle this? To me, it’s the most dangerous (hard to believe I’m writing that a part of church could be dangerous) part of the service. It’s something that must be considered.

    • Wow! Kelly, thanks for sharing this. I had not heard the story about the choir that was so adversely affected. It’s things like this we must think through as we prepare to gather together again as the church.

      • For accuracy, the choir issue happened weeks before the lockdown, prior to social distancing, and in a senior population. I doubt it would be replicated in present conditions.

  28. Excellent article Ken and good food for thought. I know our church has already been looking at some of these but you have given us some additional points worth further study and discussions! Keep up the great work!

  29. Even with multiple services, how do you “even out” attendance? Will you assign people to a service? What about visitors? Will you reserve slots for them, or turn them away when you reach capacity?

    Thoughtful and timely article. Thanks.

    • Hey Decherd, that’s a super question. I haven’t heard of anyone with an answer yet. If my church adds a service (hope we do) then we will most likely encourage people to pick one and hope for the best. Of course we could do like big box retailers are doing and have a person at the door with a clicker…and when you reach a certain threshold everyone else has to come back in an hour for the next service. It’s gonna be crazy!

  30. I think we also have to ask ourselves if we will have any legal liability if we hold in person worship and an outbreak occurs?

    • Brian, that came up in a webinar with other education leaders and pastors last week. People are litigious, so I think there will be lawsuits

  31. This seems to be list of how to do church without touching people or being near people.

    That maybe something to do for a few months, but we will never be the real church again if we are afraid of cooties and don’t shake hands and hug.

    • Hey Kim, I agree. These things will get us through the earliest days of the church’s return. I wouldn’t want to see these things forever!

    • Kim April 19 2020 I agree 100% just us common sense things will fall into place with God I will never leave you or forsake you. ( MY favorite
      Phil 4:13). It has lead me through life not all days rosy. Irene

  32. And what about singing? Since singing propels air borne droplets so much further than speaking, I am wondering whether it will be months before we sing–maybe not until a vaccine is available.

  33. Can I just say to all of the pastors commenting here PLEASE do not forget your missionaries!! All of these questions are great and need to be asked (including the financial ones) but please do not “cut corners” in your missions giving. Find some other way to balance your budgets. Too often missions becomes the easiest place to recoup lost income because it is kind of “out of sight, out of mind” but your missionaries are depending on your faithfulness to be able to stay on the field. Whether they be IMB, NAMB or others, they are all trying to cope with the new realities in a COVID-19 world too, usually with far fewer resources then the average church in the US has at its disposal. Let’s all keep our commitments to support our missionaries through thick and thin!

    • Amen! I run a non-denominational assistance agency for people in need that is supported through giving from individuals and area churches. Giving has been down anyway since the tax reforms for most people removed charitable giving as a tax writeoff, and now this. The budget scrub is going to be a very real thing for many mission agencies as well as churches.
      We’ve been blessed with the faithfulness of our regular donors and supporters who haven’t stopped during this strange time.

      • Mike, thanks for sharing your thoughts here. During the next few months, churches and agencies will take a hard look at spending and that won’t be all bad. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic is going to help us be motivated to reduce or discontinue non-essential work and focus on our core work. We may all become a little more efficient and even better stewards of our financial resources

  34. We have many outside groups that rent spaces in our church throughout the week in addition to another ministry church that uses our facilities. The groups provide income for our church but also may have different ideas and opinions regarding gathering and what is safe. It will be a challenge to navigate when and how to allow others to use our shared spaces again.

  35. How did you handle your church when the flu came calling? Did you off the rails sanitizing every thing? How did you do your church with the HIV threat, the Anthrax threat, the Hep A threat? I am sorry that these questions have to be asked because surely there needs to be a rededication to your faith that God will see you through this. Never have I ever seen such paranoia due to media influence. Death numbers are being manipulated in order to get more money. Guess that is order of the day, more money, more money, more money.

    • Celeste, thanks for responding with your comment. I and others have plenty of faith that God will see us through this, but if Joseph had followed your logic, the world would have starved. Also, the Bible tells us that the men of Issachar “understood the times and new what Israel should do.” Being proactive, praying for guidance, and taking action are all prudent and not proof that we have a reduced faith in God. All that is being suggested here is that the church take precautions and protect her most vulnerable members as we come back to the church campus. In time this will pass and a vaccine will be introduced. And by the way, the media has not influenced this post, but conversations with highly regarded church leaders from around the country have. That’s what leaders do, they lead and see the future before others do. I hope your church takes some level of precaution and that you are all safe.

      • Great reply Ken. We’ve already lost people in our church due to the virus and others have family members who have been sickened by it but recovered. I have no doubt the precautions being suggested here are vital. This isn’t about money, it’s about life. I shudder to think about what would have happened if we were still meeting in church and how many people would have been sickened and even died because they were in the pews among people who were carrying the virus and did not know.

    • You might want to look at the facts closer involving this virus. We have surpassed the normal death rate of regular seasonal flu and also the normal infection rate of it. Seasonal flu covers a time span of about 7 months a year. Covid-19 has done this in less than three months. I have to wonder how many will have been sickened and how many will have died after we reach the same time frame as flu!?

    • While this hasn’t been in our lifetime, the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 did lead to similar measures including the suspension of worship services, social distancing, etc.

      • Mike, we’ve taken a look at the annual reports before, during, and after the Spanish Flu and discovered that there was a resurgence in training and church attendance following the Spanish Flu. We are hopeful that history will repeat itself

  36. Thought provoking! Very good questions each church should consider. One thing I wonder is if there will be a person sanitizing the ball point pens that we have attached to each and every chair in front of us. We have 3 large services and I have thought about this in the past because I go to the third service and have wonder if the 2 people ahead of me might have been sick when they used the pen I am now picking up and using. I am 72 and will probably continue online services after they open the churches, at least for a little bit longer time. Thank you for your words. I will definitely be sharing them.

    • Janda, what a great question you ask! Others will wonder the same thing. Maybe it’s time to remove the pens? Who knows. I believe people will have a hightened awareness of where germs may be living.

    • I’m 62, and my wife has multiple health problems. We’ve decided it’s probably going to be a very long time before we attend live worship again. One thing I’ve wondered about is the possibility of perhaps more one-on-one spiritual direction being a way for more people to move forward.

  37. I certainly hope that we’re gradually able to resume our fellowship, meeting greeting times etc. they’re an important part of our Church community. Especially for seniors as many have their Church as their primary social time with friends. But yes, we need be careful of just diving in as before .

    • Hey Vic, I agree with you. Let’s come back together as we should, but be mindful of our most vulnerable members as we do. Blessings, brother!

  38. Ken, thank you for this insightful and timely article. Our church will certainly look different when we come back together, and we don’t have all the answers now. And some of your questions have created more questions in my mind. But through faith and trust in Him who knows all things and holds all things, I am confident that He will provide wisdom and answers as we need them. I pray that I am submissive enough to follow His wisdom. Thank you again for your wisdom and insights.

    • Tom, thanks for your thoughts – I totally agree that we should be thinking and planning to act, but not out of fear, but wisdom and discernment. Every church will have to decide what is best for them, and we will all learn from one another. Who has ever faced this kind of thing?! Blessings, brother.

  39. This is a great list; thank you for putting it together.
    However, I do think Item #5 should be omitted. This is an unnecessary task with the only benefit of possibly making you “feel” more safe. The virus does not last for weeks on upholstery, carpets, toys, floors, and metals etc. Most churches have been closed that long. Certainly, cleaning and disinfection will need to be done after the buildings are reopened. But why add another task when it is unnecessary?

    Also, I strongly agree that churches should not abandon digital/online formats. For those that are chronically ill, or those that cannot get out, this has given them so many other options. I have heard this from numerous people. They are thrilled to see the many avenues of worship enter “their world”. And they don’t want it to go away. Thanks again. What a great resource!

    • Hello Ron! Good to hear from you. And welcome back to the Nashville area. Let me know if I can do anything to serve you, my friend. Let’s hope the church’s return to the building is done safely and with thoughtfulness so that people’s lives are not put at risk, especially our older members and people with underlying health conditions. Blessings!

    • Michael, thanks for commenting. I think as the church returns to the building initially, which is what the post is about, greeting may have to change for a while….but I believe we can still greet people and be friendly and welcoming. We are going to modify that at my church for a time. Appreciate your thoughts!

  40. We also must consider what are best practices for groups such as Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. Camping usually results in two people in close quarters in tents. Many activities on camping trips involve groups of children working on a common project.

    I do like the idea of everyone coming forward to put their offering in a container at the front of the church. This eliminates the problems of multiple people handling the collection plates. We do this in our smaller contemporary service and it works well.
    .

  41. All of this makes sense IF you think what we are doing with this social distancing. I happen to think that all it is doing is slowing the infections to save hospitals and o think we are beyond the question now. We are not going to overrun hospitals so with caution and anyone obviously sick stay home we can resume worship pretty much as before. I get so tired of this “ it will never go back to what it was “. Why?? We weren’t doing anything wrong but if told often enough a lot of people will believe it. I’ve even heard we will never shake hands again— what —- how many epidemics and pandemic have been in history and we shake hands. Anyone think that will stop the next one????

    • Hey Rocky, thanks for sharing. I believe we will see a lot of caution at first, but in time we will relax our guard, shake hands, hug, and get back to what we all call “normal” – it will just take some time to make sure we do what we can to protect the most vulnerable among us

  42. What about cherished traditions…we are close to the Czech Festival and for years have made hundreds of kolaches to sell. Obviously, we are pretty Cody in certain areas of our kitchen (and it’s good size!). Or our Methodist men have done a Groundhog dinner since 1965. Both of these are a large portion of our mission giving! If we can’t do these…where does that put our church financially? Hard decisions!

    • Gwen, those are some hard questions to answer. Hopefully some physical distancing, hand washing, and masks may allow some sense of normalcy so that events like this might go forward. Praying for your church. I believe God will provide for your church’s needs. If not in a traditional way, then in some new work!

  43. A lot of great questions. Our staff and parish pastoral council haven’t spoken about this yet but we will be (electronically) in the near future.

  44. I think it’s best, for at least the short term, to embrace the need for social distancing to keep our more vulnerable safe, and to avoid our churches becoming coronavirus clusters.

    We are people of God, and our ministers have a responsibility to those whom God put in their care. Our expertise is in Christ, and Christ’s mission, spiritual gifts, compassion and empathy.

    This, however, is a public health crisis. We will do best for our members if we listen to the experts, the epidemiologists who have the medical training to know how to handle a pandemic.

    So, I encourage us to not think of putting Christ’s mission on hold, but instead to find ways to be as effective as possible and grow and be vibrant even while maintaining medical precautions.

    For now, start by assuming that close contact will result in the death of vulnerable members. That might prove to be overly conservative, but do we really want to be wrong about that?

    In-person services will need to wait, and at larger churches probably until a vaccine has been developed and nearly everyone has been vaccinated. It would be unsafe to be physically close to others for a prolonged period, even with masks. At churches with a smaller membership but a larger physical space, it may be possible to resume services. Again, rely on actual medical experts, but they may say that even six feet is too close to be in a space with hundreds of others for a prolonged period.

    The common cup, likewise. Baptism by immersion, if it’s a theological issue rather than an issue of common practice, may need to be done individually. If your church’s theology and teaching accept baptism by pouring, then with fresh water for each person and distancing, baptism is still possible.

    It will be different. But Christ is not easily stopped. We can be the Body of Christ without saying that it must be as it was. Remote teaching, Bible study and prayer groups by Zoom, live streamed worship… We have the ability to provide deep, meaningful engagement without putting people at risk.

  45. Ken, I had started a list before a friend shared this article with me. I am grateful for it and will be answering each question. One area I want to explore with my congregation (we are a small congregation of about 50) is what will have to happen for them to feel safe in a “group” environment. That answer may impact some of the decisions that are made. We are looking at using Fellowship Hall for our worship space because it has chairs rather than pews allowing for flexible spacing in the room. I am blessed to have a friend who deals regularly with governmental officials here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and who has been invaluable; in addition to a supportive board of trustees who have encouraged me every step of the way as we have together navigated through this COVID-19 season. Thanks for a great list of questions.

  46. Thanks for taking the time to think through all of these issues and format them into categories. Very helpful and much to think about. However, there are a couple that we probably don’t need to consider.

    #5 – By the time we will meet in our buildings again, the COVID-19 virus virions will have died. I think that is the case for other viruses, germs, and bacteria, too. But this season when the buildings are closed would be a great opportunity to deep clean, paint, and purge.

    #20 – Addictions are likely on the rise, but the increase in the amount of alcohol purchased since stay-home restrictions began isn’t a useful figure on its own since bars are closed. Is total consumption actually up, or are people simply drinking at home instead of in a bar?

    Finally, I actually have a solution for #19 (100 people touching the offering plate.) When I was little we went to a liturgical church and the offering was collected in baskets with long handles on them. Ushers were able to reach the middle of the rows without people in the congregation touching the baskets!

    Thanks! Very helpful!

  47. Hi, this is a very interesting article. There is a great work to be done, some more so than others. So this tells me that we need to get started as soon as possible. We appreciate you sending it out. I hope our church members read it and agree we have a great need to consider and we all respond.

    • Hello Rena. Yes, I think we start thinking through the list and that church leaders and congregation members decide what steps they will take. My church staff (i serve part time because of my full time job) is deciding some of that this week so we can be better prepared to create as safe an environment as possible

  48. It makes me wonder if there will be a significant increase in the number of full-time pastors that will have to transition to bivocational ministry because of financial considerations for the church and how many of the churches will navigate that change when it comes on top of everything else.

    • Kurt, I think the answer is yes. Here in Tennessee our state convention leaders tell us that 90% of churches have bi-vo pastors. Because of the coming financial challenges (it really hasn’t hit yet) I believe some full time pastors will become bi-vocational ones. My small church doesn’t have a large financial reserve and at least one of the two full time pastors has already begun planning to be bi-vocational if things go south

      • It will likely be a challenging transition for many of those churches, especially if they haven’t had a bivocational in many, many years, if ever.

      • How is it ok for pastor’s to work secular jobs, but somehow to dangerous to pastor a church. You have not thought this through, we need to be positive and encouraging to people rather than fearful and unbelieving. I can hear Jesus now, O ye of little faith. If I can go to walmart I can go to church.

        • Ken you missed my point, sir. It’s not that I or others have little faith. It’s about us using the common sense God has given to us. Churches will reopen. What I am suggesting is that every church and its leaders must decide how they will protect the most vulnerable members, and what level of risk abatement they will pursue. It isn’t a lack of faith to act with prudence

        • Ken,
          I think a pastor’s heart will first be with his flock, but I see the need for bi-vocational pastors being a result of much smaller financial resources/donations, not out of fear of going to church. A pastor has to make a living. It really will depend on the size and wealth of the congregation. Those who may be recently unemployed will need the church but may not be in a position to support it. Many churches in other countries have seen this happen already, even before COVID 19.

        • Andrea, well said. Here in my state (Tennessee) they tell us that over 90% of our churches have bi-vocational pastors. That blew me away when I heard it

    • Great food for thought !!! I also sing in the choir. In my church( in the ( Sanctuary) the congregation is mostly the elderly. Also with health issues, Also I sing in the choir When will we ever be able to feel safe. We are all victims. of everything always. What should we so?

      • Onalee, thanks for your reply to the blog post. Elderly congregations are facing special challenges, no doubt. All we can do is to make wise choices and trust God for protection. This won’t last forever, and a vaccine will be created. Pray for scientists to discover it. Ask God for wisdom to know what steps your church should take. Thanks for your reply!

  49. We are currently a church plant and meet at a local elementary school. I’m not sure what our plans will be going forward. We have recently acquired a building but it needs a lot of renovation. Definitely creates some challenges but God knew this before we started and we have an amazingly dedicated church family that will see this through!

  50. Ken, those are some really good thoughts to ponder.
    You may have covered it, but I don’t recall seeing an exit plan after the service.
    We are a smaller congregation, around 100 members.
    However, dismissal at the end of the service needs to be considered. The majority exit the pews via the center aisle to head out which creates a bottleneck of members shoulder to shoulder exiting the sanctuary.
    Do we need to dismiss a row at a time as you sometimes do at a wedding to give everyone space to self distance?
    Something to consider.

    • Ken, that’s such a good point! Wow. Appreciate your forethought on this. I had not considered the exit plan

    • Yes, I was thinking the same thing while I was reading this. At my Church they like to congregate at the back and talk. I was thinking maybe having a couple of your deacons dismiss by pew or row. Also on the offering, it could be done after the service and if you have a couple more deacons holding the plates as they leave. Just some thoughts I had on those two categories.

    • I went to church some time back feeling ill. We were supposed to put together goodie bags after church to give away at a school. I felt so bad, I went out to the car and took a nap until my family came out. I went to the doctor that Monday. I had the flu. Even before that, a father came to church one day. I asked where his wife and kids were after I shook his hand. The youngest, he said, was getting over the flu. Great. The following week, I came down with a fever.

  51. Just as stores are providing one way traffic in the aisles, this might be a consideration and exit doors for specific sections of the worship areas. Also, maybe specific areas reserved for seniors of the congregation for their protection.

    • I hadn’t considered this, Cheryl…thanks for your thoughts. One-way traffic may be a good temporary practice

  52. Thanks for the article as it does provide good questions and things to consider. Some of these questions we have asked while many we will start to ask now. One thing to consider is the idea of opening with worship only. Depending on the state the opening will be in stages of 10, 50, 100+ much like the closing. If that is the case why not start with Sunday School/Small Groups meeting and wait on worship services. If we as a church are to focus on training, equipping, teaching, and discipleship those things typically happen in a small group setting. Yes, the groups will need to be smaller and space considerations addressed. But is it safer to have a group of ten in an enclosed room spread out or 100+ in a closed room spread out? Something to consider. I see this as an opportunity to refocus on small groups and as you pointed out it will have to be in a different way. Thanks for the article and the questions.

    • Michael, thanks for your excellent thoughts. So many unknowns at this time. I know that God will guide His church to make the right decisions. It won’t be forever, but if we can be more ready for the return to the church building, I believe we will save lives.

  53. this appears to be a very comprehensive list…thank you. As the leader of a pre school program I would like to share this with our staff…can you give me permission to copy this article for private use only?

  54. These are all good questions but there are no suggestions as to how to handle these issues. Too much negative to be honest.

    • Janes, glad you read the post. I have not been overly prescriptive because every church will have to decide how it will handle these issues…no 2 will be the same. And the post is not being perceived as negative, but as a proactive way to create discussions so that congregants are not put in harm’s way when we return to the building. Be safe!

  55. As a pastor’s wife, it has been my experience that “COVID-Pastoring” has kept us far busier and has been far more work than our prior pastoring style. I’m not sure how my husband would have time to return to a bi-vocational style of church leadership. He’s now the audio/visual department as we shelter at home in addition to shepherding.
    As I read this list of items to ponder, I wonder if we will be able to take a few queues from similar places that gather in our region such as preschools, theatres, high school choirs, etc? Here in Canada, these venues are august in the eyes of our society.

    • Deanna, thanks for posting your comment! I have no doubt that you and your husband are tremendously busy in these days. I cannot imagine what the church world might look like if we didn’t have the technologies we do. As for taking queues from other places, absolutely! They can help inform us of best practices. Some readers have accused me of stirring the pot and causing paranoia, but if we don’t think about these issues now, make preparations today, and create as safe an environment as we can, some of our most vulnerable members will be put in harm’s way. Thanks for your well-articulated thoughts!!

    • Peggy, that’s a great one. We need to think that through. This whole thing just leads to more questions! I appreciate your thoughtful response.

  56. Consider also: Churches that have any kind of food service, funeral dinners, wedding receptions, sports programs, or transportation ministries. I hope this calls us all to deeper prayer in that our churches will return to be called a house of prayer.

    • Tremendous, excellent thoughts, Jerry. My small church has all of those things you mentioned. Wow. Lots more to think about.

  57. I am a pastor of a very small rural church (about 25-30 on Sunday morning). We are located in a town with a population of about 160. The population of our county is less than 3,000. The next nearest church of any type is about 10 miles away, as is the school. The main building of our church is over 100 years old with the main part of the sanctuary having screwed down pews. Our congregation is an aging congregation. There is only one person under 39 that regularly attends. Nearly all are 65 or older (my wife and I are both 62). Online services are not practical as a good portion of our attendees do not have computers, and/or may not do facebook. I have been trying to keep in contact by phone with some of the attendees and by sending out a weekly letter (most are sent out the old fashion way by USPS) with some thoughts from the Bible. I am not sure what changes we will make from normal when we restart services. So far there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in our county nor in the counties to the east and west of us. If that remains true, we may just start up things like they were before.

    • Mark, thank you for your comments and for letting us know about your church. I imagine this is fairly typical of many rural churches. I am praying for you as you lead your people

  58. I am the Children’s Minister and my hope is to do VBS in October instead of Fall Festival. It will save so much money as these are the two biggest events our church does. And also I’ve already taken a team to LifeWay’s VBS training AND we have bought all the curriculum and decorations!

    Second thought, and I think someone else said this, I don’t see how it is possible to hold kids Sunday School classes and such while the schools are still closed. All the guidelines given by the president and our governor show schools opening way down the list of reopenings.

    Awesome article, thanks!

    • Great thoughts! Thank you for sharing with all of us. I had not thought about swapping Fall Festival for VBS! Great alternative

    • I believe so. Perhaps a team could run through the worship center and wipe things down. Same thing for other surface areas around the church. Hard to believe we are actually having to talk about this!

  59. Mandi – this is good stuff. If you think it appropriate/ helpful you might want to forward it to Rick….

  60. These are great questions and they will surely help churches (and other religions) to ask even more questions. I hadn’t even thought about VBS! My goodness. I passed this on to my minister. I appreciate your thoughts. I told my minister that whenever the time comes that we can all be together again, I hope the first song is “When we all get to heaven,” because I’ve been singing it in my mind. I sometimes change the words to say, “When we all get together!” We must remember that many churches are aging congregations and we must protect our elders. We must think of them before we rush to the pews. Take a moment to think, “would I be ok with my grandparent(s) going there or doing that?” Blessing to you and to all who read this.

  61. Thank you so much for this thoughtful article. We like other churches are wrestling with everything you mentioned. One thing I don’t think was mentioned is hymnals. Should we put them away and go to slides only? Do they need to be cleaned?

    Chris Booker
    Praise and Worship leader
    Hunt United Methodists Church
    Hunt, Tx

    • Hey Chris….aaahhhh…a fellow Texan (I’m from Arlington). The hymnals would most likely need to be wiped down…the safer play is to temporarily remove them.

  62. Is God scattering the church? Interesting, not one growing vibrant church had any of these questions in their radar for the future plans. I think we might want to open our ears and seek a “new” Word from God about the church being the body of Christ in our current culture. Perhaps we were on the wrong path all along…

    • George, I have said in another blog post that we are literally experiencing the second great diaspora of the church. 4 weeks ago almost no church was broadcasting online or holding online Bible groups. God may use this pandemic to squeeze us out of our campuses and into cyberspace. I hear daily stories (I led a webinar earlier today for Pacific Rim churches) of churches that are reaching many new people. They are seeing worship and group numbers soar. The Great Commission begins with “go,” which is rendered “as you go” in Greek. So now we are doing that in new ways. Maybe just one of the good things coming out of this

      • I believe God has been urging the the Ecclesia to participate in home studies and fellowships for a good while now. Many churches have “dipped into it,” but God wants the walls to come down… not just practice programmed exercises in our homes or elsewhere, but get to know each other, pray together for each other and invite friends and neighbors to join us.

        Around 10 years ago, my sister and I planned monthly parties over a period of several months. Some parties had a food and decor theme, like Mexican, Hawaiian, holiday or just pot luck. Just being who we were, someone would suggest a sing along, and casually,,we began to sing whatever guests suggested. This usually merged into prayer.

        People gathered, chatting, in groups of 2 or 3, encouraging and each other. People who hgad been hurt in organized church were among our most faithful guests. Because it wasn’t called “church” there were no rules, expectations or judgment.

        At one point, circumstances led us to discontinue, but I’ve had the strongest sense that at some point believers may meet as “book clubs,” “dinner clubs,” or potluck groups rather than something called “church.” We ARE the church.

        It could be that such a time is approaching, or already dawning. This doesn’t necessarily solve sanitation or social distancing issues, though each small group would be exposed to far fewer people than in a larger class or congregation.

        If worst camect to worst and building were not affordable, connected fellowships could still meet on a larger scale in a public place or park… if leaders felt it was necessary. Or group leaders could meet for prayer and support.

        I know this is long. I’ll likely clean it up and post it on my website, but I felt this a forum where it might be a catalyst for prayerful thought and spark other ideas.

        I thank you for your article. It blesses me to see people taking on reality in a positive way. It often takes crisis to crwck our shells of habit and tradition, then we can be amazed at how God brings us to life in a Spirit led, world changing dynamic!

        • Robyn, this was well-said. I believe like you, that the church is experiencing a second great diaspora. The first one sent it scrambling out of Jerusalem in Acts 8. This one is sending us online and will lead to more groups meeting on days besides Sunday, and in places besides the church building. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

  63. Your article is well done and very realistic. A couple of my thoughts…
    As handshaking is such an automatic response for meeting someone (whether in church or elsewhere, and especially in the south), AND one of the #1 ways of spreading germs, it seems that church leaders should be very proactive in discouraging this practice among congregants. Obviously, the idea of no handshaking won’t sit well with many, so there needs to be a clear and polite way for a person to communicate with others that he/she has chosen to refrain from this practice. For an alternative to handshaking to be effective, it is imperative that it start with the top leadership of the church and be introduced in a positive manner. There are several good suggestions online for alternate methods of greeting, depending on the personality and preferences of individual church bodies.
    My last thought is a strong suggestion that touch-free hand sanitizer dispensers be placed at strategic locations around the church building…then highly advertised and promoted.
    Thanks for the great ideas and the opportunity to add more.

    • Rhonda, you are so right. Church leaders must set and initiate examples of good interpersonal contact. Churches could have some “fun” with this and introduce a new way to greet one another that is unique to their church. I’m personally hoping that Mr. Spock’s Vulcan hand greeting takes hold at my church…I learned to split my fingers and do that greeting years ago. 🙂

      You’re also right about hand sanitizing stations. And do we come back wearing masks initially? So much to think through

  64. I would add- how is your church equipping parents to have family worship together and how are parents be equipped to train and disciple their children at home?

  65. Thanks for this insightful article! As churches begin planning for return to church buildings, we will also need to consider how we will conduct ministry beyond the church walls, i.e. visits to sick and shut-in whether at homes, hospitals, or nursing homes? Also, our church has a van for picking up seniors form their homes for church services. I think we will have to consider if and how we resume this service in light of social distancing. If the van is even half full, I don’t know if there would be enough distance between the passengers.

  66. So glad I found this as we are having similar conversations. While logic dictates small groups and classes first because they are smaller than larger corporate worship. So many classes couldn’t meet in their current space and have adequate social distancing, plus all that passing one another in hallways, corporate worship seems easier. Plus that’s so many surfaces to keep clean. I’m suggesting no tables in our rooms it’s easier to spread chairs. How will people respond to asking them to wear masks if we can’t insure social distancing? So many questions on how to come together safely. We will continue to have a robust online presence.

  67. For those churches who elect to have multiple services, how are you going to be able to clean the entire church in the short time you will have between services?

    • Becky, that’s a practical question. Schedules may need to be altered as we go back to the building to allow for a quick cleaning between services. Thanks for asking about this. Challenging.

  68. We have a special needs ministry (Joyful Praise) for the emotionally challenged. I am wondering what that class looks like when we return? Some of them will not comprehend social distancing. One of the guys is a compulsive handshaker. Wow… this is going to be hard for him.

    One thing that is on my list, I call it a “high-risk room” like an overflow room but for the high-risk, or early service is the high-risk service. (like some of the stores have first hour for seniors.) it provides space for social distancing, anyone in the room must have a mask, must use hand sanitizer station at the door. temp check before entry, no touch offering and communion.

    One more item on my list, as a Security Director in the Motor City, (Yes, we rank high on the list you don’t want to be on.) what is my Safety Team doing with someone who starts coughing? Could be a dry throat, could be an intentional disruption, could be COVID. I’m thinking ask them to step out and temp check them, get them some water… let them go back in if temp check is good?? If temp check is bad, document who was around them so maybe the whole church is not forced to quarantine.

    • Ron, these are great questions you’ve asked. I had not thought about security issues nor special needs ministry participants. Thanks for sharing these with us

  69. Thank you very much for this very timely set of questions. With the ones presented, as we move into this reality, other questions or challenges will emerge. As the lead pastor for my church, we have been in strategy sessions in anticipation of the day we return to the campus. In addition to the global needs with reopening, as it was mentioned in an earlier reply, we also are focusing on the critical issues relative to our large senior population and how we can continue to minister/connect with them while they consider when it will be safe for them to return physically – if ever – to the church.

  70. Our church has about 25 full time attendees. 75% are elderly. Our online service has been very popular. ..with about 45 in attendance. But some of our elderly do not have online capabilities. Any recommendations?

    • Hello Sheila. Thanks for your comment. There isn’t an easy answer to this! Some churches are recording their service and mailing a CD to older members. Others have deacons contact their elderly members and pray with them and maintain contact (not an answer for how they might view worship, though)

      • If they are older and do not have online capability there is a likelihood that they won’t have the ability to play CDs

        • That may indeed be true. A church could provide a player for each home. They’ve dropped in price to $25

  71. Ken, Thank you for this really necessary “food for thought.” I have no suggestions at this time. But, our Vestry is meeting tonight (Zoom) and this hits right one of our agenda items. Like many my church is on the elderly side (I am too), and I worry about many of them returning before there is a vaccine and good recovery meds. I will say that our attendance is up on Zoom, so that will probably be a platform we will be using going forward, esp. for those who are sick, or shut-ins, or traveling. But, everyone hungers to be together again. And, the Good Lord willing along with the common sense the the Lord has given us . . . .

    • George, thank you for your carefully crafted reply! There are so many unknowns right now, but churches I talk to are erring on the conservative side. Mine will, too. As leaders we are shepherds of God’s people, and one job of shepherds is to protect the sheep. Time to use that rod and staff! I hope all goes well in your meeting tonight, sir.

  72. Everything I’ve read from your article is of serious consideration. At my church we have made adjustment and more will be made. It’s no longer business as usual.

    • Thanks, Arie. My church is about to work through the list and decide what level of risk we are comfortable with. It will surely be a church-by-church decision. Thanks for your comment!

  73. Maybe Christ wants us to do some ‘house cleaning’…. Like His cleansing of the Temple…. back to focusing on being a House of Prayer instead of a place for socializing.

  74. Reading this article, I can’t help but want to cry. I feel my joy is robbed. My peace is shaken. My soul longs for every aspect the church body affords. Many speak of social-distancing these days, I can’t help but wonder how one speaks of it with such ease and eloquence? My perspective is darkened; will I ever be able to step foot into my Father’s house without the list of “dos and don’ts?”

    • D.D., thank you for baring you’re soul. You’ve articulated your position well. It is sad that we cannot meet with our reindeer and fellow church members, but it’s not forever…it’s just for a short while. In the midst of this pandemic, God is moving. The church is teaching and reaching more people than ever. The church moved online in less than 2 weeks and has a new medium for telling the Gospel. Any list of do’s and don’ts will only be designed to preserve life and to help our most vulnerable members until this passes. Be encouraged. God is still our Father. He has our best interests at heart at all times. He strongly supports those who trust Him. It’s a good day. We will be the people who see the church evolve in ways it hasn’t up to this point. I’m glad we are leading. God has placed us in our churches “for such a time as this.” I just prayed for you. May God’s peace, comfort, and presence be felt by you in new ways this week. Thanks for your time to comment about the post!

    • Hello Julie…of course…my church’s leadership team is going to go through them one by one this weekend. I hope they help generate good conversations about the steps your church might want to take

  75. Thanks for capturing and articulating some the issues we have under consideration and others we had not identified. For us, everything has changed and as the lead pastor for our church, the paradigm shift begins with me, the pastoral staff, leadership team, keeping in mind our stewardship in shepherding God’s people during this critical time. Digital church meetings, small groups, alternative avenues for connectivity, dealing with how to engage our senior population and underserved population with technology is a new dynamic in terms of how we will serve. With the challenges COVId-19 brings to the body of Christ comes great opportunity and excitement for Christian service in the days to come. Thanks again – sharing with my team and colleagues!

  76. My reply is simply wait and move slowly. I pastor a small membership congregation. Currently our reopen plan is based on the following:
    *we are complying with current CDC guidelines
    * As a team led church we are using available digital resources; we are sharing everything we can safely in and our community
    *engaging everyone’s gifts/graces
    *weekly contact tree so everyone knows what is happening and it will continue as we reopen
    *our approach is to look and listen and then respond
    *

  77. These are good questions. But on the flip side, over reaction can cause as much harm or more.
    This to shall pass and is nothing that has not occurred (Spanish Flu). I assume life mostly returned to normal after some time had passed.
    And although “meeting” online is helpful in a pinch it can not and should not replace worship with others.
    Pandemics do pass and they have passed. Let’s not react like a world that does not place our hope in Jesus.

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree that overreaction isn’t healthy; neither is the other extreme. Hopefully churches will find the right balance as we come back into the building

  78. Excellent article on the challenges for churches in what will become our “new normal” in the future. Another example of an area of concern is in the morning worship services that include a “children’s sermon” as a part of worship. Additionally, the internal day to day workings of the church and staff will have to be considered. All the operational aspects of shepherding a flock (communications, connections, and publishing) will need caveats/procedures for employees and volunteers. (Do we use no contact deliveries?).
    So many detail things to think about in keeping everyone safe and in being able to trace and quarantine any kind of small outbreak. Unfortunately, this is not over in the short term. Fortunately, we have God on our side as we are all “children of God.” That is a blessed connection.

  79. As I read this and it’s comments I came to realize how different each church is in how it functions and what needs it has. One comment that might be helpful to some pertains to your suggestion of an initial “wipe down”. I see it won’t hurt anything and our house of worship should be clean, but if no one has been inside (and you’re positive of ) there should be no great risk without the “wipe down”. Our doors have been closed for six weeks already and no where have I read that the virus can last much over two weeks. Yes, special attention could be used between the services especially in the beginning. That’s my opinion. As a deacon I will be brought into discussion over many of the items you’ve covered and thank you for provoking thought and prayer. Our church is a large (125-150) rural church in a rural area unaffected by any actual outbreak nearby. Our church is our community and I’m struggling with the need for us to tightly commune versus exposure to our high risk members. It appears we’re all weighing risks but let’s not lose sight of how important prayer is in our decisions. God Bless

  80. I am curious as to why no mention has been made of a choice of the parking lot or ‘drive in’ (?) worship service; one inconvenience of this may be the rest Room or bath room issue…

    • Daisy, that had not occurred to me as an option for a time when we can be back in our buildings. Some churches have used that method now, and some states have made them illegal

  81. […] Last, we need to be thinking about how we will come out of this—because we will not be the same. You know this. Let’s not miss the learning opportunity in this moment. We are better together. We are in one household of God—what happens to you happens to me. I suggest reading an article like this one: https://kenbraddy.com/2020/04/18/20-questions-your-church-should-answer-before-people-return/ […]

  82. I would add, “How are you planning to make your facility available for other local churches that are portable and may be restricted from meeting in a local school or theater?”

  83. I’d add, “How will you use your church facility to help portable churches in your area that aren’t able to meet in their school or theater?”

  84. The biggest problem I see is that NO ONE is safe until there is a vaccine. You can have all of these wonderful plans for reopening the church doors, but as soon as one asymptomatic person enters the building, it’s over. (That happened in a restaurant in Wuhan.) Someone sits two pews behind me. They’re asymptomatic or have it and don’t know it. They sneeze. Now I have it. Someone walks down the aisle as they exit the church. The persons behind them are breathing the same air as the person in front of them.

    A friend of mine is a pulmonologist at Baylor Scott & White in Plano. She believes that we are moving too fast too soon, that there’s a willingness to “sacrifice” our most vulnerable populations in order to “return to normal ASAP,” and that there will be 2nd and 3rd waves. I strongly agree. With no built-up immunities and no vaccines, why wouldn’t there be additional outbreaks? She has a colleague who is a doctor in Singapore. He says that even with the correct PPE, adequate testing, etc., they’re on their 3rd wave… and each wave has been worse than the one before it.

    I don’t care what the president and governors determine to be acceptable, churches need to think long and hard before letting ANYONE through the doors. We have older and very vulnerable seniors who WILL come if the church opens. It’s the way they were brought up: if the church doors are open, I attend.

    As John Wesley said, “do no harm.”

  85. Hi Ken good morning. Thanks for sharing those questions. I think we should also think about those persons invluding Pastors who have recovered from the virus and how they will be treated by congregants.

    • Ula, that’s a good thought. Hopefully any pastor who had COVID-19 will be supported by the congregation. Members who had it may be treated differently…possibly avoided or ostracized because of a fear of being contaminated by them. That’s a good insight you’ve raised.

  86. Good questions, elders and minister meeting today (on line) to discuss our options. Thanks for your help. Will forward any advice that we believe might be appropriate to consider.

    • Larry, I’m glad these questions may help frame up conversations at your church. I’m releasing an additional set tomorrow on the blog at 10AM CST.

  87. Thank you for writing this. It has many great things to think about and consider. Another thing to address is singing together. The attached study shows the virus is spread through large water droplets through activities like singing. Singing is such a predominant activity is our services, that I think it is very important for church to consider what they will do to avoid transmission in this way. Thank you!
    https://quillette.com/2020/04/23/covid-19-superspreader-events-in-28-countries-critical-patterns-and-lessons/

  88. Good afternoon: I think these your list is a great start! I am an RN and I am greatly concerned about the unknown issues of this virus, including what the future will hold, will it rebound, just go away, etc. I am also coordinator for a small church. After two sessions, starting EAster, our small church (myself, pastor, music) has decided indefinitely to hold drive in church. For now we are using an outdoor mic system; we have ordered an fm transmittor to use in the days ahead as it gets hot. As a healthcare provider in the midst of this crisis, I find I need to protect others, protect my family, and protect myself. The thought of being with a crowd of people in any situation is daunting, unappealing to me. I can control myself; I cannot control others, particularly children. I also think, personally, this sets the church up for failure, children are immature and don’t understand, they act impulsively at times. From my perspective, this is a really risky venture with potentially dire consequences for a few. As far as children, VBS is on hold for a while, maybe all summer (it will keep until next year). My motto in 40 years of ministry has been: always err on the side of caution. I pick up children in vans; this is out for an indeterminate date. How do you keep children’s masks on, socially distanced and hands washed and teach a Bible story and do an activity (and then clean up every piece of whatever was used). I do not want the responsibility of oversiting children and keeping them well and do not want to be the cause of an outbreak. We will also continue to do prayer lists by messenger and personal updates. Do I miss my congregation: Yes! Ready to give all the children a hug; the young women I mentor a hug, and slap my men on the back with a you are doing great! It appears that will be a while to come.
    Again: thank you for getting this converstation started. It is not an easy one and the possible ramifications are huge. And yes, first and foremost, we need to be seeking God’s direction.
    Blessings,
    Anne Daub
    FBM Coordinator
    Brownwood, TX

    • Anne, thank you for being one of our frontline heroes. Bless you!! I appreciate your comments…so we’ll thought out

  89. I.m thinking of our Cadets at this time in lock down in The Salvation Army Training College for Officers,who would be getting Commisioned&sent2various posts. ie Corps(Church)or Social Service centres,i guess any movement will be near impossible,so where does that leave them in the August move?

  90. Ken, thank you for the thorough article and for being a gracious and thoughtful host of the robust conversation it has prompted here.

    The discussion of finances will continue to be vexing. An extremely pointed part of that discussion will be the fundamental financial practices of denominations with hierarchical structures. For example, in The Episcopal Church, many of us have questioned the practice of large, multi-million-dollar General Conventions. And, to a slightly lesser extent, spending a couple of million each year to fund a diocesan operation does not seem like good stewardship even in the best of economic times.

    In both of these cases — the national and diocesan levels — there is always excess administrative baggage, and a lot of non-productive and even counterproductive busywork that looks important but that doesn’t really help the parishes or members.

    The current crisis should provide an opportunity for us to take a hard look in the mirror and make some tough but necessary decisions about the “upward” flow of money.

    • Maria, thanks for your well-thought out reply! You’re right that we will all be thinking about how to be good stewards of the monies we have to fuel ministry

    • One area of ministry the church may want to consider is a Pastor of Inclusion. The point is showing people we care not just saying we care. The process of bringing everyone back begin developing a Culture of Inclusion. Building teams to keep in touch with the congregation will be important. Every area of ministry would build teams and be responsible for keeping in touch with their ministry group.

      Another area the Pastor of Inclusion can be a great asset would be developing teams among our seniors. Many of them may not be techies. We don’t want them slipping out the back door while we are returning people to the church building.

  91. Hno Galvan,
    I got this from Angela and Joel Jolly in Spain. You probably have addressed all these, but you might use these questions to review what you have already considered.
    -Minnie

  92. One question we are lconsidering, “Should we require masks to participate in our worship service?” Even with social distancing, masks are a medi al necessity to protect others.

  93. Great questions… our church before Covid-19 normally worshiped 75-80 people. We have been worshiping w/ the 10 (or so) in attendance and live-streaming. Offering plates are left in Narthex for giving, before, after or during the week. I (we are) am certain that we had members with this virus in November/December so maybe a herd immunity for many already built up. Regular wiping down of door handles, etc. will continue. For most part our people do not come if they are sick to begin with. We mail or email announcements, bulletins and children’s materials… When the shelter in place is lifted those who feel the most comfortable will be coming first and after the rest will come. We will, though, continue to develop our presentation technology for teaching and devotional opportunities online.

  94. Hello- I pastor a church in Asia- We recently reopened shortly before Easter after having to cancel for over 70 days… Here are some things we voluntarily did as a precaution:

    1) We have continued to stream our services online (We plan to phase the stream out in May since we’ve now been gathering for 5 weeks)…

    2) We did not have any children’s ministry- we will begin again when schools reopen here in mid-may

    3) we check everyone’s temperature and encourage those who are sick or who have been around others who are sick to stay home…

    4) Mask can be wore optionally within our gatherings…

    5) We do “fist-bumps” no handshakes and we have plenty of hand sanitizer on site…

    6) for communion we used disposable cups…

    7) We have adjusted our seating spacing to help separate people during the service…

    We continue to pray for all the churches that are being affected. We thank everyone who prayed for the churches in Asia.

  95. I am praying for church leaders worldwide. I pray God will be glorified, the message of Christ will be preached and many people will come to know Christ.
    You have asked some very difficult questions but God was not surprised by this. He will make a way. ❤️🙏Esther

  96. You talked about choirs but not congregational singing. There is a lot of research that suggests that congregational singing won’t be safe. There are churches that are talking about opening for worship with no singing, which seems almost unimaginably, but probably wise.

    • Hey Kathy, that has been mentioned in one of the two posts, or in the replies…can’t remember. And you are right, airborne particles will travel gatherer when we sing than when we talk. Our Tennessee governor is asking all congregations to wear masks when we come back. Seems prudent.

  97. Earlier someone mentioned the rise in addictions. Another issue is domestic violence and child abuse. The safe haven of school or a job is gone, There is added stress from confinement and financial losses. Reporting is down, but shelters are overflowing. Our shelter is paying for unused motel rooms to house victims. How are we responding to all this?

  98. […] It was another robust Sunday of worship yesterday as you again offered up powerful messages of hope and encouragement in this Eastertide. One pastor put it this way, “We are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” Over the weekend the Washington Post published an article entitled, “Faces of the Dead” which showed pictures of people who have perished from the coronavirus with a brief biography of these beautiful lives lost. It is indeed a Good Friday world. Which is why the church’s proclamation of resurrection life is such a needed word. Bless you for proclaiming life and contributing to life and bearing witness to life that is larger than death. Part of how we do that is to continue to observe physical distancing. Hear J. Herbert Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA, reflect on the church’s witness in this time. https://vimeo.com/408457194. Ken Braddy, a church consultant has put together a list of 24 Questions churches should be asking before easing in to opening back up their buildings. It’s a provocative list and I commend it to you. https://kenbraddy.com/2020/04/18/20-questions-your-church-should-answer-before-people-return/?fbclid… […]

  99. Thank you Ken for your through thoughtful list of questions we should be considering and for inviting additional input! I believe this represents a living example of the diverse parts of “the body of Christ” working together collaboratively! That will be a big part of what sees us through this and future difficult times. At a time of immense polarization in our nation and in the Church as well, I hope and pray that part of our preparation and approach to this situation will be to be reconciling and healing presence that Jesus showed us in His life and teaching and that the Holy Spirit empowers us to be at a time when enmity is enflamed, it seems, at every opportunity including regarding the whys and wherefores of this pandemic. I think, what I am getting at, is that, in addition to a highly contagious virus and rampaging physical illness we also have epidemics of fear and xenophobia leading to hatred that are, on one hand, a sickness that has seeped into the Church causing the various “members of the body” as the apostle Paul referred to them, to not function in concert with each other, while, at the same time, limiting or even counteracting the healing reconciling witness and outreach of the Church. May we open our individual and collective souls to God’s just and cleansing and healing presence so that we can truly bring honor to what it means to be the body of Christ in the world.

  100. Another question to add: How will the church care for its most at-risk members, who are confined to their homes during COVID-19? They have been isolated through the stay-at-home order but have had access to virtual community and worship. If churches go “back to normal,” how will we care for them? And how will we care for at-risk members who do not have reliable internet access?

    • This is a top of mind question that my church is trying to figure out! Our seniors have such challenges during this time of sequestering. I have heard of “porch preaching” – a deacon or staff member going by an older adult’s home and visiting 6 feet apart, praying for the person, sharing a devotional, and checking on them. I have heard of other churches taking DVDs by with a recording of the worship service. People are being creative, but there are big challenges.

  101. What would be your thoughts/protocol if someone in your congregation was found to have contracted COVID 19? How would you notify the congregation? Would you return to “virtual Church” for a period of time? Etc
    Thank you!

    • Hey Ross…great question. Here in Tennessee, Governor Lee has asked us to report any new case in our churches and a determination will be made about canceling future meetings for a time. If someone in my congregation was diagnosed, we would probably make a general announcement but would not disclose the name of the person because of privacy issues.

  102. Hi, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on a way to conduct fundraising events, such as church dinners and fairs. Are there safe ways to do them? These have become a big part of our yearly budget.

    • Melanie, I wish I could answer this question! My church tradition is that the members give financially through tithes and offerings and we don’t do fundraisers. Someone else may chime in with some thoughts, but I’d say to follow your governor’s guidelines or your mayor’s guidelines for larger gatherings.

  103. Should masks be worn upon entering and exiting the service?

    May masks be removed during worship provided the person remains in their seat safe distances from others?

    Currently yellow zone
    Thank you

    • Kittie, those are good questions and every church will respond differently based on their governor’s reopening guidelines plus the desires of the congregants. Because the virus is said to be turned into an aerosol form when we sing, masks are recommended so particles don’t travel up to 30 feet. My church is asking people to please wear a mask during the time on campus, at least for a short time.

  104. Thank you so much for these insights. Being among the “vulnerable” population, I am anxious about how our congregation will return to community worship. I’ve shared your blog to enhance the process. That is my prayer.

    • Thanks, Linda! My church reopens in 2 weeks. I hope your church provides you a safe way to worship on campus again.

  105. I was a bit put out by, “We have a short time to prepare for the return of the church to the church campus.” Seriously, you have as much time as you need to act with wisdom. Re-opening is not up to politicians, it is up to responsible leaders paying attention to the best advice available from medical and epidemiological experts. But thanks for the good discussion. The considerations apply to a wide range of activities and venues.

    • Greg, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The “short time to prepare” is the realization of two things taking place, and the “heat” that church leaders are facing right now. Issue #1 is that with the reopening of gyms, restaurants, hair and nail salons, and other close-quarters businesses, church members are putting pressure on church leaders to quickly reopen the church campus. Their reasoning is “IF these other businesses can reopen, why aren’t you reopening the church?” So church leaders do feel a “short runway” to reopen, but in a safe manner. Issue #2 is that as things change quickly now at the state level, some governors are surprising churches by suddenly relaxing guidelines that allow them to open again quickly, and pastors and other church leaders will find themselves with a short time to prepare to reopen safely. I agree with you that we have all the time we need to act responsibly toward our members and guests. Our members will think otherwise, so we have to help them understand why we might delay and take more time. Consistent communication, and communication that takes place often, will help members understand a pastor’s desire to go slower for the sake of his people. As shepherds, we are charged with caring for our sheep and for protecting them from harm. Hopefully people will understand if a pastor decides to wait a bit before reopening.

  106. Mr. Braddy, I attend a Baptist church in Tulsa that opened up a service for people 55 and above a few weeks ago that keeps social distancing. Next Sunday they will continue the first service for adults only with distancing, but then the second service will be for all the families with no distancing at all. Only the preschool ministry will be open which means all the other children will be with their family in the service. When streaming our pastor from this past Sunday he stated how excited he was about our church gathering again and that he hopes there will be “standing room only.” Our church has around 800 people so we are talking about a very crowded service when whole family’s are present. The pastor did state that if you’re not comfortable then to continue with streaming. This has created turmoil in our house as one of our son’s is very involved with the youth and wants to return to see his friends, but we will not attend the family service with no social distancing, and probably never will until a vaccine is made. How do we handle something like this? I don’t want to cause any trouble with our pastor but also don’t like what he is doing. Should we voice our feelings or just find a new church? Thank you for your thoughts on this.

    • Hello Anna. I am glad to hear that your son is excited to go back to church, but I understand your concerns. I encourage you to reach out to your pastor and share those concerns with him directly. You are a member of the church and a part of the body of Christ, and as a member of the church (which is a family….Scripture says we are members of God’s household) you should not feel bashful about sharing your concerns with your pastor, but do so with humility, respect for him/his position, and a desire to help him and your fellow members). You may raise a concern that he hasn’t considered yet.

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