The big difference and the big deal between physical and social distancing

On Saturday morning just two days ago, I released a blog post titled 20 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return. In one day, Saturday April 18, it had 72,000 views. By the end of the day on Sunday over 325,000 people had viewed the post. I’ve added a few more questions to the original 20 questions based on feedback from readers. These questions are the ones I’m thinking about as my church prepares for the return of our members. And it looks like many, many other church leaders are also having similar thoughts. We’re definitely in the boat together.

As we continue to have conversations about social distancing (the term that has been used widely up to this point), we need to sharpen our pencils and not use that term, or at least use it correctly. Social distancing is harmful to people. Social distancing isolates people, and that’s not a good thing. Even Scripture affirms that being alone is not preferable when it says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him” (Genesis 2:18, CSB).

Physical distancing is what we’re aiming for. People should keep six feet of space between them, wear masks, wash hands, and exercise good judgment and forego even larger family gatherings.

If we encourage “social distancing,” we’re advocating something that is very different from physical distancing. What the church needs is smart ways to practice physical distancing, but we need to be proactive in meeting people’s social needs by staying connected relationally and spiritually. Phone calls, text messages, Zoom meetings, and letters are just some ways to connect relationally. Online worship and group Bible studies are other ways to help people connect spiritually.

So going forward, let’s commit to practice physical distancing, but not social distancing. Care for one another, look out for neighbors and older adults who may be alone, and pray fervently that God brings an end to this pandemic.


  1. Thank you so much for these questions and thoughts to what might be some answers. Noting that one size doesn’t fit all. Our D. O. M. brought your questions list to my attention. Definitely some things I haven’t given any or enough thought to. Chris Nichols.

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