There are probably a few things in recent years that have caught more people more unprepared, and unable to deal with a turn of events than the COVID-19 pandemic. Making matters worse churches, which often serve as not only a comforting, but a unifying force for people during a crisis could not meet. Faced with COVID-19 and all the related restrictions and precautions, most people are finding themselves unable to get a respite from their churches without significant adjustments in their lives.
Let's face it: until March 2020, life was going along dandy until the COVID-19 virus reared its ugly head. Then, after the President declared a national emergency which included a "stay at home" order, nobody knew quite what to do. A few forward-looking churches took all of this in stride since, at least to a great extent, they already had the option of relying on online services to reach their congregants, and anyone else with an internet connection to tune in. For other churches, it was largely a matter of learning to fly by the seat of their pants with preaching online. There are benefits to being in this situation, however, since bringing services-; or just sermons-; online has the benefit of reaching more of the non-churched, such as those checking out Radiant Church for their spiritual fulfillment.
Just as with any option, there are drawbacks to this approach. Churches need to make adjustments to their standard way of doing things to prevent certain issues that result from people being away from the Church body, which is largely the point of being a church. What follows are 10 adjustments that any church can make during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Preaching, Not Entertainment
Judges have been leery of television cameras for years since they found that their mere presence made lawyers into actors. For the same reason also, pastors should be weary of cameras that might take their sermons from the realm of preaching into that of entertainment. This is a more mental change than anything, but it's still something.
2. Don't Forget the Congregation
Using the Internet and the masses it has the potential of reaching will often cause a pastor to forget that it's their immediate congregation that should be their primary audience, not just those beyond their usual Sunday morning faces. There is nothing wrong with trying to reach more than just the membership, but don't forget them at the same time.
3. Don't Forget that Preaching is a Prime Responsibly
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many pastors to take time away from their usual responsibilities to focus on unique methods of getting their message out. As a result, many pastors are tempted to allow those other responsibilities to go by the wayside to devote more time to devising methods to reach congregants in other ways. Remember that it's the message that pastors should focus on, not the method.
4. Let Congregants Function as Little Churches
In the past few years, many mega-churches have used the approach of the "little church" to serve as the personal touch of their church since personalization for thousands of people can be virtually impossible. The COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect opportunity to encourage small groups of congregants to meet as smaller groups where "social distancing" is easier for opportunities to worship.
5. Encouraging Interaction Without Meeting
At least for the time being, if meeting face to face is impossible, pastors could encourage their congregants to reach out via other forms of communications, such as telephone, Skype, and FaceTime, between themselves and their flocks.
6. More Planning Before Meeting
It is common for pastors of even the largest churches to be unaware of how many congregants are likely to attend services on any given Sunday. If a pastor can get an idea of the number of congregants, he is likely to have at a service, it might be possible to assemble an equitable seating arrangement for the expected service.
7. Clean and Disinfect
Before any meeting or service, pastors should make sure that the restrooms and meeting rooms of their church are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to minimize the chance of viral infections among those who use them. Many churches are requesting that their members use the restroom prior to arriving at church to prevent having to use facilities at all.
8. Use Facemasks
Require all church volunteers and staff members to wear facemasks whenever they come within six feet of others. A church should be able to provide anyone who arrives without a mask with non-medical facemasks. It should be impressed upon congregants and employees that there are stiff penalties such as fines and imprisonment for anyone found to be in violation of these orders.
9. Provide Pre-Service Invitations
For most churches, meetings are an item common to everyone. Congregants know when and where meetings will be held and where. Amid the COVID-19 restrictions, however, nobody is sure about whether they can hold meetings, much less when and where. To inform everyone, and to remind them of their responsibilities to others, meeting notices should include instructions on things such as social distancing guidelines. Encourage those who are ill or fall into groups vulnerable to stay home, but make sure there are ways for them to get the information provided at meetings.
10 Getting the Word Out
With all the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, it is critical that churches find alternative means of communicating with the members of their congregations. This means that not only should pastors ensure that the tools are available to reach members, but that members are made aware of the importance of reading those materials to make sure they know what is
happening in their church.
As experts continue to gain a greater understanding of the COVID-19 virus, the rules to social gatherings, including churches, will no doubt change. Fortunately, as long as churches and their members will adapt to these changes there can be little doubt that they will emerge as much the body of Christ as they were before this crisis, and perhaps even stronger.