States are reopening. Churches are starting to return to some form of in-person Sunday worship. Heck, some churches are already re-closing.
A lot of drama exists in the debate on when and how churches should reopen, or not.
If you’re like me, you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. You definitely want to be with people again, but don’t know how you feel about being in a building with a large group yet.
There are a ton of precautions churches and attendees will have to take to make it mostly safe for people to return.
Those precautions will fundamentally change everything about how we experience worship and community in the church.
Here’s what I mean…
A Sunday morning we don’t want or need
If churches are going to resume Sunday morning worship in a safe manner, several things will need to take place.
- Drastically ramp up cleaning and sanitization practices and frequency
- Purchase several sanitization stations and supplies
- An increase in the number of services with a decrease in max service capacity
- 1st come, 1st serve online ticketing
- A clear way to create space between attendees/families (taped off pews?)
- Suspend group singing for the foreseeable future
- Minimize or remove children’s ministry (kids don’t social distance)
- Persons over 65 might not be able to attend
- Persons with ongoing health issues can’t attend
- No communion
- No passing offering plates
- No passing attendance pads
- No greeting time
- Limited interaction of attendees before/after services
I could keep going.
While not every church will take all these precautions, most will need to be enacted to keep people safe.
Think about it.
- Few older people
- Few young families (no family is going to be able to restrain a child to the pew every week)
- No singing
- No communion
- Limited time/space to connect with others
- Everyone in masks
- Anyone not in a mask getting stares from everyone in masks
Who really wants to attend that kind of church anyway? Let alone the fact that there continues to be inherent risk in gathering people anywhere inside.
Until a vaccine is widely available and administered, this might be our reality.
Is it what we need?
No doubt. We need to gather. I want to gather. I need to gather.
I’m the guy who’s kids yell at him after church because they’re dying of starvation and Daddy won’t stop talking.
Often, I find myself turning out the sanctuary lights because I’ve realized I’m the only person left.
Still, I keep asking myself
- Do I need to gather at a certain time every Sunday morning with a hundred+ people right now?
- Do I need it for my spiritual health?
- Do I need it for my personal well-being?
- Is my presence more valuable there than elsewhere?
- Will my being there significantly benefit someone else and make it worth the risk for us both?
I’m having a hard time answering “yes” to any of those questions right now.
Church online has been awful
It’s not that church online is going particularly well for us. Our church is trying their best and doing well enough, but it’s not working for us. Our kids scream and yell the entire hour and make it impossible to have any clue as to what is happening on screen.
Last Sunday, I just went outside and sat on the step and finished my coffee in silence. That was more beneficial to my soul than trying to stick it out inside for worship on the big screen.
Still, I’m just not sure the church we’re going back to will be a church I want to attend.
Eventually, we’ll have a vaccine, and gathering will be more meaningful. Until then, I just don’t see it being worth the risk. That could change.
Does pushing Sundays take away from other activities?
Not long after all this pandemic nonsense began, we joined a weekly Wednesday night small group on Zoom.
I don’t typically get involved in small groups anymore. It’s just too hard to keep up. We’ve tried to join Sunday morning groups since we’re already at church, but inevitably as soon as we do, I get scheduled to work 5-weeks straight at other churches.
We tried Sunday afternoons for a while, but those were terrible because our kids had to miss nap, push back dinner, and get to bed late. That made Mondays terrible as well.
Our new Wednesday night Zoom group has been amazing. It starts at 8:30pm after our kids are asleep and only lasts an hour. I grab my favorite beer and sit down for a meaningful time with my wife and church friends.
I actually look forward to it!
Most people don’t make the commitment to do 2-hours every week at church. Statistically, the average Christian only attends church once every month or so.
Sunday morning is a box to check. “I went to church and feel good, now back to my life.”
A lot of churches have seen a big increase in midweek online activities. I worry if we try and force Sunday mornings, many will give up the more meaningful midweek groups in favor of a scientifically crafted pandemic church.
Decide for yourself
This is just my opinion, of course. Each of us has to decide for ourselves once our churches open back up.
Will it be a priority for you to begin attending in-person worship again as soon as your church opens back up? Why or why not?
Leave a comment here or on Facebook.