I will lead the blind
by a road they do not know,
by paths they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do,
and I will not forsake them
While we do not yet know how and when we will begin emerging from the current shelter in place orders, we can and should be thinking about how the ministries of our churches might need to look different, and how we can begin preparing now.
- What will we take from this time as we step forward into the new thing God is doing among us?
- What will we stop doing that no longer serves our mission in Christ so we can free up time and resources for the new?
- What practical considerations do we need to attend to as we gather for worship, pastoral care, mission, and fellowship?
We strongly encourage sessions and congregations to begin these conversations. The following is offered to help you get started.
The first Sunday of gathered worship will be a time for celebration, but not everyone will be able to attend and may feel more isolated as a result.
Consider what technology, or technology enhancements you will need to continue to offer remote worship along with in-person services so that all can feel included. What kinds of volunteers will you need to sustain both? What do you need to stop doing to be able to do both?
Social distancing will continue to be necessary, requiring greater spacing in sanctuaries and meeting rooms. Can your sanctuary accommodate the extra spacing, or do you need to consider adding another service? Also, think about how you will ensure people sit at least 6 feet apart. What about your classrooms – is there room for 6 foot spacing, or do you need to relocate or stick with Zoom classes for a bit? Perhaps you begin with in-person Sunday worship only, and gradually introduce other ministry gatherings. Perhaps some groups would rather continue meeting remotely.
From hugs to handshakes, we all need to rethink how we greet one another. Greeters and ushers can help set the tone and expectations. Passing the peace needs to either be eliminated for now or done with a minimum 6 foot distance in mind. Even fist and elbow bumps put people at risk of infection. Some among us are craving touch, and yet touch makes us all vulnerable. Consider ways to extend love and care while not touching.
Think about everything people touch and pass out during worship. Hymnals, friendship pads, worship plates, communion elements, and bulletins are all vehicles to pass germs. What can you eliminate or suspend? What can you do differently?
Some aspects of your remote worship services may be missed by your congregation, new liturgy, increased member involvement, guest music, to name a few. Consider how you might continue some new favorite practices.
Your Sunday morning volunteer base (ushers, communion servers, choir, Sunday School teachers, nursery staff, etc.) may be impacted. If vulnerable populations make up most of that volunteer group, you will want to recruit new volunteers or revise practices.
Fears of infection and need for heightened sanitation will continue. Sanitizers, wipes, and other visible supplies and assurances will be required. The time to place orders is now. Seniors and others who are vulnerable will need special accommodations. Consider your church’s position on wearing masks, which are found to primarily protect others from our germs.
In some churches, pastoral care was enhanced by many in the congregation sharing the load of pastoral care with the pastor(s). How might you want to make that a more permanent practice?
What did you learn about people’s needs that inform how you provide pastoral care in the future, and what you no longer do? Think about what people appreciated, and what was not even missed.
Some are facing a backlog of memorial services. This will require planning that takes into account pastoral energy as well as availability.
MISSION and OUTREACH
On-line worship services reached people beyond your congregation. The same platform that reached them may also be the best way to build a relationship. Take advantage of your electronic reach to stay in touch with visitors. However, don’t ignore the impact of “personal touch” at this time when social distancing has taken its toll, for example, handwritten notes to neighbors, gifts on doorsteps, and other acts your congregation appreciated during this time.
Consider that measures need to be in place so that those in the community whom you serve, or serve alongside, feel safe.
The needs in our communities may have changed abruptly in the last two months. It’s a good time to revisit current needs and how your congregation might be uniquely equipped to meet those needs, or to partner with those already doing that.
If you have outside groups who meet in your building, you will need to communicate your new policies and procedures that ensure a safe environment for all. Also consider if your physical space will allow them to practice physical distancing.
Electronic giving is here to stay. Evaluate how yours is working and what improvements might enhance it. If you have yet to adopt, how might you help those reluctant to give in this way?
Stewardship strategies may need new life. Giving practices have changed significantly with the current generation. This might be time to develop new approaches to stewardship that foster greater generosity. Electronic giving can facilitate these new approaches.
This is the time to establish a year-round stewardship strategy if you don’t already have one, which will help you weather the ebb and flows of attendance ahead.
Finally, some churches may feel they are facing irreversible decline. If so, you are not in this alone. Contact your COM liaison or the presbytery staff sooner rather than later so that support can be made available to you.
This is a time of discernment. What has God revealed in this time? We worship the resurrected Christ. We believe an ending can make room for new life to spring forth. What new beginning might be awaiting you?