In the weeks to come, many churches who practiced social distancing during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic will begin to regather. Regardless of when your church decides to meet back together, here are some things to consider.
- Attendance will be lower. Anticipate that, and don’t get discouraged by it. If your church is intentionally trying to have smaller services, go ahead and prepare that it will look and feel different at first. This Sunday won’t be an Easter replacement or high-attendance Sunday.
- The connections will be bittersweet. You will be excited to see others, but you will be unsure of how to interact. With smaller crowds, marked off chairs, and the sight of protective equipment might feel like you are in some type of warzone. The sight of masks and the distance you experience with each other will not feel normal. It will be better than nothing, but it still might be disappointing.
- Your interactions will feel awkward. You will see people you haven’t seen in a long time, and your tendency will be to embrace them with a post-quarantine bearhug that wins the world record for most intense embrace in the history of Mankind, but you have to consider others’ hesitations, and you won’t know how nervous the other person is.
- The wrong people will be in attendance. At your gathering, you will see people who probably should have stayed home due to health reasons, and you will notice some absent that probably have no concerns about being in public. You can’t make the judgment call for anyone’s decision besides your own.
- Your pastor hopes he made the right call. The decision to close and the decision to reopen were both difficult calls to make. He wasn’t trained for this in seminary, and there is no perfect call on how to lead a church during a pandemic. He did the best he could, and he is aware that not everyone probably thinks so.
- Someone will think the timing is wrong. No matter how much your church’s leadership prayed, brainstormed, and consulted, someone will think they met too early and some will think too late. The problem with a situation like this is there is no perfect answer. Embrace that.
- You are not the church down the street. Other churches will do things differently. Every church has to make a decision based on the demographics, sanctuary size, parking lot dimensions, technical specs, etc. Celebrate what the church down the road is doing, but you don’t have to imitate it.
- Your attitude will be contagious to someone. If you look, talk, and act discouraged, someone else will feed off it. If you are joyful through every aspect of the service, someone else will be encouraged to do likewise.
- Your online service [hopefully] won’t be as quality. Over the last few weeks, we have done nothing but talk to the camera. Now, leaders will have to work with the people in the room and in the living room. The online service will begin to feel like you are eavesdropping in a room rather than something tailored specifically for you in your home. That’s a good thing. Online services are meant to be a supplement and not a substitute. If you decide to stay home a few more Sundays, let that encourage you not to miss the gathering of the saints for too much longer.
- Remember that this is intermediate. Most likely, when your church reopens services, it isn’t back to “normal” yet. Your first Sunday will probably be different than the intended regular. Accept that it is what it is for right now. Be thankful for it but also long for something more.
In fact, even when worship is back to normal, it still is intermediate. Worship gatherings are intended to be a taste of heaven on earth with God’s people gathering together among the presence of God. It’s not perfect. It’s not fully-realized yet, but it sure is sweet.
Make every Sunday cause you to long for the day.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.