What do you need to consider before reopening your church? I share four things in the video that you need to consider and think about.
Address the Fear and Navigate the Tension
Our world has gone through a traumatic event. In hindsight, there will be a long debate about the response to COVID-19. Did we do enough? Did we overreact? In our churches, you will find a wide variety of opinions and thoughts. But for many, the defining emotion of the past six months would be fear.
As leaders, we cannot ignore what people are experiencing. It may be a rational fear based on their experience, or it could be a completely irrational fear. Either way, we need to address it, listen to it, and point them to the one that helps us overcome our fears and anxiety.
We also have to navigate the tension of safety vs. freedom. I have been surprised by the fact that face masks are such a divisive issue within the church. So as leaders, you will have to navigate this using the proper safety precautions, while also deciding where you should take a stand. It’s not going to be easy, so make sure you have the backing of your church Elders, Deacons, or Council before decisions are prayerfully made.
Continue to Focus on Your Online Ministry
Will you continue live streaming when you reopen? This can be a challenge for smaller churches, but I urge you to continue moving forward with your online ministry. If you were sharing pre-recorded video, this is an even tougher transition. When you move to livestreaming your services, there is added pressure to make sure the sound is right, the equipment is connected properly, and that your internet connection remains stable.
My recommendation is to take small steps, but keep moving forward. Here are some things to consider
- The first step is developing a feasible plan for how you want to livestream. You can always improve your plan later, but you will need early success to build upon.
- You will also need a team of people that can run your system. Don’t depend on one person. You need a system that you can easily train people to run.
- Your church will need to increase it’s budget for online ministry. Our churches will have to continue going where people are, and online ministry is not going away. Start planning and preparing for how you can continue to improve your camera system, you audio system, and your internet infrastructure.
Learn How to Communicate to a Mixed Audience
As a pastor, I experienced the strange task of preaching to an empty room for several months. But it taught me how to preach to the camera. We have three different cameras in our livestream setup, so I learned to look directly into each one while preaching. It really does make a difference to the people watching online.
But when we resumed meeting in person, it became a challenge. Where should I look? To the people in the room? Or the camera for the people watching online? I’m still learning, but I’m trying to focus on both. I constantly am trying to reset and look at the camera.
But it’s also more than where you look. We also need to engage people watching online by mentioning them, talking to them, and letting them know that we care about them just as much as the people meeting in-person. Think about your shut-ins, or the people with health problems that are unable to attend. They are still participating in your church service, so don’t forget about them.
Don’t Be Discouraged if Everyone Doesn’t Come Back
And finally, don’t be discouraged. Every pastor I have talked to is experiencing decreased attendance in person. I think most pastors were optimistic and believed that people would flock back to church as soon as the doors opened. Unfortunately, that has not been the reality. I’ve seen numbers from 15 to 4o%, and that is what we are experiencing as well. Reopening is a slow process, so don’t expect things to go back to normal quickly.
Some people will wait until they don’t have to wear a mask. Some will wait until you have a full children’s ministry schedule, and some may decide that they will continue watching online. We know that in-person meeting is important, but it will take time for some people to realize it.
Use this time to think through your mission as a church, and get creative about reaching your community, both online and in-person. Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church. And I believe it.