Pastors across the country have used technology and creativity to stay connected with their congregations during stay-at-home orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spurring of imagination is something we can appreciate about these days. But, pastors willingly suspended all in-person services with the understanding that (1) it was in the best interest of the health of their members and the community, and (2) it would be short-term (the original “order” was 15-days).
Now, after over a month into “the shutdown” and with the number of new infections and hospitalizations decreasing, the reopening of American society is close. But we are still not quite there. “Phase One” of the Coronavirus Task Force’s reopening still recommends strict social distancing guidelines.
“LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.”https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/#phase-one
What will those “strict physical distancing protocols” be? How difficult will it be to accommodate them? Everyone keeps cautioning that there is a “new normal” coming. With that in mind, pastors eager to have their congregations actually meeting again may need to keep their creative juices flowing.
Here are some ideas that might work to accommodate assembling while also social distancing.
- Start having select members of the church host in-person “watch parties” in their homes. The size of the group(s) would obviously need to meet the criteria of each state’s guidelines, but this would allow members to have real-world interaction again. (It might also “formalize” the at-home worship atmosphere. Hopefully no one would host, or show up to, one of these in their pajamas while eating breakfast!)
- Start a rotation of members actually attending the livestream recording of the service at the church building or the pastor’s home. Again, state’s guidelines should be observed, but it restarts us interacting as the Church, something most pastors are looking for an answer about.
- Have small groups meet in-person for prayer and Bible study. This could require having more “classes” than normal, planning and scheduling, and “boots on the ground” coordination (time, place, etc.).
- Encourage members to at least go see one another (at home or in public) while they cannot meet together in assembly.
I’m sure some churches have hardly been phased by stay-at-home orders. Some of these ideas have already been put into place. I admit that I have only experienced livestreamed services during the shutdown. I have not participated in any of the drive-in services. Let me hear from you: I’d like know how drive-in services have helped with the “connection” aspect of assembling in the comments.
As with anything during these days, it is important to maintain testimony and submit to governmental authority (as far as we are able).