COVID-19 hit hard and fast, but Christians everywhere continued to have church gatherings online. Now churchgoers are slowly returning to brick and mortar locations.
Church Services Online
I work at a church that hardly ever shuts down, even if a service falls on a holiday. The last time I remember my church closing its doors on a service day was when we had a tornado pass by and knock out power and the backup generator. But, just like most of the world, COVID-19 closed my church down.
When COVID-19 hit, gatherings became dangerous due to the infection rate of the virus. It was strange to get the email saying the church was closing down to comply with the governor’s Stay-At-Home order. But my church still planned on streaming services.
For over two months I was isolated from my church friends and family. I watched the services on YouTube, but it just wasn’t the same. I thought it was amazing that we live in a world with the technology to still “go to church” without leaving home. But an online service just didn’t feel the same as being together.
Why Was Church Online so Hard for Christians?
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, humans are social creatures. We need to interact with other people, and Christians even more so. Most Christians are warm, inviting, and friendly. When we gather in church, it’s more than just worship and teaching from the Bible. We interact, connect, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ which stimulates growth and change. Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) says: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
With church online, we got the worship and the Word of God, which was fantastic, but we lost the human interaction and connection to the Church with a capital “C”. 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV) says: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” I’m thankful that we have the technology to hold online services. And it’s good to know if anything like this–God forbid–ever happens again we already know that church services will continue. However, I missed being at church.
The Church is not a building, it’s the people. I don’t care what building I worship God in. However, when I worship, I would rather worship with my friends and family so iron can sharpen iron.
Returning to Church after COVID-19
COVID-19 is moving slower now. States are opening up, stores are letting people in, and restaurants are coming alive, albeit at limited capacity at the moment. Beaches and parks are starting to see people and pets again. And with them, many churches are allowing limited congregations to return.
At our church, we are doing everything we can to make our building as safe as possible for people. Congregants are encouraged to wear masks and pews are being filled with social distancing in mind. Tithes and offerings are being taken online instead of passing buckets. Hand sanitizer is everywhere and the sanctuary is being disinfected between services. Many other measures are being taken to show people that we care about their health and safety just as much as we care about their souls and spiritual life. As a staff member and as a congregant I am happy to see that my church leadership took COVID-19 seriously.
When I returned to church, I was happy to be worshiping in the same room as my brothers and sisters in Christ. Even though I had a mask on my face and too much sanitizer on my hands, it was refreshing to be in the brick and mortar building surrounded by people I love. Humans are social creatures, and Christians even more so. COVID-19 was harsh, but now we’re starting to worship together again.
What Can My Church Do to Open up after COVID-19?
Church leaders who want to open up their church after COVID-19 should consider these suggestions:
- Check with your state’s orders concerning COVID-19 – Each state is different with their Stay-at-Home orders. Make sure that by opening up your church you’re complying with the laws concerning COVID-19.
- Come up with a multi-step plan to slowly open your church – My church developed a five-stage plan to slowly and safely open up to the public. This is a good model to avoid COVID-19 spikes.
- Get a lawyer to look over your church’s opening up plan – If your church has a lawyer or if you have a lawyer who attends, have them look over the multi-step plan and see if it complies with the laws concerning COVID-19.
- Disinfect the church – If your church has a custodial crew, have them work on getting all contact surfaces, bathrooms, chairs and/or pews cleaned and disinfected between church services. If your church doesn’t have a custodial crew, ask the volunteers to help disinfect said areas.
- Avoid coffee and food for a while – Church and food go hand in hand, as do church and coffee. Christians like church, coffee, and food as a package deal. But for safety, maybe don’t offer coffee and cake between church services for a little while.
- Wear masks – Have all church staff and volunteers wear masks and encourage the congregation to do so as well.
- Social distance – Have ushers show people to their seats when they come to church and keep family groups six feet away from each other. Encourage this in the church halls too.
- Put out hand sanitizer stations – Hand sanitizer is hard to find at the moment, but if you can, put out some bottles where people can use them.