Five Reasons Your Church Members Are Disagreeing about When to Regather

By Thom S. Rainer

It has become a common theme at Church Answers. We are hearing from pastors and other church leaders about members who have divergent opinions on the timing for regathering the in-person services. 

No surprise here. 

It might be helpful, however, to understand the reasons behind the disagreements. We see five major themes. 

  1. Strong extroverts and strong introverts will have major disagreements on timing. The reason is obvious. The extrovert is dying to resume interaction with fellow church members. He or she thrives on in-person gatherings and conversations. The strong introvert, however, has done well seeing few people and interacting with few people during the quarantine. I fit the latter category.
  1. Different church members have different sources of authority on the coronavirus. Some of it could be related to political leanings. For others, it could be connected to the type of news that comes through social media. For some, they listen to certain friends and family members. In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of different opinions out there. 
  1. Age and health can be factors of divergent opinions. Two of the common themes about COVID-19 have been the vulnerability of the older population and those with underlying conditions. It would not be unexpected for those two groups to be more likely to prefer a later opening than an earlier opening. One of my sons has chronic asthma. I worry about him returning to in-person services too soon. 
  1. Parents with children may decide to wait. Most churches will not segregate the children from the adult worship services at the onset of the regathering. Some parents will be hesitant to bring the kids to the worship services for health reasons and for fear of disruption. 
  1. Attitudes toward change affect opinions about regathering. For example, if a change resistant church member learns that the church must have additional services for social distancing, he or she may prefer to wait until the church can return to “normal.” Change-receptive church members, however, are often eager to try new services and new ideas. They will be ready to return and experiment with the new approaches. 

It’s cliché for you pastors and church leaders to hear, but you can’t please everyone all the time. Take the path you deem is best for the church and for the health of those who will attend. Listen to voices of wisdom. And pray that God will honor your decision and protect everyone involved.

Posted on May 25, 2020

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • A few truths that you should keep in mind when trying to formulate the best solution to any problem;
    1. God is Perfect
    3. Human beings are Flawed, Fallen, constantly subject to error and capable of sin.
    4. God is aware of this.
    5. God puts his faith in us anyway.

  • I got an interesting comment from a person in our church when we announced our reopening. He said he would be happy to come, but only if others in the congregation were respectful of the guidelines (distancing, masks, etc.). He sees people in the wider culture disregarding the guidelines, he fears it will happen in the church. He and his family feel unsafe at church because of the irresponsible and inconsiderate actions of others. It revealed to me the importance of showing love, and considering the interests of others during this transition back to church. This is a time when we can tangibly serve others the way Jesus served us.

  • You need to listen to your physicians and scientists and public health officials. Yes, you have members who aren’t all perfectly healthy, and this virus killed some very healthy, immune-competent younger people. You need to be cautious.

  • My grief has come from older ladies who want everything back the way it was. There are 2 issues at play: 1) there is a generational legalism that sees faith and the building as one (worship, prayer, etc requires a building because it is “God’s house”) and, 2) For many in that age bracket, church Is the core of their social life and identity. They say they miss worship but they really miss the fellowship.

    • Some from that generation and their mothers’ were the ones who still get/got everything they wanted and were responsible for running the younger generations right out of the church and then the faith.

  • I agree with all 5 reasons and have expressed to our people these very statements. We re-opened our services May 17th after being shut down for 9 weeks. Because of our limited space and the need to social distant we opened with 3 services 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00 with no children services. Our average attendance pre shut down was 220 and the first day back we had 158, 70%. I was thrilled with these numbers. We are planning on easing back into Children’s Church on June 7th if our reported numbers do not take an unexpected rise. We have continued to Facebook live all our services and have had great response. Thank you for sharing your information with us.

  • As always Thom excellent insights!

  • Sheila Beers says on

    God supposedly gave us brains to figure out and/or understand some things for ourselves. Some people may feel they are trusting God by attending services while the virus is a hazard. However, are they trusting God or tempting Him because they already have been told they need to take precautions against a dangerous virus? Personally, I believe gathering in a certain place is not all that important because God is omnipresent so that we can worship Him anywhere. I have enjoyed “visiting” different churches across the U.S. via televised services and emails of daily devotionals. Each one has been a blessing and has helped me feel connected to believers in various parts of the United States. Overall, I believe the stay-at-home order has led to a time of reflection and renewal for many people.

  • Comment on advice to “Take the path you deem is best for the church .” I agree, however, as a good lender you should demonstrate recognition and empathy for those who disagree with the policy. If you don’t, you jeopardize damaging a dimension of authority you have established as a leader. It is good if your decision is presented with an explanation of how you reviewed the options and came to a thoughtful and prayerful decision rather than you made a decision because you just wanted to obey some authority – especially an authority that some of your followers would deem as questionable.

    • I agree with empathy and also explaining how you came to the decisions. This will help preserve unity during a very unique and challenging time. As for the authorities,, it isn’t about “just obeying.” It’s about honoring a sovereign God Who has established them, uses them for His purposes and tells us to honor, obey and even pray for them. We shouldn’t ultimately make decisions based on what people “deem,” but on what God says. Way too much deeming going on.

  • Our church is regathering June 7. Of course, all will not attend then, but no one appears to disagree or resisting the regathering. Some just will not participate.

    Ironically, our biggest issue was between staff, some of whom were rather adamant we not regather. Not sure of motivation. In our state it is 25%, and we have taken all measures necessary. We expect a small manageable group and look for it to gradually increase.
    Our greatest shale generation will be resuming small groups on campus when the time comes.

  • 1. Is pretty much BS 2. Get your info from people who actually know what they are talking about such as public health officials and Drs. versed in communicable diseases and not sources that have a political axe to grind. Who knew that a pandemic would further divide people and not bring them together to fight a common enemy. Our executive branch has horrible leadership skills. Numbers 3 thru 5 I’m with you on. Except maybe to say that, I’ve never seen a Church that welcomes change.

    • George, I don’t know how old you are, but I take issue with your opening salvo. I am 67, I’ve been a pastor for over 40 years, a husband and father, and a volunteer deputy sheriff and 20 years a paramedic. Never has my church family, my immediate family at home, or my first responder colleagues ever once heard me utter crude or slang language because it isn’t in my vocabulary, neither the words or the initials. Secondly, I completely identify with the first reason…as an introvert I’ve been doing just fine, but extroverts I know are chomping at the bits to get back together—they thrive and are energized by social interaction. As for #2, I’m still waiting for the expert to speak up who knows what he/she is talking about. This virus is slippery and defies precise definition; the target of professional opinion keeps moving. These 5 are all valid reasons and I have seen each of them factor into disputes over regathering, and there isn’t a scientist or physician out there who can give us final word definitive answers on what to do, regardless of political motivation or the absence thereof. No one has improved on what our mothers taught us: don’t cough or sneeze without covering your mouth and nose, wash your hands, and if you’re sick, stay home!

    • A reason is valid if someone feels it is valid. Just because you don’t agree with a reason that doesn’t make it invalid (a better term than the one you use). Personal emotions are – they are personal and drive our reactions and responses. You may not feel extrovert/introvert is valid but there are people in this world who are driven by being around people.

  • You forgot to mention COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is infecting people at a high rate and is killing people because there isn’t a vaccine. You didn’t mention 1 in 2000 virus related deaths are African-Americans in the US. You didn’t state that some leaders feel they have a responsibility to protect their members from being infected and possibly dying from the Coronavirus.

  • Bill Jernigan says on

    There is a sixth reason: people that have immunodeficiency, cancer and are a transplant recipient are slow to return because they may not see their churches taking adequate action for their protection. The folks in our church refuse to mask themselves for the possible protection of others.