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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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Those who are want to show love to the fellow believers by gathering together in church and hugging each other should also think of showing their love to the fellow human beings who are suffering from Covid 19 by fearlessly serving them.
Am the church spiritual leader and a bit anxious on their spiritual condition. Though I pray for them, seeing them physically give me some assurance. A different reason from minister point of view.
Good editorial. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work with this situation or many other reopenings. Age, health conditions, psychological makeup all factor in. I also consider my need to get to and from a church, which includes public transportation, a high-risk situation for infection. Hope many worship houses will consider these variants and not condemn people who don’t show up on Sunday, prefer online methods and don’t give in to “Christian” peer pressure on Sundays.
I am anxious to get back with friends. We are greeters at our church and we love to talk to our friends as they arrive. Since I believe that I won’t die one minute before I am appointed to then I don’t worry about it. I will miss seeing the children since they will be coming later when it feels safe for them. I love to sing and harmonize with the singers. As a senior citizen of 79 I am looking forward to seeing smiles and laughter and thinking of how wonderful it would be if He would return right now! Oh the Joy!!
The short and sweet for us is that it did not matter when our church reopened. We will not attend a brick and mortar facility until, following the advice of medical professionals, we deem it safe. In our area the government says safe, the health dept. wing says it is not safe. Doctors say it is not safe for us considering age and health. But we opened.
But I really appreciate some other denominations than my own, who have stated openly they will not reopen the buildings until they feel it is truly safe: serious downturn of the epidemic or a vaccine. They are also quick to point out their churches are NOT closed, just the buildings. The people still fellowship via tech or phone or snail mail. They still pray and sing in their own homes. They still hear or see the sermons or are encouraged to watch select tv sermons, online, etc depending on their available tech and with guidance of who to hear.
Mark, I have no clue if you are a pastor or not. I will say your comment regarding older women violates the Bible, which makes it clear you should honor us. Many of us have cleaned the toilets, mowed the grass, paid the bills, taught the children, painted the parsonage, or done without to pay the pastor’s salary. We have served to the point of exhaustion.
We did not run the younger generation out of the church. We may have opposed the bringing of the world inside the church rather than the church affecting the world. We may have stood strongly for truth when younger people wanted to be mollycoddled into a vague therapeutic moralistic deism, or even wanted to make the church accept and bless sin.
But overall the younger generation will answer to God for their actions and attitudes no matter what our generational failings were, or our gender failings.
And now we are made to feel unwelcome if we do return after this shelter in place.
Maybe our Lord has shut down the Christian Business Machine over just such unloving attitudes.
My grandfather was a pastor he passed in 1962 I don’t think he would have stopped in person services he believed in Healing and the holy spirit. He graduated Oregon state in agriculture he liked watching things grow including souls. you may contact me please do
What I have observed is among our small rural population is a strong tie to tradition and place, so much so that they would endure inconveniences of masking, no singing, sitting apart, etc. to restore a semblance of routine knowing the risks – and, in the main, they are at-risk individuals. Also, a high proportion do not have/use internet connection or access, so the alternative we offer does not help to keep a semblance of “together.” We have consistently offered a drive-up and pick-up at the usual worship service time: they come, collect printed handouts of the entire service to take home for reflection and devotion – but they also stick around outdoors in their cars and on foot, distanced, but calling out and exchanging the fellowship that they have missed. Knowing the risks, they are chomping at the bit to return to their buildings. We will return as soon as timeline/occupancy guidelines allow because in the early days of the persecuted, home-met church, those who lived in fear of their very lives for following Christ still managed to follow and find others with whom to meet. And someone had to open the room for them.
In 2020 we must respect the opinions of all. As a child growing up I was taught to respect others their opinions and desires. No one knows everything I don’t care how old they are or the experience they have been through. The five reasons given above are very noteworthy. Everyone should respect others wishes and desires. If everyone listens to the health professionals we all can combat or overtake the virus. Everyone should realize this virus is like death it DOES NOT only affect elderly people. We must ALL be RESPECTFUL, patient, tolerant and kind. As we go forward let us all be prayerful we must all be obedient and transparent to all leaders and others who want to overcome the situations we are currently in. In ALL things be obedient, give thanks, and pray!