By Ken Braddy
COVID-19 will leave a mark on our world, one way or another. Many things will change—for better or worse. And the way we do church is no exception.
Here are a few long- and short-term changes we’ll see in some of our churches in the weeks and months ahead.
1. Blocked off pews
In a recent webinar with leaders from Oklahoma, I learned their state leaders are requiring every other pew to be closed, and for there to be six feet of distance between people sitting on pews (families can sit together, but there must be six feet of distance between them and the next person).
This will greatly reduce the number of people who can attend a worship service. Will deacons or ushers be “pew police” and move people when they sit too close, or sit on a closed row?
Some churches that have chairs in their worship center have removing half of them. Another state is asking for six feet of space in front of, to the side of, and behind each worshiper. Listen carefully to the requirements in your area.
2. Masks in corporate worship times
Because airborne droplets travel farther when people sing than when they speak, will worshipers may be asked to wear masks to reduce transmission.
This is an important modification to consider, especially inside the worship center.
Several recent news stories have documented COVID-19 cases in which choirs were thought to be the lead factor in transmitting the disease because of the force of air expulsion.
3. Removal of pens and hymnals from the backs of worship center pews
I’ve heard this suggestion to reduce contact with hard surfaces so that COVID-19 is not passed that way.
Again, this isn’t a forever decision if you choose to do this now. Hymnals and pens can return in the future.
Perhaps they never leave, but are wiped down after uses. This will be a big decision in some churches.
4. Part-time or bivocational status of current full-time pastors
I hope it does not come to this. But if offerings are reduced, how will our churches support the people who lead us?
How can we minister to our ministers if their salaries are reduced? In what ways can we encourage the people who lead our congregations?
This is a spiritually taxing time for our pastors and church staff leaders.
5. The adjustment of non-Sunday activities
Hopefully you’ll be able to continue facilitating those important gatherings like mid-week Bible studies, but with physical distancing and safety protocols in place.
Will you need additional classrooms? What new procedures do you need to communicate to the participants?
These are just a few of the regular ministry practice changes we’ll need to keep our eyes on as we make the shift back to our in-person activities.
Most decisions and temporary modifications aren’t easy, and some of them may become permanent.
But remember, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to post-COVID-19 ministry. Look ahead to what the Lord is calling your church to do—with consideration of your contextual needs and local guidelines.
KEN BRADDY (@kenbraddy) is the director of Sunday School at LifeWay and disciples a group of adults at his church in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including Breathing Life Into Sunday School. He blogs regularly about Sunday school and groups at kenbraddy.com, and is host of The Sunday School Guy podcast.