Although all of us are eager to move on to a post-COVID season of life (it will come!), there are a few viable ways your church can still pivot well this Winter in light of recent spikes and upcoming holidays.
The more optimistic among us are expecting the COVID-19 vaccine to provide an overnight solution, while others are gearing up for Armeggedon. You and I have no idea what COVID-19 will do, but our job as pastors is simply to “be ready in season and out of season.”
Like many of you, I am a long-term planner, which makes short-term decision making all the more frustrating. However, that is the season we are serving in, so let’s consider a few viable options for the Winter to consider – or reconsider.
Most churches do not have the member-consensus needed to completely close your church doors again, so perhaps providing a worship-only plan your best option for December, or even all Winter. In light of recent COVID spikes, the rationale for suspending groups is solid for these reasons:
- The CDC is begging Americans to not gather anywhere right now, even with our extended families. We are not medical professionals, but we must consider their apolitical advice for our biological families to be the same as for our faith families.
- Children cannot be effectively socially distanced. Your plan is only as good as the wildest child in the room. Younger parents and volunteers know this already, which is why so many are staying at home anyway.
- Seniors are scared. They should be anyway because COVID is exponentially more dangerous for them.
If this idea appeals to you and your leadership, I would suggest revisting it every quarter. You will drive yourself crazy trying to keep up with the latest medical and polictical experts in real time.
I know, I know – you did this already and of course nobody WANTS to do it again. You know your congregation and community well enough to do what is best for them, but if you are considering going back to online-only through the end of the year, I just want you to know that you are not crazy or alone. My suggestion is to make this particular decision one month at a time.
I recently preached to a camera and empty pews in Tulsa, and God blessed it. That church has gone back and forth on their schedules and strategies as COVID numbers have risen and fallen. Our call to flexibility is no different than what our schools, communities, and businesses are dealing with.
If you are envisioning a packed Christmas service(s) this year, you need a fresh, new vision, in my opinion. Many of your senior adults and younger families who have not consistently returned to church yet are not coming to your holiday services either. Even if they do, should they?
The COVID coast will not likely be clear before summer, much less Christmas, so why not start working on a safe Plan A now? You rocked it online at Easter, and you still have a short window to creatively rock it again for Christmas. Get on this now instead of simply hoping for a better forecast and hastily throwing something together during the holidays.
The primary key to responsible shepherding is to care enough about our sheep to love them deeply and to lead them responsibly. You already know that there is no decision you and your leaders will make that everyone will agree with, so lead on anyway!
Pastors are caregivers by nature and calling, but we are not running for office. If you need approval or applause become a comedian because responsible pastors will sometimes frustrate the people we are protecting.
If you do not have a leadership team of some kind who can make short-term decisions for your entire church, this is a great time to deploy one. Seeking counsel is a sign of strength and maturity.
The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it. (Proverbs 18:15 CSB)
Pastor, now is not too soon to cast a hope filled vision of a 2021 without painful pandemics, protests, and politics. Until that day comes — keep loving, leading, and feeding your people while remembering that Jesus is doing the real heavy lifting behind the scenes for His Bride.