It may be a while before we can use our church facilities for large-group gatherings. Nonetheless, there are creative ways to maximize all the square footage in a church, even big spaces that you may not currently be able to use for their intended purpose. For example, one way to adapt large indoor and outdoor areas is to create a prayer walk. Even in quarantine, our attention and focus is pulled away from God. Prayer walks provide a place for solitary reflection and reconnection with God, while keeping people at a safe distance from each other.
Churches are faced with myriad decisions about how to make worship facilities safe and sanitary as they decide on the best timing to reopen for in-person worship and ministry programs. How will you manage traffic flow and seating to keep people socially distanced? Do you have enough hand sanitizer stations strategically placed throughout the building? How will you receive the offering and share communion to avoid spreading COVID? While all of these are significant questions, there's another equally critical one to ask: Are your people ready to return to church?
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Since COVID-19 hit and churches were forced to leave their buildings, Aspen Group has been working to help churches prepare to relaunch. "Some of the key church spaces Aspen focuses on, like worship and gathering spaces, have been empty as Americans have stayed safe at home," says Aspen Group Project Architect Craig Dobyns. "My design attention shifted from how we gather and fellowship as a church body in our buildings, to how our buildings can serve the community that is staying at home. Our buildings are still ministry tools, and churches are in a unique position to reimagine their space, even if temporarily."
Recently, Andy Crouch of Praxis challenged pastors on Twitter to think about how they would accomplish their mission if: their budget is cut by roughly half over the next 12 months no gatherings of >100 are allowed for at least a year gatherings of 10-50 can resume this summer in most localities
In the past two weeks, Aspen Group hosted webinars for approximately 500 church leaders. When we asked attendees which feels more daunting—leaving the church building because of COVID-19 shutdown orders, or reopening church as COVID restrictions ease, an overwhelming majority said relaunching church is a much more daunting prospect. To help you sort through some of the questions you may have about relaunching church in a COVID-19 culture, Aspen Group will present a virtual workshop—Relaunching Church in a New Reality—on Wednesday, May 20, 3:00-4:15 pm EDT, as part of Barna’s State of the Church webcast.
Churches have experienced economic downturns, natural disasters, and more. But previous to COVID-19 hitting the U.S., there has never been a period in modern history when faith communities have been unable to gather and church operations are so badly disrupted as they are today. This disruption has affected every aspect of church life, including giving toward the general fund—every church’s revenue mainstay.
When the COVID-19 crisis forced houses of worship to close their doors, most churches quickly adapted and pivoted to doing online church. According to a Barna/Gloo’s Church Pulse Weekly poll in mid-April, only 3% of the 875 pastors were not doing church services online. Pastors have had to adjust their preaching style to accommodate moving from a big platform to speaking to their flock on a small screen. Churches have also had to learn how to handle the offering moment virtually.
When COVID-19 hit, pastors had to make the shift, nearly overnight, of leading from a sanctuary platform with a room full of people to preaching and teaching on our small screens. As I’ve watched pastors quickly adapt, I can’t get The Producers, a smash hit Broadway musical that was later adapted as a movie, out of my mind.
Since COVID-19 forced the closure of churches across America, we've been listening and learning with church leaders to understand the myriad implications of doing church in new ways. Here are some of the trusted ministry organizations we’ve been following to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on churches:
The Coronavirus pandemic has stretched every church to find new ways to fulfill its mission to be the Body of Christ. The church never was the building. It is and always has been people who make up the church. During this season of social distancing, congregations are learning anew what it means to be the Church.