Are you feeling unsure about reopening your church’s doors in the midst of COVID-19? You’re not alone. According to findings from the third round of a COVID-19 study conducted by Exponential, 28% of pastors surveyed say they still are unsure when they will reopen their church building, and 67% are choosing not to meet in-person even if local guidelines and restrictions permit it.
In this current COVID-19 culture, many churches are finding the need to think outside the realm of the normal function of their church facilities in planning how to bring people physically back to church. They're reconfiguring larger worship spaces to conform to smaller gathering standards, and adapting outdoor spaces for prayer walks and as respite for the community. In the following post, Aspen designers, Craig Dobyns, Rob Gordon, Rosie Mitchell, and César Espinoza, share new ways you can use your church parking lot for innovative, safe gathering spaces.
Discover the impact Millennials' values, allegiances, and assumptions will have on your church.
In March 2020 when COVID-19 hit the U.S., church leaders faced the unexpected and overwhelming challenge of closing their doors. In a previous blog post, I touched on the three stages of crisis management that disaster response expert and founder of Forge Leadership Consultancy, Simon Barrington, noted:
At Aspen, we often talk about creating places that can be an intentional gift for the community—a beautiful space with no cost of admission where people can find rest. Especially in times of heightened anxiety, spaces that connect people with our Creator and the natural world serve as a respite from stress and frustration, especially in this season of COVID. In the following post, Aspen architects Craig Dobyns, César Espinoza, and Rosie Mitchell share design ideas for ways you can create spaces of rest and respite in your church setting.
Financial leaders in the church are individuals or families who have a high capacity for generosity. Brian Dodd, Director of New Ministry Partnerships for INJOY Stewardship Solutions and prolific blogger on Brian Dodd on Leadership, defines financial leaders as any family that tithes $10,000 or more annually to your church, or, for churches that don’t have givers at this level, it’s the top 10 percent of a church’s annual givers. In the guest post that follows, Dodd shares 10 reasons why pastors should be especially intentional in engaging their financial leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.
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?
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.