“What Will Ministry in a Post-Covid World Look Like?”

"I think there will be people who are there week one a church is back open, but also people will stay home and continue to watch online. Not only because of ease but also because of fear. And while some will say there shouldn’t be fear, there is. The job of the leader is not to wish a new reality, but to face reality and lead through it." - CL

832 reads

There are 11 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm seeing an unwise assumption in much of the "what about people who don't yet want to go back to the church building?" posts: the assumption that either you immediately go back or you have a "fear" problem.

Given how much we still don't know about this virus and how it will track, there's a very large middle ground between 'hurrah, we're in the building rubbing shoulders!" and "oh, I'm just too afraid!!" It's called wise caution... and it's all over the Bible.

Can we slow down on the binary analyses?

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

pvawter's picture

That's true, Aaron, but I keep hearing from people, "I just feel like I should wait a bit." And I can't help but wonder what will change in a bit that will help them decide to reenter the church. I'm not faulting them for feeling hesitant about it, especially those who are in higher risk categories, but I honestly wonder at what point their hesitancy will cross the line into mere anxiety. I don't know if there is an answer to my question. 

Mark_Smith's picture

pvawter wrote:

That's true, Aaron, but I keep hearing from people, "I just feel like I should wait a bit." And I can't help but wonder what will change in a bit that will help them decide to reenter the church. I'm not faulting them for feeling hesitant about it, especially those who are in higher risk categories, but I honestly wonder at what point their hesitancy will cross the line into mere anxiety. I don't know if there is an answer to my question. 

pvawter, I think the reason to "wait a bit" is there are many parts of the country where the disease hasn't really hit yet. My state has only a few thousand confirmed cases! We shut down for 2 months, but few here have had it. Most have been from outside travel. So, I think a reasonable thing for people with a risk factor is to wait until the initial wave hits (or if it never does, that this fact is apparent) their locality.

Mark_Smith's picture

I hesitate because there is a member of my small group who routinely travels from my state to NYC which is around 2000 miles away... just to hang out apparently. It used to be to take his daughter to see Broadway shows... Yes, he does it regularly, as in once a month-ish. He has done it all through this time as he has told me this. Let's just say I am in no hurry to be locked in a 15'x15' room for over an hour with him!

M. Osborne's picture

"And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

@pvawter: I think that's just one of the challenges of shepherding.

Probably numbers will decline; maybe there will be a second wave; maybe hospitals will get more savvy at treating this; maybe they'll eventually develop a vaccine; maybe the vaccine will be like a polio vaccine or maybe it will be like a flu vaccine and hit-or-miss. With all of these uncertainties, my gut says that overall this will recede but never ever quite go away. And I don't see a qualitative difference between going back to church now and going back in a few months. Only a hard-to-quantify quantitative difference. And I suspect that when it comes to shepherding, getting an actual quantitative handle on what's going on is irrelevant; that what I'm actually dealing with is people's individual psychologies and what they can('t) imagine about the future spread of coronavirus.

I am tending to view this in a Romans 14 grid for now and cutting people--especially older people and immunocomrpomised or asthmatic people--a lot of slack. Our church is planning to continue to stream services for those reluctant to return, and I have no intention of messaging that people reluctant to return are somehow sinfully fearful or irrational.

I regret one byproduct of this stay-at-home order is that people are more and more immersed in media, namely, a mediated reality, and I don't think being locked up in front of a screen--regardless of the news sources you're viewing--is a good thing to anchor you in God's created reality.

When I actually get out with people, whether that's in parks or with neighbors or with other allowed activities, and see human kindness and common grace at work among people...it's a good thing. The people I know (or know of) who are closest to the medical profession are taking it in stride and are not at all freaked out. The neighbor boy's parents both work at nursing home facilities with COVID patients. Their take is to just put on a mask and go about their business. Our kids play with him; he was over for dinner; life goes on. My son and I observed a full-fledged illegal softball game (with uniforms!) in a park along the Delaware River when we were biking yesterday. So plenty of people just aren't woried. But the church member I talked to on the phone, who has always tended to spend most of her time in front of the tube, opined that the governors are doing the right thing to keep everyone at home. But she has a very different background; she's been on disability for a long time; she doesn't get out much even before the COVID pandemic. And yet I'm not sure that the right approach with this member is direct confrontation at this point. I don't think she has the framework or background experience to even process what I'm telling her. The discussion has to begin waaaaay back somewhere else. She's only one example. Her health isn't the best. It's not like she has 0 excuse to avoid coming back.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

G. N. Barkman's picture

COVID-19 is a brand new experience.  We haven't been here before, and we cannot accurately predict how exactly it will end.  However, I suspect a return to church will be similar to other re-openings.  Some states are opening earlier than others.  Everyone is watching to see what happens.  If it goes well, others will follow suit.  If not, others will maintain a slower approach.  Likewise, as churches begin to hold services, some will eagerly attend.  Others will watch with interest from a distance.  If all goes well, more will attend.  Some, who are especially vulnerable or fearful may continue to stay away until all possible danger is gone.  (Which is exactly when?)  Little by little, churches will return to the direction of normal, but it may be a long while until everything is like it was before, if ever.  Pastors will learn to adjust to the new reality, and continue to minister to their people in whatever ways they are able.

From my perspective, I simply watch to see what the Lord is doing, and seek to conform to His sovereign plan and purpose.

 

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We have yet to see what the spread of the virus will look like in rural Wisconsin. We may know sooner rather than later, though, given the way everyone flocked to the bars over the weekend! (In our area, I suspect the main virus-sharing venues are going to be bars, sporting events, and churches... "we" love all three in this area!).

The role of population density in all this hasn't had much study yet, but my guess right now is that the hindsight on all this is going to be that that it would have worked better to do lockdowns/stay at homes on an intra-state regional basis from the start, so that businesses etc in more spread out regions could continue to work while the cities shut down to contain the spread. (Many of them kept going anyway, just because they knew they could get away with it out here in the sticks.)

But hindsight is hindsight. I'm not going to join the chorus of criticism of various leaders fueled mostly by their being in the "wrong party" (like there's a right one anymore)... because they failed to look at their present with the knowledge of the as-yet-future.

Maybe one good outcome from all this will be a new appreciation for localism and a check on our cultural bias toward centrality and having the same rules everywhere. The state by state "chaos" has actually been very encouraging to me, since nothing super-effective was coming out of Washington anyway... but I don't think anything great was possible. Some things just don't work well when administered from hundreds of miles away in a completely different social and physical environment.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Barry L.'s picture

I'm one year in to our new church which is smaller than my previous one. We run about 100 and all families and members can participate on Zoom. After the service we all hang around the Zoom room and give updates on ourselves to everyone. People can see each other as well. We even have Wednesday night prayer meetings sharing our requests, etc.  Not the same as being there, but it still works.  For a larger church I can imagine how difficult it is to keep up with the lives of members because you can't really Zoom large crowds. I've heard of small groups within the church meet, but as a pastor of a large church it's got to be hard to keep up with folks

The one thing that does bother me is that, because our pastor is a good speaker, you'll have folks who are not local join our online services rather than their local church's online services. I do think this activity needs to be admonished and they need to be a part of their local church's services online or not.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Just came across this one I didn't know existed...

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/index....

It doesn't mention masks much.

From the checklist page:

Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at your organization (e.g., soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and a couple of disposable facemasks, just in case someone becomes sick during an event).

Where you're supposed to get 60% alc. hand sanitizer, I don't know. I haven't seen any alcohol based sanitzer or wipes anywhere in more than six weeks.

Another page...

Establish procedures for persons who are sick at the facility.

Establish procedures to separate persons who show up sick or become sick at the facility from others, until they can safely leave and/or seek medical care.

Have a supply of disposable facemasks, if possible. Note: Disposable facemasks are for persons with respiratory symptoms. A person who becomes sick should be given a clean disposable facemask to wear until they can safely leave and/or seek medical care.

If needed, arrange transportation for persons who need medical care.

Notify the transporter and the receiving healthcare facility that the person has signs and symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 so that appropriate infection control precautions may be taken.

Provide the sick person with a disposable facemask, if available, and keep them separated from others as much as possible.   

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/guidan...

They need to tidy up their website... and the advice above doesn't seem completely in harmony with their other statements on masks when people are in close proximity to eachother indoors.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yesterday, our Elders decided to conduct our first indoor service this Sunday.  We are employing a number of restrictions, and encouraging those who are vulnerable to remain at home.  Many have already responded with enthusiasm to announce their intended presence.  Others have expressed hesitation.  We won't know until Sunday how many will attend, but we believe it will be substantial.  Some are concerned that more will attend than we can safely accommodate, which is less than half full capacity.  I personally believe that enough will refrain to prevent a problem.  We will continue to Livestream, and everyone will eagerly evaluate this situation.  Stay tuned.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Where you're supposed to get 60% alc. hand sanitizer, I don't know. I haven't seen any alcohol based sanitzer or wipes anywhere in more than six weeks.

I guess that depends on local businesses in your area.  There is at least one in my area that is making sanitizer using the CDC recipe.  I was able to get two 750ml bottles of it over a month ago, and I just put it in little spray bottles.  I doubt I'll run out for a long time...  It's still available, even in a 5-gallon size, so churches here could easily get some.

I found out about it from an announcement either on Facebook or NextDoor, so if you're looking for some, for church or otherwise, you might want to see if anyone on your local social media can point to a local source.  I'm not a really big social media user, but occasionally it has its uses.

Additionally, our church had its first in-person service since the lockdown this past weekend as well.  However, we met outside to prevent issues with checking masks, sanitizer, etc.  Everyone just stayed in family groups separated by approximately 6 feet.  It worked pretty well, though it wouldn't be that great in inclement weather.  We're already looking into what we need to do to start up indoor services.

Dave Barnhart