TCO Talks 20 Ways to Prepare Your Congregation to Return to Worship
TCO Talks: 20 Ways to Prepare Your Congregation to Return to Worship
Take necessary precautions.
Chances are, much of your congregation will be a bit nervous about returning to worship with a large group of people, post-pandemic. By continuing to push social distancing measures, offering ample hand sanitizer, and acknowledging the concerns your congregation may have, those who return to worship will feel more comfortable and assured.
Preach a message of hope.
When your congregation returns to worship, they will likely be weary from the COVID-19 crisis. If they return to a message of hope and optimism, they will leave the worship service feeling more refreshed and positive about the future. As church leaders, it is our responsibility to deliver that hope to our congregations.
Continue offering livestream worship services.
Some members of your congregation might not feel ready to return to physical worship when your church’s doors open again – and that’s okay. It is important to keep those people engaged as part of the church family. Continuing to offer livestream worship services is an effective way of doing so.
Stay active on social media.
During the COVID-19 crisis, social media has been a lifeline for congregations to stay in touch and support one another. It is crucial to maintain a social media presence, not only for those who are still reluctant to return to a physical worship space, but also for those who have simply grown accustomed to using social media to interact with church leaders and fellowship with friends. Doing so will foster that sense of community within your congregation.
Nourish your congregation.
When it comes to caring for your congregation, little things can go a long way. Having some extra coffee and donuts available on Sunday morning will do wonders for your weary congregation’s morale, enabling them to feel nourished and focused on living out their faith and worshipping together.
Honor your heroes.
Your church has members who are fighting COVID-19 on the front lines. Doctors, nurses, first responders, and more are risking their own wellbeing to serve others. What better way to honor them than by taking some time to acknowledge their important contributions to the communities they serve?
Make yourself available.
With the added anxieties and concerns that a pandemic brings about, church leaders must make themselves available to hear the cries of their congregation. Whether that means offering a simple word of prayer or some form of counseling, making yourself available will go a long way toward preparing your congregation to return to the sanctuary on Sunday morning.
Outline what to expect.
When returning to worship, church members may not know what to expect. If you can outline what they can expect when they walk into church on Sunday morning, you will put them at ease.
Provide opportunities to serve.
Often times, the best way to prepare a congregation to return to worship is to involve them in a service opportunity. Offering to pack meals for the poor, serve essential workers, or even volunteer to read scripture on Sunday can make church members feel more valued and important, leading to an increased determination to return to worship.
Now is not the time to sugar coat what is going on in the world. Yes, there is suffering present, and yes it must be addressed, but it should be clothed in a message of hope and optimism, because although it may seem difficult, we will all get through this COVID-19 crisis.
Prepare yourself and your leaders.
Hold conferences, conduct meetings, whether in person or virtually, and above all, continue to nurture your own faith. If you are not prepared to return to worship, your congregation will sense it and be more apprehensive about returning to worship themselves.
If you have limitations on how many people can attend worship, consider holding multiple worship services or adding a service or two to your schedule. Think about alternative ways to conduct communion. What would a no-contact communion service look like? Getting creative will turn your limitations into luxuries as you navigate the post-COVID-19 landscape.
Hold your congregation accountable.
Just because your congregation hasn’t physically been in church doesn’t mean they should neglect their faith. On the contrary, they (and you) should lean on that faith. Make sure you remind your congregation that they have a purpose and that their faith is important.
Encourage greater connection.
It is one thing to stay connected via social media. It is quite another to reach out with a purposeful phone call and word of prayer. Encourage members of your congregation to connect beyond the confines of their computer screens. Have them make phone calls, write notes of encouragement, or serve those in need, when the time is right.
Remember the children.
Young children are particularly susceptible to fear during this pandemic. Don’t forget how important they are to your church and the Lord. Address them and their concerns to prepare the whole family for returning to worship.
Be realistic about programming.
Sure, some events at your church had to be cancelled and still others postponed. But it is critical to be realistic about what programs your church can and will offer post-pandemic. Set reasonable goals for reopening and be flexible with those goals as this crisis continues playing out.
Keep things as normal as possible.
Will there be restrictions and changes to worship after COVID-19 calms down? Absolutely. However, keeping worship as normal to its pre-pandemic state as possible will allow your congregation to get back into a regular groove when it comes to worship. If there is a worship song you typically sing at the beginning of worship, continue singing that song! If there are particular prayers you use, continue using those as well. These signs of normalcy will be welcomed by your congregation.
Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings – these things don’t need to be put on pause due to COVID-19. Find out who has reason to celebrate and honor them on social media and, when the time comes, in a church setting as well.
We WILL get through this pandemic. As church leaders, we must remind both ourselves and our congregations that this crisis will come to a conclusion. Having confidence doesn’t mean downplaying the threat of the pandemic; it simply means trusting in our Almighty God.
Give glory to God.
The only one who can see us through this process is God Himself. Give Him all the glory as you strive to prepare a proper worship space for your congregations to return to. He is the One who will give you that confidence, that assurance, and that strength.