Reopening our country will not be easy. And neither will be the reopening of churches.

Most organizations are facing significant challenges brought on by the virus.

Business owners feel overwhelmed and emotionally traumatized.

The challenge is far from over.

The State of Texas issued guidelines in phase one of reopening churches.

Wow! The challenge is uphill.

Texas Guidelines

The Governor of Texas issued an “executive order” with the following guidelines.

The guidelines across the 50 states will resemble the Texas order. We have our work cut out for us.

Some pastors are not prepared. Most pastors believe it will be easier to stay closed. With 35 years of pastoral experience, I have managed my share of problems.

The problems of reopening the church will be easy if everyone cooperates.

But they won’t, and here’s why.

Social distancing

Practice social distancing by maintaining an appropriate distance between people.

-State of Texas

Social distancing is excellent advice. But, Houston, there is a church problem. Christians are not in the habit of practicing social distancing.

Social distancing goes against every instinct of Christians. Christians are known for hugging each other and holding hands in prayer.

The weird ones greet each other with a holy kiss.

Getting Christians to respect social distancing may be the biggest miracle the church will ever experience. Even if they honor social distancing in the building, they will violate the rule in the parking lot.

There are two issues. Some will refuse to honor social distancing and go over and hug Suzy Saint. That’s a problem.

Another member will go over and hug Suzy Unsocial, and she doesn’t want a hug. She’s a rule keeper. This will be interesting to manage.

Churches are full of rule breakers and rule keepers.

Social distancing is a challenge for both.

Encourage all attendees 65 and above to stay home and watch the services online, or provide a “senior service” only for attendees 65 and above to attend in person.  State of Texas

The struggle for churches is spacing. Maintaining social distancing drops the seating capacity to 1/3.

A church of 600 will host six services. An exclusive service for seniors is a great idea. But it feeds the space problem and adds another service to the calendar.

If we are to practice social distancing, why would we add an exclusive service for seniors? The social distance rule applies to all services. Right?

If we do social distancing properly, it works for all age groups.

If we comply with social distancing guidelines, no exclusive service would be warranted. Including kids and seniors.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Consider keeping childcare closed, unless the house of worship can comply with CDC guidelines for childcare facilities. -State of Texas

Churches are also not equipped to handle the CDC regulations for children.

Not allowing children to attend is a major setback for churches.

Most churches are family-focused and kid-friendly. It forces parents to leave kids at home, or the children will sit with parents during the service.

Church kids attend kid’s church. Parents have not had to sit with their children in service for 25 years.

Most parents will choose to stay at home in the reopening stage.

More from the State of Texas:

  • Sanitize the hands of all those who attend the service.
  • Ask all attendees who have underlying at-risk health conditions, sick employees, and infected volunteers to stay home and watch the services online.
  • Consider refraining from passing collection plates and instead provide a central collection box in the building or encourage online giving.
  • Consider how the sacraments are administered without attendees having to touch the same surfaces and objects.
  • Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, using your elbow to cover coughs, and not touching your face
  • Equip ushers and greeters with masks and gloves throughout the entire service.
  • Implement environmental cleanliness practices.
  • Clean and disinfect work areas frequently.

The above guidelines are useful. Churches have adopted similar guidelines during normal operations.

The virus adds a new dimension to maintain a cleaner facility.

Clergy should dismiss attendees by the family unit, maintaining social distancing  -State of Texas

Also, note that members of the same family must sit together. And family units will exit one family at a time.

Let’s look at the church experience:

  • Set with family only
  • Greet no one physically
  • Hug no one
  • Touch no one
  • Dismiss in family units only
  • Go home

What is the real purpose of driving to the church?

We can do those things at home. Right?

Touch no one, greet nobody, hug nobody-check it off.

Why drive to the church?

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

There is an advantage

Certain people make us feel better just by seeing them.

Certain people add a smile to our lives.

All the social butterflies will show up on an opening day.

Pastors love social butterflies. They make the church work.

Social buffs enjoy a real-life church experience. The introverts enjoy a digital experience from their home.

The digital experience has limitations. A church service on a computer screen is not comparable to a face-to-face encounter.

Church at your fingertips is convenient, but it cannot replace the benefits of connecting.

The scripture strongly suggests believers gather. The gathering has an unseen advantage.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25, NKJV)

Should we gather? Yes.

Well, be there.

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