Reopening our country will not be easy. And neither will be the reopening of churches across Texas.
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 as to how churches will operate in the phase one stage of reopening. The challenge is uphill.
But I believe the church is up for the challenge, and the church across America will thrive again.
The governor of Texas issued an executive order with the following guidelines. The guidelines across the 50 states will resemble the Texas order.
I read the guidelines. 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 would be easy of everyone would cooperate. But they won't, and here's why.
- Social distancing is a problem. "Practice social distancing by maintaining an appropriate distance between people." —State of Texas
Social distancing is excellent advice, and I support it fully. But Houston, there is a church problem.
Christians are not in the habit of practicing social distancing. Social distancing goes against every natural instinct of Christians.
Christians are known for hugging each other and holding hands in prayer.
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.
I see two problems. Some will refuse to honor social distancing and go to hug Suzy Saint. That's a problem.
Another member will go to 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
- Space is a problem. "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 six feet of social distancing drops the seating capacity to one-third.
A church of 600 must perform six services.
An exclusive service for seniors is a great idea. But it feeds the space problem and adds another service to the calendar. I am not complaining.
Our church will gladly do what's needed to serve our people and our community. We were born for this stuff.
But here is my question. 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?
We should consider the fact that social distancing works for all age groups. If we comply with social distancing guidelines, no exclusive service would be warranted.
- Kids are a problem. "Consider keeping child care closed, unless the house of worship can comply with CDC guidelines for child care facilities." —State of Texas
Having no child care is a significant problem for churches. Most churches are family-focused and kid-friendly. It forces parents to leave kids at home, or the children will sit with them during the service. Another problem.
We have raised most kids in "kids' church." I believe most parents will choose to stay at home in the reopening stages.
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 practices. Churches have adopted these guidelines for many years.
The virus adds a new dimension of maintaining a clean facility.
- The exit strategy is a problem. "Clergy should dismiss attendees by the family unit, maintaining social distancing." —State of Texas
Yes. The guideline orders that families are dismissed one unit at a time. And only family members can sit together. I get it. I do.
— Sit with family only.
—Greet no one physically.
— Hug no one.
—Touch no one.
—Dismiss in family units only.
What is the real purpose of driving to the church building? We can do that at home. Right?
Touch no one, greet nobody, hug nobody—check it off.
Why drive to the church service?
Attending Is an Advantage
Certain people make us feel better just by seeing them. Just seeing some people lifts our spirits.
All the social butterflies will attend church on opening day. Pastors love social butterflies. They make the church work.
The social buffs love a real-life church experience. The introverts enjoy a digital home experience.
I am persuaded a service on a computer screen is not a comparable substitute to a face-to-face encounter. A church service at your fingertips is convenient, but it cannot replace the benefits of connection.
The Scriptures strongly suggest that we gather. Gathering has an unseen advantage.
"Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).
Should we gather? Yes.
There is one thing no one can take from you. You were there.
Thomas McDaniels is a pastor/writer and the guy behind thomasmcdaniels.com. He has written for ChurchLeaders.com and currently is a contributing writer for Fox News. He is also the founder of LifeBridge.tv and the Longview Dream Center in Longview, Texas. Thomas can be found on social media, Instagram and Twitter.
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