Louisiana Pastors and Church Leaders.,
We have received a number of requests to help churches interpret the phasing aspects related to the re-gathering of congregations. A wise Seminary professor once lectured, “The definition of a fool is he who tries to guess what is going to be on the test.” Therefore, we have intentionally remained silent on what re-entry means to the churches of Louisiana until we heard from the Governor. As you probably know by now, on April 27 he extended the stay-at-home order until May 15 with an update tentatively targeted for May 11.
We have intentionally not passed along every article and post we’ve run across. Much of the information is redundant and we’re hoping to avoid information overload.
While we’re waiting for specifics from the governor’s office, let me offer several words of general guidance as you peruse the mountain of other suggestions.
- Re-gathering the church, just like all aspects of our society right now, is likely going to happen in several phases. The governor indicated that congregations may initially be limited to 25% of their seating capacity. Masks and social distancing guidelines will likely be part of the initial phase. Again, these are not the official guidelines, just hints he dropped during his press conference on April 27. Therefore, prepare your congregation now for multiple changes over the next several months. Though not Scripture, the adage, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken” is going to be necessary for a while.
- We are a long way from normal. Just because we anticipate some possible dates and processes that will enable us to come together, re-gathering your church may not be the best option right now. You need to reassess your volunteers. You’ll need to determine your ability to be effective given the guidelines. Some churches may determine that a few more weeks of remote meetings is more effective than immediately gathering given the anticipated guidelines. There is “no one size fits all” approach in determining your response to re-gathering the church.
- Understand that not everyone will follow the decision to re-gather. Some will decide to re-gather under strict social distancing guidelines, but others will not. On the flip side, my experience as a pastor reminds me that church members can be an independent bunch. They often make their own guidelines. When this happens, how are you going to respond? Others are going to stay home because of individual health concerns, at least for a while. How are you going to minister to those who make such a decision?
- The decision to re-gather is not so much a decision of rules and regulations, but of wisdom and responsibility. Our testimony in the community is far more important than our decision once the stay-at-home order is lifted. If we are asking the question, “Can I do ________________ and still be in compliance?” we are asking the wrong question. The right question is “Is our response the right message to send to our community about our love for God and our love for them?”
- There is no manual for leading through a pandemic. No, you did not miss this class in Seminary. Because there is no manual, we are likely to make some mistakes. You are likely to do something different than what you see the church across town is doing. You are likely to be criticized regardless of your decision. Such is the nature of leadership.
Pastor, we are here for you. We are available to pray with you . We’re here to talk through your particular situation, so please contact us if you desire to do so.
We are praying that God gives you the wisdom to understand these times and gives you the courage and grace to minister effectively now and always.
Keep looking up!