July 9, 2021
Returning to Church
As many cautiously return to church with the loosening of strict pandemic guidelines, church leaders are also facing the issue of congregants being reluctant to return to church.
As with the national conversation on employees refusing to go back to work the knee-jerk reaction is that people are lazy and prefer to stay at home in their pajamas.
Just as the secular world is examining the issues of reluctance so should the church.
Here are a few observations on reluctance:
1) Physical safety: It is a literally a matter of life and death for some of our parishioners to return who may be immuno-compromised or have children under 12 who are unable to take the vaccines. Have we thought about how to accommodate the physical well-being and safety of these individuals within our churches?
2) Accessibility: For a subset of our congregants, they can actually hear and see better online as well as not having to worry about stairs or other impediments to accessing our buildings. Others may not have to worry about transportation to the church. Have we done an assessment on our buildings to ensure they are as accessible as possible?
3) Quality of Liturgy: For many, the online services were shorter, some were able to visit other congregations online and experience different worship styles and hear different types of hymns, many were reintroduced to Morning and Evening Prayer. A lack of variety and returning to the same way of worshipping may not be as attractive for some.
4) Welcoming: We are usually focused on welcoming the stranger, however many members feel unwelcomed in their churches, where because of cliques or family or opinions etc. they feel excluded. The pandemic gave them another excuse to not engage. Do we have intentional ministries in our congregations to reach out to all members to inquire about their well-being?
5) Mental Health: Home, though isolating, was a safe place where trauma was avoided for some over the last year. To reengage in a divided, polarized world and church is a major step that requires time and patience.
Church leaders are also grappling with the issues of how to fully serve a hybrid church for those who will continue worship online and those who will return in person. There are technology challenges with skillset and equipment, stewardship challenges of collecting tithes and challenges on how to engage visitors to become members both online and in person.
The pandemic offers us an opportunity to reimagine and enhance church for all, let us take full advantage of this gift as a legacy to those lost.