After three months of lock-down due to the coronavirus, churches are feeling mixed sentiments about reopening. Some desperately want to reopen. They are valiantly fighting for their religious freedom despite the risks of another outbreak. Others are concerned about a second wave of the outbreak by incorporating in-person services prematurely. Many are facing a financial crisis due to a lack of tithing/offerings during the crisis making reopening challenging.
Indeed some churches have reopened with limited capacity and social distancing rules. However, others are still maintaining virtual services due to the possibility that we could see another spike in cases in the fall.
Business as Usual?
A recent survey indicates that most churches have decided not to return to in-person services. Some are additionally uncertain of future gatherings.
The study was initiated by the Wheaton Billy Graham Center’s Send Institute, Exponential, and the Association of Related Churches. 767 responses were recorded and examined during the study.
The survey indicated that most churches has the potential to meet for in-person gatherings, but 67% remain virtual.
“Some church leaders explain that while they are allowed to gather in some capacity, the health and safety of their congregation and community outweigh their ability and desire to gather,” the study said. “Others have shared that restrictions on congregational singing, hesitation from ministry volunteers, and the inability to linger before and after services for conversations, greatly reduce the value of their in-person gatherings.”
33% of pastors reported their churches have returned to in-person gatherings, but only half of members are attending. 80% of large churches, (over 1,000 before nation-wide quarantine), decided not to meet.
Another key discovery is that half of the churches will likely return to meeting in-person this month, yet 1/3 are not entirely sure. One pastor surveyed had indicated that it didn’t make much sense to continue worship services for a small percentage of their congregation. They did not wish to risk spreading the coronavirus to the community. They have initiated small groups instead and improving their online presence.
The survey concludes that churches nationally are cautiously planning a return to normal over the summer months. However, returning to where things once were requires implementing precautionary measure to ensure that the spread of the virus doesn’t continue in the community.
Pastors also said that church members are divided on returning to in-person gatherings, and they see state leadership as a greater influence on when to return.