4 Heart Postures You Need When Deciding How and When to Return to Church Amidst COVID-19
The church never closed during COVID-19—just the doors to our buildings.
Kent Annan & Jamie Aten
The church never closed during COVID-19—just the doors to our buildings. Right now, churches across the country are deciding when and how to restart in-person gatherings. Just as government leaders, health officials, and church leaders wrestle with the questions of when and how to go back to church safely, you also need to answer these questions personally as a churchgoer.
We’re all living through unprecedented times, and because our lives look different from one another, we’re experiencing COVID-19 in unique ways. But our heart postures as Christians can be the same as we decide how and when to return to in-person gatherings.
When we prioritize these virtues as we make decisions, it fosters unity:
We need to humbly examine our possible biases, influences, pressures, strengths, and weaknesses that could have a negative effect on our ability to make wise decisions. Going back to church (in person) isn’t only going to affect you, and we must make decisions out of humility.
Humility involves having an accurate view of your strengths and weaknesses. Humility helps you to be more others-focused. Scripture is clear that humility is essential to service. Jesus instructs his disciples, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). He also preaches it publicly, saying, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt. 23:11-12).
Humility will help you find patience for your church leaders. Humility will bring peace and calmness to your heart. Furthermore, grounding yourself in humility increases your ability to hear, understand, and meet the needs of others. People tend to feel the most comfort when they feel their needs are perceived accurately and when they feel others care about them.
We must follow the biblical call to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31) when deciding how and when to return to church and in-person ministries. We must act with love so we do not inadvertently cause harm.
The majority of people are taking the pandemic very seriously and adopting safety measures. As you begin to re-enter group gatherings, it’s important to start from the idea that people are doing the best they can. Respond in grace and love rather than frustration. One of the most loving things you can do is always keep safety in mind.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body… Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many… But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 24-26).
As Paul wrote in Corinthians, as Christ’s body, we suffer together, we rejoice together, and we move forward knowing that we are both different and united in Christ. As you pray about returning to church, remember to be led by love.
Mentally approach navigating COVID-19 as a marathon—not a sprint—by keeping a long-term view in mind (e.g., Scripture talks about finishing the race, not being first in the race). Also keep in mind that viewpoints will differ.
Not everyone in your church is going to agree on how the reopening process should happen. This could lead to potential risky behaviors and possibly cause some divisions in congregations where a unified approach is especially important. Stay persistent in your discussions and emphasis on safety.
The plan won’t go perfectly. Even if the planning is perfect and your fellow churchgoers intend to engage in safe practices, people are naturally bad at predicting risk. They may go in the wrong door. During a conversation, they may drift closer than six feet away. Having realistic expectations will help you make decisions and be persistent in finding a healthy way to engage in in-person church gatherings again.
With information and guidelines frequently changing, it’s important for Christians to take the lead on knowing the recent updates from trusted and vetted sources. Use science to assess your risk and stay up-to-date on what your local public health officials are saying.
Christians are called to be the light of the world and become trusted, caring neighbors who prioritize the health and wellbeing of all people is one way to shine brightly.
Wisdom will help you remember that while we all want to be together in person again, there are different factors involved in that decision. If we gather, we want to do so in a way that doesn’t bring unnecessary risk to ourselves or the vulnerable in our community. Wisdom will help you make well-informed decisions for you and your family during COVID-19.
In wisdom, we encourage you to pray this prayer:
God, we ask for your grace and guidance for decisions, and for your close presence as we walk through uncertain and challenging times.