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WEBINAR: GATHERING TOGETHER AGAIN

CHURCH REGATHERING GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS

PREPARING FOR PRESCHOOLERS & CHILDREN

Over the past several weeks, our Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff has talked with thousands of pastors and a recurring question we’ve been asked is this: “When can we reopen our church?” As you know, within our Baptist polity that is not a question seeking permission but rather an informed perspective. I wish there were a single response with a definitive date, but that is a call every church must make for itself.

There is a myriad of reasons why there is no definitive date, and why this is a local church decision.

  1. All Tennessee Baptist Churches are autonomous therefore are free to choose for themselves the best decisions based on the desire of the local congregation.
  2. Local churches best understand the environment in which their churches exist, i.e. how COVID-19 has affected that local community.
  3. Local churches best understand the makeup of their congregations and the dangers posed to those in their congregations who fall into “high-risk” categories.

There are no easy answers as we continue to navigate uncharted waters. Pastors and churches must balance the need to be a good neighbor in following social distancing guidelines and the risks being communicated by medical experts.

With that in mind, the TBMB compiled the information in the following guide to help you identify key considerations as you make wise decisions about when to reopen you church. I am very proud of the hard work of TBC churches over the last five to six weeks. You’ve been creative, courageous and diligent as you have sought to seize this unprecedented opportunity for gospel advancement. I believe our greatest opportunities lie ahead of us. This is a preliminary document to get you started. We’ll release more information next week. The key is to proceed with caution and prudence.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to serve you. May God bless you with wisdom as you move cautiously forward.

It’s a joy to be on this journey with you.

Randy C. Davis
President and Executive Director
Tennessee Baptist Mission Board

LOGISTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

As soon as the lifting of orders by the governor and/or municipal authorities occurs, some basic logistical items need to be addressed before you invite people onto your campus. As with everything that we do for the Lord, we should strive for excellence. Now is the time to walk your campus with fresh eyes in regard to upkeep and cleanliness. The overall appearance of your campus speaks to guests louder than ever about your focus towards their health. It is likely that the safer they feel the sooner they’ll return.

FORM A LOGISTICS TASK FORCE AND ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

  1. Are there medical professionals or county health department personnel you could work with to help
    develop best practices related to the health of your guests?
  2. Who will provide campus “policing” of the protocols? More specifically, who will work under the
    authority of the pastor/elders to keep an eye on the basic health protocols for the next 2-6 months?
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CLEANING/SANITIZING BEFORE GUESTS ARRIVE

Protocols should be implemented to reduce the spread of the virus on campus (remember, the virus is not
eradicated). Consider:

  1. What areas of the church need to be deep-cleaned before anyone returns to campus?
  2. Who can be recruited to do this? (Volunteers, church staff )
  3. What resources do they need? (Cleaning materials – are they adequate for coronavirus and generally available or do they need to be ordered?)
  4. What ongoing (daily, weekly, monthly) cleaning protocols need to be developed and implemented once you are meeting on campus again?
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CONTACT PROTOCOLS WHILE GUESTS ARE ON CAMPUS

Discuss procedures and processes to minimize personal contact. Frequently sanitize high-touch surfaces when guests are on campus. Consider:

  1. What resources need to be purchased and stationed throughout the campus for use while people gather (for example, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray/wipes)? Availability of these supplies might be limited and prioritized to healthcare facilities. How will you gather them?
  2. What measures could you implement to curtail the spread of germs while people are on campus (for example, greeters wiping down doorknobs, bathrooms cleaned at least once during morning, sanitizing between services)?
  3. What are acceptable greetings instead of handshakes or a hugs? Remember, we need to start with a 6-foot separation.
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GET READY FOR COMPANY

As you walk your campus with fresh eyes in preparation for a return to on-campus activities, make note of items that need attention. Consider:

  1. What areas of the campus need an additional refresh or tidying up to exhibit a better overall
    cleanliness?
  2. What is the cost of these projects?
  3. Who can be recruited to do this? (Volunteers, church staff )
  4. What resources do they need?
  5. What are priorities based on need and availability of resources?
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LEADERSHIP

Leading well through this time of uncertainty is essential. Gather prayerfully with your leadership team to navigate this time of transition. Evaluate the mission to which God has called your church and identify how you may continue to impact your community. Make sure your leadership team has “buy in” to the church’s mission. If they are not sold on it and they are marginally supportive, focus your time on a mission that expresses who you are as a church. There will naturally be new ministry opportunities to develop, and very likely there are some prior ministry programs that may be obsolete. Consider:

  1. How can you communicate to your church and community the steps you are taking to maintain clean and safe conditions on campus and a relevant ministry future?
  2. What good habits has your church embraced these past months that you need to immediately integrate (for example, care through small groups, digital communication)?
  3. What should you stop doing? What should you begin? What ministries do you need to continue pausing due to Covid-19?
  4. Do church staff changes need to be made (for example, change in position responsibilities to address new ministry needs)?
  5. Are your governing documents in order so you can do business online?
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WORSHIP SERVICES—WHAT WILL THEY LOOK LIKE?

Adapting elements in your service and church programming for “loving distance” will be helpful for the near future. Consider:

  1. What adjustments in seating could you create to foster wise distancing (for example, adding a service, spacing chairs, encouraging “spread”)?
  2. What alternatives to passing the offering plate and Lord’s Supper trays (where everyone handles them) could be implemented while still highlighting giving as worship and encouraging corporate participation in the Lord’s Supper?
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EVALUATE MINISTRIES IN LIGHT OF HOW PEOPLE FEEL, NOT BY THE NUMBERS

When people leave their homes to gather, addressing ministry needs is more complex. The church must be prepared for immediate logistical and personal realities. People will not be the same when they return. This is the residual of a nationwide crisis – people grieve and should be given space to grieve. This is a process of crisis management. New opportunities to minster exist, starting with the way people feel as a result of forced change. Consider:

  1. How could you create a hybrid between on-campus and online platforms for those unable or hesitant to return to campus in the near future, or for the broader community wanting to remain connected from afar (for example, small groups, prayer meetings, ministry teams/committees, etc.)?
  2. Will your church continue to offer childcare during services in the same way it did before? If so, what additional precautions will you take in this area (for example, temperature checks, snack time modification/elimination)?
  3. What preparations do you need to begin making now to be ready for adjustments to your summer programming (for example, VBS – on campus, virtual or at home)?
  4. How will you address the personal and family struggles that may have surfaced in the last couple of months (for example, marriage or financial strain, emotional or physical abuse, job loss)?
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FINANCIAL – KEEP THE CHURCH IN ORDER

Financial planning is critical as you plan to reopen your church campus. Consider:

  1. What has been the impact on tithes and offerings? Can you project long-term trends on giving? What is the bottom-line impact of these giving trends?
  2. Cleaning and contact efforts will be an ongoing expense that is most likely beyond current spending plans. How will you fund these required resources (donations of cleaning supplies, financial adjustments, etc.)?
  3. What new ministry opportunities have you identified and what are the associated costs?
  4. How could you make immediate church-budget adjustments?
  5. Have you led the church to consider the missionaries supported through the Cooperative Program, Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions, Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, and others? These are real people called by God and sent by your church to minister in difficult places. They are trusting you and your church to hold the rope even in difficult times.
  6. What creative things are you doing to help church members who have lost their jobs?
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REMEMBER: YOUR ASSOCIATION AND STATE CONVENTION TEAMS ARE HERE TO HELP.
Please reach out with specific questions, concerns, or ideas.

Contact us at (615)373-2255
Or email us at
WeServeChurches@tnbaptist.org

Our thanks to the Florida and Missouri Baptist Conventions for their contribution to this document.