Voices: Alleviating your pastor’s stress about reopening

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Your pastor likely is nervous about what re-opening the church building looks like.

Will people follow social distancing? Will they stay home if they need to? Is it the right time? Are we doing this too early? Are we waiting too long? What if we follow all the precautions and someone still contracts COVID-19 as a result of coming to our worship services?

These are real questions pastors, staff members and church leaders are considering right now. These are the questions that keep pastors up at night, going over and over it in their heads.

Here are some basic steps you, as a church member, can take to alleviate some of the pressure.

Pray for your pastor and other church leaders who will make this decision. The opinions about whether to open or not are varied on the issue. The news and advisories have to be interpreted specifically for a church’s situation, size, demographic and location. There is no “one size fits all” solution for when to re-open.

Do not feel pressure to go to the physical church building until you are ready. The fear of many church leaders is that people will come who should not, because they always have been faithful to the church. During this time, know it is OK if you need to stay home.

Be supportive. In my role at Dallas Baptist University, and in my previous job at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I have the unique privilege of working with pastors across a variety of backgrounds. Some pastors I respect opened their churches on May 3. There are other pastors I respect who will not open their buildings to services until June or possibly later.

The church needs to support the leadership of the pastor in times like these. If a decision is made to meet, the church member is free to make the decision to stay at home if they are not ready to meet in person.

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Continue to support your church financially. In the church I serve as interim pastor, the members have stepped up financially in a strong way. Even if there was not this financial support, we would not let a financial shortfall push us to open the doors too early and risk the health of our members. Good financial support makes leadership’s decision much easier. A healthy, viable church is needed right now as the world evolves into a new normal.

Follow guidelines when you open the church building for services. It may look different than anything you have experienced before. It will not be business as usual. You will not be able to hang out in the hallway or fellowship in the foyer. It likely will be come in and go out or some variation of that.

Follow the guidelines as closely as possible for the safety of others. Remember, your pastor was nervous already about opening. Do not add to that worry by not following social distancing practices.

Be the positive person in every situation. When you hear others complain, try to point out the bright side. When others criticize, try to compliment. Send an encouraging note to your pastor or music minister about the worship services. Right now, they may still be preaching to a camera, and in a few weeks, they may be preaching to people wearing masks. A word of encouragement always is appreciated.

As others have said, remember your pastor and church leaders never have led through a pandemic. Be an encourager amidst these trying days.

Ryan Jespersen is the director of denominational relations at Dallas Baptist University, where he serves a link between local churches and the university. He is a former pastor, former director of urban missions at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and currently serves as interim pastor at Haltom Road Baptist Church in Haltom City. He is married to Joanna, who serves as minister to children and families at Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church, where they and their children are active members. The views expressed are those solely of the author.

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