11 Resources for Reopening In-Person Church Services During COVID-19

I’ve been a Sr. Pastor, an Associate Pastor, and a Lead Elder. So, I know something about the stresses of pastoral decision-making.

However, I’ve never been a pastor in a pandemic.

That’s why I find myself praying a lot for my current pastor and the staff and elders at our church, for past churches where we’ve ministered, and for my scores and scores of friends who are pastors.

Praying and Planning 

Throughout the book of Nehemiah, God’s leaders always prayed and planned. So, in addition to praying for my pastoral friends, I wanted to provide some planning resources for them.

I’ve categorized the following resources in two ways:

  • Resources related to our heart attitudes toward one another as reopening decisions are made.
  • Resources that provide clear information and wisdom principles for making reopening decisions. 

Resources Related to Our Heart Attitude toward One Another 

The heart is where the action is. We can make all sorts of decisions about if, when, and how to reopen churches. However, how we relate to one another, how we think about one another, our heart attitude toward one another—Christ calls these issues one of the two most important matters in the entire universe (Matthew 22:35-40).

Why Humility and Submission Are Especially Important Right Now

My life-long friend, Steve Viars, is Sr. Pastor at Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana. If anyone is a “go-getter,” it’s Steve. If anyone is passionate about churches meeting to encourage one another and about churches impacting their community for Christ, it’s Steve. When Steve talks about (and models) humility and submission, we should listen. For biblical wisdom on how to humbly respond to governmental authorities during COVID-19, read and apply Steve’s blog post: Why Humility and Submission Are Especially Important Right Now.

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You 

Brett McCracken is Senior Editor at The Gospel Coalition (TGC), and also serves as an elder Southland Church in the Santa Anna, California area. Brett’s recent post at TGC was quite convicting. If Steve Viars’ post highlights humility toward governmental authorities, then Brett’s post highlights humility toward one another in our churches. If you want to be convicted, read Brett’s TGC post: Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You.

Does Online Church Violate Hebrews 10:25? 

Joel Kurz is the Lead Pastor of The Garden Church, a multicultural congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. Writing for TGC, Joel ask and answers the question, “Are we disobeying the clear command of Hebrews 10:24-25 by moving our Sunday worship services online due to COVID-19?” Read Joel’s thoughtful, biblical response in: Does Online Church Violate Hebrews 10:25?

3 Thoughts on Navigating Potential Conflicts in Reopening Church 

Jared Poulton serves as the Pastor of Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, and Outreach at Harbins Community Baptist Church in Dacula, Georgia. He introduces his post with these words: “As government restrictions in some places relax and communities begin emerging from confinement, many churches now face challenging questions as everyone considers how to retain some level of normalcy. Many leaders are quickly realizing that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the question of reopening churches.” Read Pastor Jared’s follow-up insights in: 3 Thoughts on Navigating Potential Conflicts in Reopening Church. 

Wisdom for Life Together During Our COVID-19 Journey 

Many blog sites have collated a series of articles and resources for churches/Christians during COVID-19. One that I’ve been reading daily that I highly recommend is Pastor Kevin Carson’s blog, Wisdom for Life Together in Christ. Kevin has a focused, designated section of his site where he’s collated scores of COVID-related posts—his and guest posts—that you can find here: COVID-19 Resources.

Resources Providing Clear Information and Wisdom Principles 

Here are 6 resources designed to help pastors, staff, elders, leaders, and people think wisely about reopening in-person services during these COVID-19 days. 

LifeWay Research COVID-19 Congregational Survey 

Aaron Earls of LifeWay Research has penned a post about what churches must know before reopening their building. At the end of the post is a direct link to an excellent 14-question congregational survey—in Word format so each church can individualize the survey. Aaron introduces the survey with these words. “There are numerous needs to consider and questions to ask. Leaders should be constantly in prayer while listening to government officials and health experts to make the best decision for their congregation. There is another group, however, that leaders must listen to before they start the re-entry process: their congregation. Understanding the concerns of everyone in the local church will help leaders better assess their current situation and make the proper plans before welcoming worshippers and guests back to the building.” Here’s the link to Aaron’s post: What Your Church Must Know Before Reopening Your Building. And click here to download the LifeWay Research COVID-19 Congregational Survey.

How 6 Pastors Are Thinking About Reopening 

I love researching pastoral best practices. Sarah Eeekhoff Zylstra, at TGC, interviewed 6 pastors, asking them each a series of questions, about how they are thinking through the reopening process. For their thoughts, read Sarah’s post: How 6 Pastors Are Thinking About Reopening.

Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) has produced the guide: Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus (COVID-19): A Step-by-Step, Research-Informed and Faith-Based Planning Manual. As they state, “The aim of this guide is to help churches in the United States plan and prepare for COVID-19. This church planning and preparedness guide draws on biblical wisdom and our team’s research. We will share insights and best practices from our collaborative work with local, state, and federal public health agencies.2 Our team’s experiences with helping churches around the globe for nearly a decade have also informed this guide.” Access this free guide here: Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus (COVID-19).

TGC on: CDC Document Outlines Guidance for Reopening Churches 

Joe Carter at TGC, distills into easy-to-digest bullet points new CDC guidelines. Joe describes those guidelines as follows: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled new “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith” that outlines precautions churches may need to take when states lift their coronavirus restrictions.” To read Joe’s summaries, visit: CDC Document Outlines Guidance for Reopening Churches.

The CDC on COVID-19: Community and Faith-Based Organizations—Plan, Prepare, and Respond 

For a direct link to scores of up-to-date information from the CDC, visit: Community and Faith-Based Organizations—Plan, Prepare, and Respond.

Guidelines for Reopening and Returning to Church Building 

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has a continually updated section of their site with information on churches related to COVID-19—you can find it here. Among those resources is this PDF: Guidelines for Reopening and Returning to Church Building. 

Praying Philippians 1:9-11 for Our Church Leaders, Our Churches, and Ourselves 

I often call Philippians 1:9-11 “The Biblical Counselor’s Prayer.” And I often pray it for myself and my counselees. It struck me as I was preparing this document, that Philippians 1:9-11 is a great prayer for all of us to pray for ourselves, our churches, and our church leaders as we navigate church life and slowly/wisely returning to in-person services during these COVID-19 days. 

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

Join the Conversation 

What additional recommendations would you have for Resources for Churches Reopening In-Person Services During COVID-19?

Bob KellemenBob Kellemen
Bob Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D.: Dr. Kellemen is VP of Strategic Development and Academic Dean at Faith Bible Seminary in Lafayette, Indiana. Bob is also the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries through which he speaks, writes, and consults on biblical counseling and Christian living. Dr. Kellemen served as the founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. For seventeen years, Bob was the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. Bob has pastored four churches and equipped biblical counselors in each church. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-eight years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and three granddaughters. Dr. Kellemen is the author of eighteen books including Equipping Counselors for Your Church, Gospel-Centered Counseling, and Gospel Conversations.