8 (More) Questions to Address Before Resuming Church Services

8 (More) Questions to Address Before Resuming Church ServicesThis week, the Governor of Iowa reversed her earlier declaration that all mass gatherings (including spiritual gatherings) over ten people as a COVID-19 response. In her new declaration, she allows churches to gather. This leaves many Iowa pastors asking questions about how to resume church services (something, I trust, they’ve been thinking about for weeks).

On Wednesday, the Baptist Press published a helpful piece titled, “24 questions your church must answer before welcoming people back.” No list can fit every context or ask every question, but I found it to be a helpful resource for organizing thoughts. I worked through this list, modifying it for my own context.

Then, I added a list of questions I’d already compiled and worked through for myself, for a list of 32 questions.

For context: I like to start by defining the facts as I understand them, then my principles, then my precedents in the situation or analogous situations. This helps me arrive at an initial decision based on my own convictions. It enables me to read and react to the opinions and advice of others on the basis of informed, principled, and tested conviction versus reacting based on relationship, emotion, fear, or preference.

8 (More) Questions

In light of that, here are eight (more) questions pastors and churches should address* before resuming church services. (Oh, and like the article, “eight” is “ministerially speaking.” When we say we had 100 in the service, it means 65. And when we say there are eight minutes left, it means 15-20.)

      1. What has God said you must do?
        1. What actions or inactions would be sinful?
        2. How would you defend your decisions as biblical necessary for obedience to God?
      1. What is the guidance from the civil and health officials?
        1. Do they say it is legal for churches to gather?
        2. Do they say it is wise for churches to gather?
        3. Do they say it is safe for churches to gather?
        4. Do they say it is legal for secular groups to gather?
        5. Do they say it is wise for secular groups to gather?
        6. Do they say it is safe for secular groups to gather?
        7. How should their guidance for secular groups inform your decision?
      1. How have you led in the past in this situation or analogous situations?
        1. What have you told the congregation you would do with respect to the rulings and/or guidance from civil and health officials?
        2. If the church is not permitted to gather: How have you counseled church members who want to defy authority?
        3. If the church is permitted to gather but the authorities say it is unsafe (implied by disallowing secular gatherings): How have you counseled members who want to do something permitted but unwise/unsafe?
      1. Are your decisions or preferences based on—
        1. Biblical and theological convictions?
        2. Ethical and moral convictions?
        3. Medical information?
        4. News stories?
        5. Social media posts?
        6. Statements from politicians?
        7. Statements from religious leaders?
      1. What is your basis or process for making decisions?
        1. Presuming you are obeying God, are you following the guidance of civil and health authorities? Why or why not?
        2. Are you confident in your ability to interpret and apply relevant data?
        3. What are others doing? Have you weighed their reasons?
      1. If resuming services, have you communicated your plans to local officials? Should you?
      1. What is loving to your neighbors, to…
        1. your family?
        2. church members?
        3. church and member neighborhood?
        4. city? state? nation? world?
      1. Are your decisions (statements, actions, and inactions) biblical—that is…
        1. Displaying the glory of God?
        2. Conformed to the image of Christ?
        3. Sanctified by the Holy Spirit?
        4. Pure with respect to God’s commands?
        5. Legal with respect to government regulations?
        6. Wise?
        7. Necessary?
        8. True?
        9. Honorable?
        10. Just?
        11. Respectful?
        12. Loving?
        13. Good?
        14. Commendable?
        15. Kind?
        16. Gentle?
        17. Joyful?
        18. Promoting peace?
        19. Sowing righteousness?
        20. Defensible by Scripture and plain reason?
UPDATE: BONUS QUESTION

Immediately after publishing, a friend suggested this additional question, which I deem wise to think through. So, I’ve adapted and added.

9. What is your response plan for a positive test among those who gather?

        1. Are you willing to provide contact tracing information?
        2. What is your public relations plan should an outbreak should be traced to your church gatherings?
        3. What will you do if a proportion of attendees or ministers or volunteers end up in isolation for a time?
        4. Do you have backup teams? Do you need them?

Admittedly, my list is not exhaustive. Nor do all the questions have specific or “correct” answers. That’s not the intent. I hope it’s a helpful resource for thinking through multiple areas and in good directions about church services in COVID-19.

Resources

Download my full pdf: Questions to Ask Before Resuming Services
Original BP article: 24 questions your church must answer before welcoming people back


*side note: I tend to say that I will “address” questions and comments verses “answer” them. I have no way of knowing whether I can answer a question or comment, but I can always address it.