By Aaron Earls
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pastors and church leaders faced difficult decisions when most ended normal, physical congregational gatherings in March due to the COVID-19 crisis.
As some states begin to lift stay-at-home restrictions, church leaders again face difficult decisions about gathering again.
In addition to being constantly in prayer and listening to government officials and health experts to make the best decisions for their church, Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said there is another group that leaders must listen to before they start the re-entry process: their congregation.
“It will be impossible for church leaders to please everyone when making decisions around gathering physically again—whenever that may be,” said McConnell. “But having congregational feedback can help leaders avoid causing undue stress among potential attendees or making radical changes that most in their congregation find unnecessary.”
To help with the process, Lifeway Research has developed and made available a free survey church leaders can send to everyone in their congregation.
The questionnaire asks about expectations of when to begin worship services, comfort level in attending large and small groups, precautions that should be made for the entire church and specific ministry areas, and more.
It’s designed to help church leaders understand the concerns of everyone in their local congregation, so they can better assess their current situation and make the proper plans before welcoming worshippers and guests back to the building.
Lifeway Research is intentionally releasing the survey as a Word document to allow church leaders to customize it to their congregational needs and terminology.
“We want this to be a tool any church of any size or means can use to gauge the feelings of the congregation and make plans accordingly,” said McConnell.
If a church isn’t willing or able to take some of the steps asked about in the standard questionnaire, McConnell said those should be removed before being sent to congregants.
For example, it won’t be beneficial to ask if people expect a church to set up one-way foot traffic entering and exiting the building if that isn’t possible in their location.
“Churches will want to get an idea from their people about what type of changes they can realistically expect when coming back,” said McConnell. “They don’t want to set expectations they will not be able to deliver.”
Once downloaded, church leaders are free to print the questionnaire and mail it to their congregants, email the Word document, or freely distribute the questionnaire in any other means as needed, according to McConnell.
Once the results have been gathered, he said church leaders can then determine the best course of action for their church with the confidence they know the perspective of their congregation.
“Recognizing what the people of your church want and expect from reentry won’t tell you exactly what you should do,” said McConnell, “But it will provide additional and important information for church leaders to consider as they think through when and how they will begin physically meeting again.”
Click here to download the Lifeway Research COVID-19 Congregational Survey.
Aaron Earls is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.