A Word from Walker
As churches begin to slowly roll back into public worship services I thought it would be important to think through some key issues. My purpose in this is to not to create hard and fast guidelines but to share two fundamental concepts that would help shape conversations with the leaders and members of your churches.
First, be governed by love. In a time of great uncertainty and increased political division the church should model a calm, confident commitment to desire, discern and do what is in the best interests of others. This requires projecting humility more than giving simple answers that will please everyone. Currently I have found that people want easy answers to hard questions, and it is difficult not to comply to keep in their good graces. But you have to fight the temptation to give people what they want versus what they need.
Doing this is not easy. Loving others well requires sacrifice. In this case, you might have to sacrifice the superficial and inaccurate (but ego-feeding) persona of having it all together as a leader. This is tough because people will want to make coming back together just about whether or not to wear masks; how or if folks should be screened at the door before entering church facilities; or even if the church should comply with governmental mandates. Leaders have to make tough decisions in this potentially contentious environment. In this context, that means because no decision will please everyone, leaders will have to make sure that people know that they are doing their best to do what is in the overall best interests of others.
Second, be guided by honesty. Nothing quells trust quicker than inconsistent or duplicitous communication. This is not about perfecting a technique or even making sure everyone in leadership roles are on the same page. These things are important, but they pale in comparison to telling people what you know and what you are intending to do in clear, consistent terms. Because we are currently living in a very fluid context where things seem to be changing on a daily basis it is important to update people regularly with what you know.
There are times when this will require that you have to make changes in mid-stream. If you are consistently updating people it will be ok to amend your plans or even admit missteps. This is extremely important if you ever have a breakout of COVID-19 in your congregation. You need to have a plan in place to ensure that this information is shared comprehensively and quickly in order to better serve your congregants. If you are slow to do this people will wonder if they have been told the whole truth. And once trust is lost you will have an uphill battle for obtaining endorsement for any decision you feel has to be made. Trusting your folks with the truth will not only yield their endorsement, it will also reveal unknown capacities that they have to help solve problems or leverage new ministry opportunities.
Love and honesty do not require perfection from leaders. But these values do protect a church from ignoring the real needs and capabilities of their members. Please know that we are here to serve you in these tumultuous days.
Your fellow servant in Christ,