In this video, he and Bob Turner discuss twelve pointers for effective reopening.
- Don’t be in a rush to get back to the way things were, especially since some of it wasn’t working to begin with. Until the church can have a meaningful gathering of community, realize that content and engagement are just as good if not better and barriers of entry are easier to navigate in digital space than in physical space.
- Remember the main goal is reentry into meaningful community in a way that is safe. Your people have been worshipping digitally while away, and what they will most value in reentry is fellowship and activities they cannot do digitally (e.g. singing with the gathered church).
- Understand how your members are punctuating the need for reopen. This Braddy article gives a free survey you can use and adapt for these purposes.
- ReOpen in phases, perhaps customize phases for different groups, with the main issue the lessening of social distancing protocol as you move through the phases. Think of the opening process not as going from large group to small group, but small group to large group.
- Be flexible as to how long you are in each phase. Present dates as smart guesses. Some phases may be lengthened until it is clearly safe locally and regionally to enter the next.
- Be “Phygital,” realizing it is no longer either/or relative to digital or physical, but both/and. Carry into the future the opportunities the digital world has revealed. Online church should not fade during or after the reopening phases. It is here to stay.
- Be sensitive to the different emotional and spiritual responses people will make to the reopening – some excited, some anxious, some fearful.
- Be truly incarnational in your plan, looking to everyone’s interests. Think of this especially if you have multiple services with different constituencies and styles. Also, do not be opportunistic and “slip in” changes that you may have wanted before. Your people are already in transition deficit, absorbing way more than their normal threshold of change.
- Set some guidelines for interaction and participation, and clearly communicate them audibly, on paper, in signs, and on screen.
- Overdo disinfectant and protective measures and make it obvious. Imagine everyone is Adrian Monk.
- Be creative with space usage – buildings, homes, outdoors, pavilions, etc. – not assuming everyone has to be in the same space, especially as the phases unfold
- Carefully focus your gatherings to give meaning to the shared experience of the crisis and the reconvening of community – emphasize communion, celebration, the voice of the people united in choral scripture readings, testimonies and stories of pain and promise.
Dr. Carlus Gupton is a Professor of Ministry at HST and co-directs our Doctor of Ministry program. He began preaching at an early age, and has over 30 years of professional experience in ministry for congregations small and large. For the past twenty years, Carlus has maintained an active schedule of consulting, coaching, and intentional interim ministry, having worked with over 100 churches and organizations. He has been with HST since 2014 (adjunct 1997-2013).
Bob Turner preaches twice each month at the Church of Christ at White Station in Memphis. He has been with HST since 2009. He publishes a newsletter of curated resources for ministers called Footnotes. Subscribe here.
Harding School of Theology (HST), a seminary in Memphis, TN, has been equipping ministers since 1958. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, and offering degree programs at the master’s and doctoral levels, HST equips Christian leaders to higher standards of ministry scholarship and challenges them to a deeper faith in God. Combining academic rigor and interpersonal connections, HST emphasizes student engagement in ministry as they study. HST is associated with Churches of Christ, is part of the Stone-Campbell Movement, and is part of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.