Making The Most Of An UN-Ideal Set Of Circumstances
Kurt Attaway, Pastor of The Vineyard Church of Pearland, TX, shares a reflection on his team's process of discerning a good way forward during the pandemic, and their approach to resuming in-person gatherings to best serve their multigenerational church family.
Lead Pastor of The Vineyard Church, Pearland, TX
If you are anything like me, you have been considering, contemplating, conversing and creating scenarios over and over and over again, trying to crack the COVID Era ministry challenge.
The thing that has been super clear to me all along is that nothing about this moment feels ideal. In fact, everything feels un-ideal.
As our team wrestled with decisions, process, and protocols, we ultimately had to realize that we are aiming to make the best decisions we can in a totally UN-IDEAL set of circumstances – which also happen to be well outside our control.
I think there is something helpful in being able to connect with the reality you are in and understand that the best decisions might still be less-than-ideal. The best course of action might be one you never anticipated, envisioned, or feel super excited about.
Even in the midst of un-ideal, un-exciting circumstances, the best course of action is always one of faithful obedience and that will look unique to each of our local churches.
A quick sidebar for a central key to our decision making process: It was a goal to decide together. Our church staff and church board worked for consensus. It was our goal to discern each next step together. Fostering space for a collective voice was essential in navigating these uncharted waters.
On Sunday, May 31, we resumed in-person worship gatherings. With two services instead of one, a maximum capacity of 50 people, no kids ministry classes, and no coffee or donuts, it was clearly different than the last in-person worship gathering we held on March 8.
Our 300-seat auditorium was now a 50-seat max capacity room with plastic folding chairs around 6-foot round tables. Our church family was walking into a completely different space. All the furniture in our lobby/cafe area was removed. Our church family was walking into a completely different space – did I mention that part yet? I remember thinking no matter how many years we had gathered on Sunday morning, this felt very new and unfamiliar.
Without Vineyard Kids classes available, we knew we must consider how our families with young kids would experience this new approach to Sunday morning. With over half of our church family still preferring to stay home and watch online, we knew we had to consider how our IN-PERSON experience translated to our ONLINE community.
As we worked through these various factors, we came to some clear conclusions that allowed us to express who we are as a multigenerational community stepping into this next season of ministry:
Community Connection + Social Distancing – Round Tables & Chairs
Round tables foster a sense of connection. At the same time, 6-foot round tables aid us in our efforts to create a safe space with social distancing.
Service Order – Preach First, Sing Second
We flipped our historical service order and moved the preaching before the worship so that the attention span of children could be considered. We preach while children are their most fresh and are taking advantage of our Vineyard Kids activity bags, then we worship at the end. This also allows our community to exit the building fairly quickly after congregational singing, just in case there are implications for air circulation.
- We play a Vineyard Kids worship video to start our service in order to highlight the next generation and engage them early in the service.
- We use service starter videos from ignitermedia.com help us with transitions, and are utilized to enhance the online viewing experience.
- We shortened our messages to 20 minutes and aimed for a service time of about 50 minutes.
Faithful and flexible – throughout all this journey we have aimed for decisions that are faithful and flexible.
Upon reopening, our motto was “tweak week-to-week.” We realized that we were not going to make a final decision that would address all the days and weeks in front of us. We realized that we had to be willing to learn and adjust. We realized our efforts each week would help us discover our next step forward.
As of June 30th, we made the decision to move back to online services only with the increased COVID-19 case count and rate of spread in our area. We continue to monitor the movement of COVID-19 in our area and have conversations about the best way to love and serve our church family and our community.
It is our desire to see heaven come to earth and we know that it comes through the power and presence of the living God, not our specific form of service structure; therefore, we stay open to spirit-filled discernment leading us into each new moment and every next decision.
Kurt Attaway is the Lead Pastor of The Vineyard Church in Pearland, TX.
A Note From Vineyard USA: While we do not claim to know the best steps for each church as they look ahead to reopening, we do hope that hearing from other pastors and churches will help you discern the process within your local context.