Baptist Churches affiliated with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio are autonomous. They have full authority to determine their plan for reopening their gathered meetings with the lifting of the “Stay-At-Home” order from Governor DeWine.
This will be a reopening of gathered activities. Churches won’t be reopening. Without physically gathering in large groups, they have been worshiping, ministering and evangelizing during the “Stay-At-Home” order.
From the start of the "Stay-At-Home" order, we have posted information on the COVID-19 Section of the www.scbo.org website. The Resource Team of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio exists to assist affiliated churches and associations obey the Great Commission. Because we highly and faithfully regard the autonomy of local New Testament Baptist churches, all postings are for information and suggestions.
As each local church decides how their congregation will reopen their gathered meetings and activities as Governor DeWine lifts the “Stay-At-Home” order, I do encourage you to develop a plan and communicate your plan clearly to your members. The Resource Team has collected guidelines from various sources to assist your team in formulating and implementing a reopening plan. Governor DeWine’s orders and the Ohio Department of Health’s guidelines are included. Each church can add other sources such as local medical and health personnel.
However a church plans to reopen, please don’t abandon the online broadcasting and/or streaming of your services. Online broadcasting and/or streaming has afforded a fantastic opportunity to engage a great number of more people for worship services and/or Bible study. These people are looking to your church for spiritual guidance. While you develop a plan for gathering, don’t forget these people who have found you.
Some churches are considering reopening by admitting and dismissing groups of 10 on a staggered basis to separate rooms in their facility. All attendees will wear facial coverings and maintain the “6-foot” spacing except for family groups.
Please note the various suggestions for sanitizing the facilities. Restrooms require extensive cleaning. Multiple services absolutely necessitates a thorough cleaning between each service. Some churches are employing cleaning companies to do this.
Placing offerings in a collection box or offering plates positioned on a table while maintaining social distancing can address the fear of passing offering plates. Online giving circumvents these issues, but it may not completely replace in-person giving.
Childcare is most likely the greatest challenge for reopening. Requiring a toddler to maintain a “6-Foot” spacing is a daunting undertaking. Specialized online programing for children helps greatly. LifeWay has helps for this.
While some churches are considering how to reopen for groups of 10, others are waiting for Governor DeWine to increase the number to 50 or 100. The increase to 50 or 100 could occur in the latter part of May or June. As Governor DeWine has stated, allowing people to meet in groups of 50 or 100 depends upon the results of monitoring for the increase of infection and deaths from increased interaction.
My suggestion is to wait until Governor DeWine opens the group size to 50 for smaller churches and 100 for larger churches and use the staggered entry and exit plan with separate meeting rooms that will accommodate the “6-Foot” spacing or 36 square feet per person. I strongly encourage church leaders to use the LifeWay Survey to gauge your members thinking on various aspects of reopening. Some members may be very reticent to gather in groups for quite some time.
SCBO Churches have earned tremendous trust and respect for safety and integrity in their ministry. The last thing any church would want to happen is for a Coronavirus “spike” to occur in an early reopening of gathered activities.
The longer the period of restricted numbers for a group to gather enables churches more time to gain greater skill in connecting with members and the community. Hopefully, this strengthens the connective health of church membership. “God excels in turning a lemon into lemonade,” is a favorite expression of many. To emerge on the other side of the “Stay-At-Home” order with a stronger connection and communication in the churches is a worthy goal and outcome. Let’s press toward that Mark.