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This month marks a year that we have been navigating this pandemic. When we stopped physical gatherings in 2020, we thought we would be back by Easter of the next month. We were wrong, and we had so much to learn ahead of us. Our church was online only for about 3 months, and then we started the process of regathering the summer of 2020. We broke regathering into small steps that allowed us to move forward slowly, safely, and intentionally.

We will have COVID-19 precautions in place for the next several months, but we are well into the process of regathering. Here are some of the lessons we have learned…

  • Make a Plan and Be Flexible / Making a plan matters but being flexible with that plan is even more important. Many things we thought would work did not. Many of our plans have to be adjusted as we talked with community leaders and medical experts. Flexibility is the key to staying sane in this process.
  • Communication Matters / How your share your plan with your congregation will be an important factor in the process. Be clear, be confident, and be humble as you reveal the process. You are communicating with many people that have lost family members and friends in the pandemic.
  • Listen to Your People More than Social Media / Don’t develop your plan around social media experts in other states or cities. Listen to the people you lead. Work to answer the questions of your people. Develop a plan that helps your people regather safely.
  • Make Sure you can Defend Your Plan / If you can’t defend your plan, you don’t have a good plan.
  • Online Matters So Much More Now / Your online experience will be the front door of your church from now on. Don’t take your eye off the online experience. Create an experience that helps people grow if they are watching from home or away from your gatherings.
  • In-Person Gatherings are Needed / Many of our people desperately needed the in-person experience. They needed to be around people. Isolation was tough for them. In our context, people were thankful for a regathering plan and precautions as we moved forward.
  • Give People Options for Community Building / We chose to leverage in-person and online community groups. It helped us invest in a much wider number of people navigating the pandemic. Don’t forget people that are still lying low as we work our way through the vaccine process.
  • Don’t Rush Back to the Past Version of Normal / What you did pre-pandemic should not determine what is next. The time to dream of what can be is now!
  • Be Patient with Your People / It will take time for people to be ready to regather. The ones that choose to do so early are not the same as the people who need time. Get ready for this to take longer than you think.
  • Don’t Tear Down Other Church’s Plans / This may be the most important aspect of the process. Your plan will not be the same for everyone, and that’s just fine. Don’t tear down the plans of others when you don’t lead those churches and organizations. Give others the same patience as you want from your congregation.

These are some of the things we learned. We are seeing people slowly transition back to in-person gatherings, and we are also connecting with new families online and in-person. I am praying for you as you start the regathering process in your context.