Many churches are moving online, and Eternity has published a useful guide to how to do that quickly – but here’s an alternative suggestion: divide your gathering up into several smaller groups and multiply your Sunday gatherings.
It’s likely that the under-one-hundred limit will come down further. Also, others present a strong argument that minimising social contacts saves lives; for example, respected infectious diseases expert Bill Bowtell who told Eternity clearly that churches should not be meeting in small groups.
But here’s a divide-to-multiply alternative from Kamal Weerakoon, a Presbyterian minister from GracePoint Church in inner western Sydney. GracePoint is running a “decentralised model” of transmitting a livestream which is watched live in small groups.
Kamal Weerakoon’s suggestions about dividing services
Indoor meetings of more than 100 have been banned. This is not a problem for churches, it’s an opportunity for church growth and multiplication.
1. We can multiply our services and encourage our people to keep meeting, but in smaller groups at different times of the day.
2. With smaller groups, we can instruct our people to sit some distance apart to minimise risk of airborne contamination.
3. Encourage congregation members to contribute more and be passengers less. If we have more, smaller services, we need more people to pray, read the Bible, play music, sing, and the like. Encourage people that contribution and partnership are more important than professional quality.
4. We won’t be able to run Sunday school and youth group in the normal way. So equip parents to teach their children. Which they should be doing anyway, instead of delegating it to others.
5. Pastors: You can preach the same sermon several times in one day. Learn how to tweak it each time to be specifically relevant to the congregation in front of you at the time.
6. We can run these smaller meetings in less formal ways, encouraging people to pray together (at 1.5 metres apart – don’t lean close to each other) and in other ways interact with each other. From a distance.
7. At the end of a service, encourage the gathering to don gloves and grab disinfectant and wipe down the pews for the next service.
8. Do not under-estimate the power of small personal gatherings in these lonely, frightened times. Make the new services small enough for your people to invite their bored, lonely, frightened non-Christian friends. Then when all the fuss is over we’ll have LOTS OF SMALL, ADEQUATELY RESOURCED, WELL-CONNECTED, OUTWARD-ORIENTED CHURCHES, ready to continue to take the gospel to the nations! Win!
Weerakoon is reluctant to ban anyone from church, but if this Eternity writer was writing the list here is a point 9: Create an online or conference call group for your older congregation members. John Sandeman