What Deacons Need to Know about Reopening; Part 1: Sunday Worship During a Pandemic

  • What do deacons need to know about reopening?
  • What conversations should they be having?
  • What considerations should be made?

The work of the deacon happens both inside and outside of the church walls. Since Covid-19 hit, deacons have continued to find ways to engage with their communities, encourage stewardship and generosity among their members, and promote mercy and justice in their neighbourhoods and beyond. (Here’s a few stories we gathered!)

As cities and provinces begin to ‘reopen’, an obvious question has arisen: how and when can the church reopen? (Perhaps your church is already gathering!) While most are quick to say ‘the church never closed!’, we can all agree we know what this question is really asking. 

Or do we? 

Many of us believe this is about Sunday Morning Worship. Others might also think it’s about regathering for meetings and other church events. (Is your diaconate and church getting zoomed out yet, or what?!) 

What will (and should) ministry look like moving forward as we begin to open up and exist in a post-Covid world?

In the first part of this series, we’ll look at reopening corporate worship and how this may impact deacons. For the second part, we’ll expand on this a bit more as deacons look back and plan ahead. What will (and should) ministry look like moving forward as we begin to open up and exist in a post-Covid world?

Keeping a Bird’s Eye View

Whether it’s planning your new ways to worship, hold meetings or do ministry, having the right perspective is vital. Before you read on, may we humbly suggest you read this article first, as an entire church council? Our friends at Pastor Church Relations have listed 8 things church leaders may want to consider in this new reality of a partially-gathered church. Some of it you may feel doesn’t apply to deacons, but please take some time to read it in its entirety, especially as you move forward with your entire church council.

The above article shares this warning with ALL ministry leaders; one worth heeding: “If you thought decision-making was challenging during the quarantine stage, you’ve probably already realized the decisions you’re making now may actually be more complicated. Previously, we all just knew we had to stay home. Now the advice from our local governments varies widely and changes frequently. As always, the way you make a decision can have as much of an impact on your desired outcomes as the decision itself. Use decision-making times as opportunities to listen well, build trust and lean into the Spirit’s unifying presence.”

So You’ve Decided to Gather for Worship… 

We know by now most churches have sent out surveys to gauge where their members are at with returning to worship in the building. Opinions will be mixed and some even fierce. Perhaps you’ve already been worshiping for a while! If you haven’t gone back to church, it may be helpful to first acknowledge that there is no need to rush back to church on Sundays and do things like we did pre-Covid. Online services have been a blessing to many, including those who would likely never step foot in your church, as well as those who are unable to go to church for a variety of reasons. Several churches have celebrated increased views and even interaction with those reaching out for prayer and support over these past months. Online church will likely need to continue, and should continue, for a while (if not ‘til kingdom come!). 

Another advantage to online church (depending on what format you are using) is the way it can increase (and promote) interaction between members who would normally never chat after church or even bump into each other on a Sunday morning, particularly for shut-ins who are never able to see regular attenders. A recent article from Christian Courier reminds us of this.

Moving services online may have also increased awareness of the ministries your church supports, both local and global. Many may have never heard of the community garden you support or the youth drop-in centre your church partners with.

[As a quick aside, has your church considered how accessible your online services are to those in your congregation and beyond? Here’s a great article with some helpful insight and tips.]

If it is decided that your church will once again gather for corporate worship, one thing we can agree on is that it will look different. Now matter what, there are a two essentials to keep in mind: 

  • Proper hygiene and safety precautions will always need to be a priority moving forward.
  • Clear and consistent communication by your church council is a must.
  1. Caring for members and volunteers

The first thing of utmost importance is ensuring the health of your members and your serving deacons. As most attendees will need to be screened, don’t forget about your on-duty deacons! Many provinces have online assessment tools or you can create your own ‘checklist’ for volunteers to fill out. Here is one example: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/ or some have created their own online Google Form. 

  1. Format

The first question is how your church will manage attendance. Will you offer multiple services to allow for social distancing/fewer attendees? If yes, will all services happen on a Sunday or throughout the week? How many will be allowed to come, based on the recommended ⅓ capacity. Who will be allowed to come and how often? How does all of this impact the deacons? Will this require more or less deacons to serve? If deacons are serving, what does that look like?

  1. The Offering

For most churches, the primary role of the deacon during worship services is the Offering Time. While deacons often collect the offerings, some also do announcements and prayers for the cause or ministry for that day. Keeping health and safety in mind, some churches may not want multiple participants so this may limit the deacons’ involvement. Each church will need to decide on its own how they will move forward with this.

Since physically passing the plate/bucket/basket won’t happen for a while, having a drop-box inside the church will be necessary. Deacons must also continue to encourage online or mail-in giving/tithing options – these are still the best and safest options. Some churches are also holding drive-by offerings on specific dates with designated “stations” set up to accommodate their members’ desire to give. 

With so many being hit hard financially by Covid-19, ongoing encouragement of stewardship and generosity amongst members will be vital. Our “Offerings as Part of Worship” resource may still be helpful as you find creative ways to do this.

  1. Other Opportunities

Outside of the Offering time, what other gaps could the deacons fill during Sunday Worship? Ushering? Greeting? Screening? Hall Monitoring? Parking?

As churches consider going back to church, here is one final article from The Network to help you discern the best way forward.

Stay tuned for our next article which will look more specifically at doing ministry in a post-pandemic world. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach out to your local Diaconal Coach or Diaconal Ministries.

Has Your Church Begun Gathering Again? We want to hear from you!

Let us know what you’ve learned so far. Send Erin, our Communications Coordinator, an email at eknight@crcna.org.