We just received a rather concerning email from an active church member frustrated about the approach their church is taking by not encouraging support for wearing masks and social distancing guidelines. The email asks for our recommendations on how to approach and share this concern within the church. The email ends with the church member stating they may just find another church because they are concerned about not just their own health and safety but others in their family and church community as well.

I share this because we are at a critical time in the life of the local church. Pastors and ministry leaders, please listen – whatever you are doing right now will set the stage and foundation for the health, vitality, and growth of your church for months and possibly years to come. I am not debating masks, guidelines, or statistics. There is a much more practical lesson here. Please listen and pay attention to those in your church with concerns about the health and well being of not just themselves but their family members and friends. How you navigate the next several weeks will make a major difference in your church’s ability to grow and reach unchurched people.

Please pay attention to how you are communicating and sharing plans for your church to gather, meet, and worship. Are you providing avenues for concerns to be shared and for thoughtful, grace-filled responses to be offered?

It is unrealistic to think we can provide 100% security from anyone getting sick or dying from the virus because of going to church – but if you are not listening to those among you with concerns they will find somewhere else to worship, give, and serve. The loss of those members who go elsewhere will have an impact on your church.

If you know someone with health challenges or people who have concerns about the safety guidelines and protocols you have established for your church please be proactive and speak with those folks directly, one on one. The alternative will be those folks will leave your church and there will be very little you can do to earn that trust and relationship back again.

“Getting back to normal,” will never happen if we don’t take care now to build trust and infuse our churches with grace-filled communication on the critical next steps to do our best to keep people healthy in the communities we serve.