By Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com
No matter how much time, thought, research, and prayer you invest in your church reopen plan, in all likelihood some people in your church are going to disagree with it.
Some will strongly disagree with it!
You may get calls, email, texts, and social media comments accusing you of fearfully cowering to anti-Christian government officials who are violating our first amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.
You may get texts, emails, calls, and social media comments accusing you of recklessly endangering the lives of your congregation and your community for opening up too quickly without enough protection and social distancing.
If your church’s plan is wise and Spirit led, you’ll probably get both.
Expect criticism. Prepare your response.
We all hope the people who make up our congregations will act with humility, compassion, and
understanding when they don’t agree, but don’t expect it.
There is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19. As a result, there are a lot of different opinions on when and how to reopen. Additionally, politicians and news networks have chosen sides, and fill the air waves with criticism and insults of everyone they disagree with. Also keep in mind, people have been isolated for months. Many are anxious, fearful, depressed or angry about their lives being disrupted. Many are reacting from their flesh rather than acting by the Spirit.
So, decide right now you will accept criticism (whether its disserved or not) and strive to diffuse tension. Here are five suggestions for how to do that.
5 Ways to Reduce Conflict and Increase Unity as Your Church Reopens
1) Survey your congregation. Create an online survey. Email it to your congregation and get people’s input on reopening. You can use these 12 Questions to Ask Your Congregation Before you Reopen. People almost always respond better when they’ve been given a voice and feel like they’ve been heard.
2) Give people options. People have different comfort levels in regards to gathering with others in person. Allow people the freedom to come back when they feel comfortable. This is only possible if you continue to offer online options like online giving, live streaming church services, and online bible studies and small groups even as you begin to meet in person again.
3) Over communicate. When people don’t know what’s going on, they get anxious. Communicate frequently with your congregation about plans to reopen. Even if you don’t have everything figured out and have decisions to make, let me know that. Be transparent. And remember, most people skim and overlook emails. Most people don’t hear the announcements during the service. You really can’t communicate too much or too often.
4) Explain why. People often criticize what they don’t understand. Therefore, explain your decisions as much as possible. If your church has decided to worship outside but not inside, explain why. If your church has decided to gather for worship but not offer children’s ministry, explain why. If you church has decided not to restart some ministries because many of the volunteers are older, explain that.
5) Respond with love. When you receive criticism, take it to the Lord. Pray for the person. Pray about your response. If you think it might help to explain a decision in greater detail, do that but… and this is a big but… DON’T make it your goal to win an argument or get everyone to agree with you. In many cases, the best response may be to simply thank the person for their feedback and tell them you will take it into consideration.
By doing these things, your church has the opportunity to demonstrate unity in the midst of a world that is so divided. You can be light in the midst of darkness.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. -Romans 12:12
This article originally appeared on OurChurch.Com