Relaunching In-Person Gatherings July 25 & 26
Relaunching Large & In-Person Gatherings at FBW
It is much easier to shut something down than it is to reopen it, as our entire country is finding out amid a pandemic. We are all making decisions in the midst of great uncertainty. Yet, as we look to reopen at FBW, here are some things we can be certain about:
WE MUST BE LOVING.
Covid-19 has become a very divisive issue in our nation. We must not let it divide His Church. It is not about masked people or unmasked people. It is really about liberty and love. Liberty, or freedom, is a wonderful thing. When the Son sets you free you are free indeed! Yet, in scripture, we see where love is greater than liberty. We must be gracious to one another. There is no absolute right or wrong on this issue. There are many opinions about how and when to reopen. From the surveys we have received from our faith family, here are a sampling of the comments.
“Although I would love to be in God’s church, there is concern that if we are unable to meet in our growth groups (25-30 people), it seems counter-intuitive to meet in the church with a greater population. Although protecting those >65 or with underlying health issues is most important, I would assume hand sanitizer/masks would be required. Overall, I feel confident when growth group resumes, I would be ready to come back to live services in church. I truly enjoyed the outdoor service and will pray that is an opportunity for us to gather in the future.”
“Continue to offer both, online services and live service for people to choose for their level of comfort. Emanuel, God is with us!”
“I am ready to go back and see my church members”
“I don’t have any areas of concern except for those at high risk. I believe those who can safely return, should and those that are uncomfortable or at risk should continue to worship at home.”
“I think if people wear masks and sanitize their hands which should be fine.”
“I think that we should encourage our Senior adults to stay home. It would be heartbreaking to lose one of these over this pandemic. Also, people will not social distance, so we should delay corporate worship until later. I went to the parking lot rally & people were hugging & not
social distancing. I felt uncomfortable & then mean when II asked people not to hug me.”
You know who is right in the comments above? All of them! We are all allowed to have opinions, even differing ones in this matter. Yet, we must always maintain and move forward in love. So, we must use wisdom in our decision making. We need to take as many of our members on the journey of relaunching FBW as possible. It will require patience. Scripture reminds us that love is patient.
WE MUST BUILD MOMENTUM.
Whatever we do, we must not go backward once we get started. In building momentum, we are listening to you. Hundreds in our FBW faith family have participated in surveys regarding your comfort levels in returning to our campus. Three questions stood out in the survey:
1. Please describe your current level of comfort in returning to live, in person, church services.
60% of those surveyed indicated they were not comfortable returning.
2. Please describe your level of comfort meeting at outdoor events as an interim step for small groups or worship.
74% of those surveyed indicated they were comfortable returning outdoors.
3. When do you think it will be best to return to live church services?
60% indicated that they would feel more comfortable returning in 4 weeks or more.
Therefore, over the next few weeks, we will build momentum toward the new Church year that begins in August. Our hope would be to resume small groups, regular worship hours and ministries when or around when school starts. It will be gradual ramp up until then. We will not be first to open or the last. We will learn from the best practices and mistakes of others. (See the tentative plan below)
WE MUST HONOR AUTHORITY.
We are commanded in scripture to obey our leaders. We should appreciate our local, state, and national authorities. They have given churches autonomy to make decisions for themselves that other entities in our culture have not been given. At the moment, churches are the only groups allowed to have large public gatherings. However, how and when we gather reflects on the name of Jesus. So, we must open decently and in order. We have been given a great stewardship in these days with people’s lives. While you might be willing to risk your life, you cannot speak for another. Too many churches have rushed into restarting only to backtrack. For example, there are two churches in our area that reopened one week only to close the next week because someone tested positive for Covid-19 and exposed the entire crowd. Those churches had to communicate this information to its members, who in turn have been asked to quarantine for 2 weeks and get tested. As people are getting back to work, setbacks like these do not just hurt the church or the name of Jesus, they hurt families, businesses, and the greater community. Our authorities are working to reopen our country, we must work with them. Each church is different and will use different matrices to return. We are responsible for this body of believers and its ongoing witness for Christ.
WE MUST BLESS OUR COMMUNITIES.
We must love our neighbors. Over these weeks of Summer, we will continue to meet the physical needs of those who need food. In these last 3 months, we have served over 40,000 meals. We have been able to do this because you have given and served generously. And we will continue to need you to give and serve as our community efforts will be ongoing. In addition, we will be exploring other creative ways to bless our cities in the weeks to come. For example, un lieu of VBS, camps and mission trips, our neighborhoods will be our primary mission field, as they should be. We also hope to offer some great community-wide events.
When We Reunite
When we come back together, some things will look different. Our staff is doing everything we can to make sure we provide a safe environment.
We have extra hand-sanitizing stations around the building so that you can use them frequently while we are gathered.
We will be using extra cleaning solutions before each service to reduce germs and stay as clean as possible.
We are shortening each of our services to limit the time we spend in close proximity and reduce the spread of airborne germs.
Even with these measures in place, your attendance is at your own risk. We recommend that high-risk people and adults over 65 follow CDC guidelines.
Through the month of June, we will gather online and have outdoor worship gatherings on Saturday night at 7:30 pm. These gatherings will be on the Highway 78 side of the church. You may stay in your parked car and listen in through our radio frequency or bring a lawn chair. Feel free to choose a rally point for your Life Group to sit together. We also encourage you to stay connected by hosting worship service watch parties, participating in Life Groups via Zoom, and getting involved in our food ministry, which will be ongoing until school begins next fall.
In July, we will begin limited weekend gatherings on campus and inside the Worship Center. The exact details of how and when are to be determined, but we do know there will be no childcare, Life Groups or hospitality ministry during this phased reopening. We also tentatively have some special outdoor events for your family to enjoy in July. We will communicate our specific plans as soon as we know all the details.
Today our plan is to fully reopen services, Life Groups, childcare and other ministries in mid to late-August if schools reopen normal as planned. We will remain committed to safety and will adjust this plan as needed if circumstances and guidelines change.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. How can I remain a faithful member of FBW until we meet in person?
- Continue to prioritize our online services and invite people to watch with you. No doubt we are tired of screens, but it is a blessing that the Lord allowed these things to occur when we can still be connected in this manner.
- Participate in the various phases of our reopening plan
- Get involved in a Life Group or stay connected to your Life Group. We are encouraging groups to use Zoom (or equivalent) and outside, in person, meetings where social distancing practices can be observed.
- Remain faithful in giving financial contributions. Thank-you for your faithfulness to this point.
- Let us know your needs or prayer requests because we are here for you. Send Prayer Request
- Pray for our leadership team as we plot the course to reopening. It is our greatest desire to make God-honoring decisions out of love and concern for your health and well-being and in a way that carefully considers the recommendations of those who govern and were placed in a position of authority over us for such a time as this.
2. When will age-group ministries resume?
We will be following the CDC guidelines at this time and learning from our local school districts. We will work to make sure all areas are clean, safe and fun. When we get to August and once again offer all our ministries, we will need more volunteer workers than ever. We know the “NEW, NEW NORMAL” will require more help to provide a quality experience for all of our kids and families. Please consider serving now for then.
3. Will our online experience continue?
Absolutely. One for the greatest innovations to come from this COVID-19 season is our online platform. Weekly we are engaging people from down the street to around the world. In fact, we will be creating dedicated space on our campus to house our new Global Internet Campus. If you have been blessed through this ministry, you might consider serving in this important area.
4. How can I stay up to date on the reopening?
5. Are we 100% sure we will be back to the “new, new normal” by August?
Not at all! We are dealing with a pandemic the likes to which we have never known. We will see what develops over the next few months. What we know today is that our local school districts are planning to return to normal in August. So, with the information we have today, we will plan accordingly.
LIFE GROUPS BACK IN THE BUILDING
1. Will all Life Groups be meeting in the building?
No. Each group will decide what feels most appropriate for them at this time. Not every group will return to the building. And, for those groups who do return, not every member will join the group in person.
2. Will the rooms be clean?
Yes. We have invested in speicalized equipment designed specifically for disinfecting surfaces and rooms to protect against COVID-19. This equipment will be used in all rooms after each use.
3. Will members or guests who doesn't join in person be able to join online?
Most of the Life Groups that will be meeting in the building plan to simultaneously allow folks to join their class via Zoom. Check with your Life Group leader for specific information about your group’s plans.
4. Will anyone be available to help with technical issues?
Yes. FBW staff will be present to assist with getting online, connecting to the TV’s, and other relevant technical issues. If you know of any specific cables or equipment you will need, please contact email@example.com to coordinate that.
5. Will we have to wear masks?
We are not requiring people to wear masks. (Religious gatherings are exempt from the governor’s mandate to wear masks.) However, we will have masks available and encourage people to wear them.
5. Will childcare be available?
No. At this time, childcare is not available. We understand that this is an important consideration for some to be able to join in person, and we will be working toward opening the children’s areas in a future phase of reopening.
WHEN WE RETURN
1. Do we have a limit to the number of people in the worship service?
No limit for worship gatherings has been put in place by state and local authorities, and we are not implementing any limit of our own. However, due to the varying degrees of comfort of people in returning to large gatherings, we expect our attendance to be lower than usual for at least some time. We are asking people who attend in-person gatherings to take advantage of the lower attendance by leaving a seat(s) and/or a row(s) between them and other families or groups who come to worship together.
2. How will people know where to sit?
All seating will be available and, while we encourage you to leave space between your family or group and others, we are allowing you to sit wherever you feel comfortable.
3. Will we offer on-campus life groups?
When we first return to in-person worship, all life groups will remain online until further notice.
4. Will we have childcare?
Families are encouraged to worship together. We will not have any childcare available for the services when we first return.
5. Should I come if I have medical concerns?
Those considered “at risk” are encouraged to continue to worship with us online.
6. Will there be a way that I can use the restroom and wash my hands?
Restrooms will be available and cleaned regularly throughout the services. Hand sanitation stations will be available at all of our entrances.
7. Should I wear a mask when I come to church?
While we encourage you to wear a mask as you feel comfortable, we are not requiring everyone to wear masks.
8. Will the café be open? (Translation: Will there be coffee?)
The café will be closed. However, bottled water will be made available. (So no, there will not be coffee…for now.)
9. Can we hang out and fellowship before and after services?
We ask that any “fellowship time” happen outside the building so that our team has more time to clean after each service.
10. Will we take an offering in the service?
We encourage you to give generously online. There will also be “offering boxes” located at the exits of the worship center and in the mall.
11. What if I can't come back right now or don't feel comfortable coming back yet?
We understand that some will be comfortable coming back sooner than others. And that’s okay. We encourage you to continue to worship with us online – we will be continuing our online worship experience indefinitely.