Thom Rainer: 5 Reasons Church Members Disagree on Reopening

Thom Rainer: 5 Reasons Church Members Disagree on Reopening

By Thom S. Rainer

It has become a common theme at Church Answers. We are hearing from pastors and other church leaders about members who have divergent opinions on the timing for regathering the in-person services.

No surprise here.

It might be helpful, however, to understand the reasons behind the disagreements. We see five major themes.

  1. Strong extroverts and strong introverts will have major disagreements on timing. The reason is obvious. The extrovert is dying to resume interaction with fellow church members. He or she thrives on in-person gatherings and conversations. The strong introvert, however, has done well seeing few people and interacting with few people during the quarantine. I fit the latter category.
  1. Different church members have different sources of authority on the coronavirus. Some of it could be related to political leanings. For others, it could be connected to the type of news that comes through social media. For some, they listen to certain friends and family members. In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of different opinions out there. 
  1. Age and health can be factors of divergent opinions. Two of the common themes about COVID-19 have been the vulnerability of the older population and those with underlying conditions. It would not be unexpected for those two groups to be more likely to prefer a later opening than an earlier opening. One of my sons has chronic asthma. I worry about him returning to in-person services too soon. 
  1. Parents with children may decide to wait. Most churches will not segregate the children from the adult worship services at the onset of the regathering. Some parents will be hesitant to bring the kids to the worship services for health reasons and for fear of disruption. 
  1. Attitudes toward change affect opinions about regathering. For example, if a change resistant church member learns that the church must have additional services for social distancing, he or she may prefer to wait until the church can return to “normal.” Change-receptive church members, however, are often eager to try new services and new ideas. They will be ready to return and experiment with the new approaches. 

It’s cliché for you pastors and church leaders to hear, but you can’t please everyone all the time. Take the path you deem is best for the church and for the health of those who will attend. Listen to voices of wisdom. And pray that God will honor your decision and protect everyone involved.


  • Reply May 31, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    RichardAnna Boyce Isara Mo If you reopen your buildings for worship services and people show up, will they like the experience and want to come back?
    I think this is going to be a stretch…especially for people you are trying to reach. I’m imagining this scenario:

    First you need to go make a reservation on our website. When you arrive on our campus, you’ll need to be escorted to your seat. We’ll need to get your contact information to track you down in case someone is here with the virus. You’ll need to wear this mask. You have to sit six feet apart from everyone else in this big room which will be about 20 percent full. Your kids will need to sit with you through this entire service that is designed for adults because we can’t open our kids environments at this point. When the service is over, please leave promptly and return to your cars while avoiding contact with other people.

    It sounds delightful.

    Again, I have to ask, is this the wisest use of your resources (time, leadership, volunteers, money, energy, etc.) during this season? Or, would the Kingdom return on investment be better if you focused on your digital ministry strategy and the long-term shifts you’ll need to make to effectively carry out your mission and vision once this crisis is behind us.

  • Reply June 1, 2020

    Varnel Watson

    Peter Vandever when the habit is broken after reading your post yesterday I watched a preacher who claims to be VERY Pentecostal preach 2 in church services and NOT even MENTION it was Pentecost Sunday And he tried to preach hard about David and Goliath – perhaps his regular sermon but NOT a word about Pentecost You tell me – they now father in small groups online or small groups in church and tell stories examples statistics Everything else BUT preaching

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