The comeback

Michael Smith

Former Converge Content Specialist

  • Church strengthening

While they know the church is not a building, Converge churches across our movement are looking forward to being able to worship together again in person.

Some churches have reopened their facilities. Some are preparing to reopen soon. Others are still in a holding pattern.

Rock Creek Church, located in Prosper, Texas, in the Dallas-Forth Worth metropolitan area, was portable for 11 years before building a facility that it moved into in December. Just 14 weeks later, the Converge Southwest congregation had to move its services online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 24, for the first time in nine weeks, Rock Creek gathered for worship at its facility.

Before the pandemic hit, Rock Creek averaged between 900-1000 people on a Sunday morning. To accommodate for social distancing, the church has lowered the auditorium seating capacity from 500 to 250 and added a third service.

Evaluating everything

Senior pastor Brad Wilkerson said this time has caused him and his team to evaluate all aspects of their worship experience. “What can we eliminate? What were we doing that we like doing, but maybe it was a waste of time? How can we be more efficient?”

A change they’ve made is eliminating the announcement video. Instead, a host welcomes everyone and talks about “one big thing.” They also decided to cut one song from the service — doing two songs before the message.

Rock Creek has gone digital for things like connections cards and giving.

“There’s nothing in the backs of the chairs,” he said. “There’s no offering envelopes. There are no pens. There are no connection cards. Everything is now digital. We’re using QR codes to help people connect with their phones to a link for prayer requests.”

Wilkerson said they’re not passing offering buckets, something that’s probably gone forever for them. Rock Creek has offering boxes located throughout the building, and 90% of the offerings come in online anyway.

These changes have limited the service length to 50-53 minutes, allowing for extra time to get people in and out of the auditorium.

Safety first

Wilkerson said Rock Creek has tried to do everything they can to make the church a safe environment. Here are some of the extra safety measures and precautions they are taking:

  • Cleaning all seating, surfaces and bathroom door handles between services.
  • Propping doors open so no one has to touch door handles.
  • Practicing social distancing during services and no hugging or touching of hands. All households must sit together as a family unit with space between each household.
  • Dismissing people by sections.
  • Not congregating inside the building before or after services.
  • Providing masks to people upon request.
  • Not opening facility doors until 15 minutes before each service.

What about the kids?

For now, Rock Creek offers children’s ministry on Sundays for birth through kindergarten only.

Children older than kindergarten will be in the services with their families with the option of child-friendly seating. The children’s ministry provides fun packs for them with coloring sheets.

The church also posts videos and curriculum for children virtually throughout the week.

Online is here to stay

Since the start of the pandemic, Rock Creek has expanded its online presence, and that emphasis will continue going forward. Wilkerson realizes not everyone at his church is ready to come back.

“A lot of our people have told us they don’t feel comfortable coming back right now. They want to wait a little bit longer. We’ve had people tell us they want to wait until school starts back in August to make sure that it’s safe for kids. So we know that the need to be online will never go away.”

Rock Creek now considers itself a multisite church with the launch of its online campus. The online campus allows pastors and volunteers to interact with people as they chat, ask for prayer and make spiritual decisions. The church also streams its services on Facebook and YouTube.

Wellspring Church, a Converge MidAtlantic church plant in Toms River, New Jersey, offers its online worship experiences on four different days and times throughout the week — Sunday at 10 a.m., Monday at 9:30 p.m., Tuesday at 5 p.m. and Wednesday at 6:30 a.m.

“We are embracing the gift of online in that people can access it when they want to access it,”  lead pastor Jason Coache said. “They’re not tied into a single time.”

Better together

Wilkerson said being part of Converge and Converge Southwest has been instrumental in helping him navigate this season of ministry.

“The network has been huge in keeping our encouragement and sanity through this as pastors, as the leaders of churches,” he said. “We are better together, and none of us are as smart as all of us.”

Each church’s situation is unique

For Steve Krier, lead pastor of Ignite Church, which meets in a movie theater in Moorhead, Minnesota, on the Minnesota-North Dakota border, the question is not what is right and what is wrong, but what is the wisest thing to do?

“We try to filter everything through a wisdom lens instead of a right vs. wrong lens,” he said.

Krier and his team are focusing on three words.

“We’re going to re-emerge. We’re trying to address the emotions that are going to go behind it as well,” he said. “There’s a lot of logical steps that are happening right now, but the reality is that we’re going to react a whole lot more emotionally, even if a plan makes sense.”

Next, “how do we re-engage? The church staff has been engaging the membership, but how is the membership going to re-engage back into body life?”

And then from there, how do we revitalize? “How are we going to move forward? But we have to mourn what was because I don’t think we’re ever going to get back to exactly the way that we were before. And some things just aren’t going to ever return. And some of those things are going to make us sad, and we need to mourn them. But when those things die and go by the wayside, it opens the door for a lot more opportunity to see what God has for us next. We will get back to a place of thriving and vitalization, but that’s still going to be a while.”

Pastors and church leaders, as you work to reopen the doors of your church, take advantage of the many resources we have available to help you. View resources >

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Michael Smith, Former Converge Content Specialist

Michael Smith served as a content specialist for Converge from 2018-2021.

Additional articles by Michael Smith