I am getting asked this question with increasing frequency, from people in our church, from ministry friends, and from other church leaders. I shared earlier in the week that there are differing viewpoints on when a church should re-open. Because our viewpoint (not just mine but thoughts we have worked through with our leadership team and board) is in the middle of the “open now” and “wait until things can be normal” viewpoints, I realize people on both sides will be disappointed. But here is what I have shared with our church about our plans for “re-opening.”
A Holy Longing
For believers in Christ the question of when church gatherings will resume is one of longing and expectation because our faith is not a private faith. God created us for community and He grows us and encourages us in community. We are like the Psalmist who asked when he could come and appear before God in the temple with others (Psalm 42:2).
Preparation Over Prediction
Because news about the pandemic is constantly shifting, our leadership team has been focused much more on preparation than prediction. We do not know when we will resume gatherings but we are prepared for several scenarios or “plays” that we will run when we are able to do so.
Four Plays We Will Run
Just as an offense will call a play based on what the defense shows them, we will call different plays based on the cultural context we find ourselves in. As we call a new play, the former plays will still be occurring. This is important because we realize that people in our faith community will have varying levels of comfort in returning to gatherings, so at some point we will be running all four plays to serve people at their comfort level.
1. Mariners at home
We will continue to provide digital worship services and resources for people in their homes. Our weekly schedule of digital content will continue:
- Saturday/Sunday: Weekend worship services
- Monday: Conversations posted on YouTube
- Tuesday: Family Worship Service
- Wednesday: Youth Night Live on YouTube
- Thursday: Online groups and Bible studies
2. Mariners with your life group
Life groups will gather to watch the weekend service together and discuss the message using sermon-based resources we will provide. Outreach opportunities will be made available for groups to serve together.
When groups are able to gather, we envision utilizing our facilities during the week for kid’s ministry groups, youth ministry groups, NEW life groups (we will ask current life groups to continue meeting in homes), and Rooted.
3. Mariners in the neighborhood
We are preparing to broadcast our worship services to small venue locations throughout Orange County. A reservation system will be used based on gathering size restrictions.
4. Gatherings at Mariners
When we are able to gather again physically for worship we envision using multiple venues during each worship service time (outside, worship center, student center, community center, chapel, etc.) with live worship and a broadcast message to each venue. A reservation system will be used based on gathering size restrictions, and as restrictions loosen the gathering sizes will change.
We don’t know when, but we will be ready to gather! Some of the “plays” may be called at the same time (such as church in the neighborhood and church gatherings at Mariners).