As states reopen post COVID-19 and churches are once again allowed to begin meeting together in larger groups for worship, many churches are choosing an outdoor setting for their inaugural re-engagement gatherings. Meeting outside helps people to feel safer and less at risk of spreading the virus, while still getting to see their church family in person after such a long time. Doing church outdoors, however, is not as easy as just transitioning to being outside. It will take planning, communication, and a lot of grace. Hopefully, as church leaders, you can work together with your staff and team of volunteers to make the outdoor experience the best it can be, even if people are worshiping from their cars in the parking lot for the time being.
Here are 6 keys to a Successful Outdoor Church Service:#1: Simplify
- Before starting to make any plans, make a commitment to simplify your services. This is not the time to throwing energy into outrageous, over-the-top programming that will take time, effort, and resources that the church staff may or may not have together we ease out of the pandemic. People want connection with each other right now. Focus on that. The bells and whistles can come later.
- As the pastor or the main ministry leader, don’t try to organize the outdoor services yourself. Gather your staff and volunteers together and divvy out the work that needs to be done to make your outdoor programming most meaningful. Match people to assignments consistent with their skills, giftings, and passions, setting them up for success. Show them you appreciate them by thanking them often, recognizing them publicly when possible, and perhaps giving out gift cards as a token of your appreciation for their help.
- This is not the time to wing it. With your service ministry team, brainstorm ideas and then make a plan of action. Consider all the components of the worship service from parking, greeting, worship, the sermon, and the offering. You may need to add a component that would make the outdoor service more compelling. Similarly, you may need to remove something from the service that’s been standard for your indoor services for years. Don’t be afraid to change it up and try something new. Plan everything out, have a dry run, and then welcome your congregation with open arms into a new expression of this time with Jesus.
- Needless to say, things will likely go wrong when holding worship services outside. During your planning process, be sure to make a backup plan. This is likely most important regarding the weather. What will happen if it rains? Will you have a tent? An awning? Will you risk going inside? Discuss all the contingencies and then make sure your entire staff and volunteer team knows how to communicate changes to the congregation in a timely manner.
- Children are an essential part of the Church and they have been missing out on church programming just as much as adults. While it may not be safe to open up full children’s programming yet, think intentionally about what kids will do during the outdoor services. Can you offer coloring/activity sheets? Will there be a children’s sermon? Will there be treats for children after the service? Be sure the children feel valued, seen, and understood, even as they come back to church for the first time in months.
- Perhaps nothing will be more important than communicating all the plans and instructions for your outdoor worship service. Use all the technology at your disposal to make sure everyone who wants to know when to come to church, will know. Send emails and text messages. Post on social media. Make phone calls if necessary. Make announcements in the outdoor service itself, as well as during any online streaming services that are continuing. People crave information. Give it to them; often, and in detail.
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