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All right, we’re just gonna go ahead and formally begin. We’re grateful for you being here with us today. It is great to have you with us, welcome. I’m State Missionary Ken Allen in the Office of Leader Care and Church Health. We want to again, thank you, for giving us your time. We want to be a good steward of your time today. The topic is “Latest Trends in Regathering.” I am excited about the panelists that we have with us today, local pastors, boots on the ground guys who’ll be sharing with us what’s going on where they are and what they’re hearing from pastors in our state, as well. We’ll have that… It’s just a conversation and so we want you to join in on the conversation. We’re always grateful to have Dr. Lance with us, our state missionary and executive director. Dr. Lance, if you would please, say any comments that you would like to and please lead us in our opening word of prayer.

Well with a deepest sense of gratitude, we thank you for giving us some of your time and sharing time with others. There is not a more apropos subject, a more pertinent subject than latest trends in regathering. Many of you may know, we have, at the State Board of Missions, the state missionaries have been making contacts for the last 13 weeks or so and the number of those about 12,000, including calls, texts, emails. Checking in with our churches during a time in which they were not meeting and now in the process, and it is a process, of reopening and regathering. We had to do everything like you did as we went along. We learned as we were going, and we’ve learned a few things that I think will be applicable for us in trying to minister better to the churches. We’ve also learned that iron sharpens iron and especially with church leaders, pastors like many of you, having an opportunity like this to be able to share, ask questions, and to look forward to the future together. One concern, multiple concerns, we have a trifecta of concerns right now that impact our churches and without going into depth on this, let me just share with you what I think they are. Obviously this virus is something that is with us and looks like it’s going to be with us for a while in terms of impact. The vaccines are… It’s according to who you listen to and talk to about when they will be able to arrive and how effective they will be immediately. So maybe like the flu season, we have to look at this as something that might be seasonal for a while. That’s one concern. The economic downturn, at first, was artificial in the sense that it was self-imposed because of the virus and now it’s become a little structural. Those impacts are big for us. Now we have entered a phase in our country with civil unrest. Having lived through some periods of civil unrest, we know that is a very important matter to consider. But all three of those, the church lives in this world. We are a part of this world, we’re not of it, but we’re a part of it. Therefore, we have to be cognizant of all these issues and matters happening to us circumstantially in order to effectively lead. No one gets it perfectly, but we can do a better job. With that as an opener, let me say to you that I want to pray for you as you continue to minister in the Lord’s name, and pray for these who will be leading us in a time of panel discussion. Let’s join together. Father, we thank You must supremely and sublimely for the gift of life in Jesus Christ our Lord. He has saved us and called us. He is using us as flawed and frail if we may be. And it is to His glory, to Your glory, we try to live in everything we do or say. We are in a very unique time in our history, but this did not, any of this, come by way of surprise to You. We are convinced of that. But we’re mindful that we have been caught up in somewhat surprise and perhaps shock, but now You’ve given us a teachable moment and may we value it and learn in the midst of it better and more effectively how we can serve You. We thank you indeed for those who have gathered as panelists and those who are participants; and may this time together be meaningful in that we have shared from heart to hearts about our concerns and how we can work together in the future. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[Pastor] Amen.

Amen. Thank you Dr. Lance, we appreciate you being here with us today. And again, I want to introduce our panelists. These guys will be known by you and you will know them. Tim Cox, pastor, Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea, and also president of our state convention. Robert Mullins who is pastor of Crossroads Community in the Elmore community, just out of the Millbrook, Prattville area. We’re grateful to have Robert Mullins here, also, leader, director of Passion Tree Ministries, which is a network of disciple-making pastors and staff across our state. And then George Yates, Church Health Specialist at our office, and he too, has his ear to the ground in local church. I am so grateful to have you guys here with us. I want to begin by… And I’ve shared some of these questions with these guys. We’ve talked about them a little bit and so these are just kind of general questions. As we have been carrying on that conversation, as Dr. Lance mentioned, with pastors across the state, we’re hearing some similar things that are going on and how many have actually regathered during these days. Some of the general questions that we want to begin with is that as you guys are regathered, Tim, you’ll begin to just kind of share how ya’ll are in the process, where you are in the process, and kind of how people are responding to that and what your attendance is and then we’ll have that same kind of question with Robert, as well. So where are you in the process, brother?

Thank you Ken and thank you everyone who is joining in. I’m just one pastor pilgrim on this journey along with you and so where we are at Liberty Baptist, March 8th was the last on campus gathering we had of what we look back and say, “That was the norm.” And May 31st was our soft rollout to begin to bring people back on campus, so that was a 12 week span. What we did on the 31st is had a very limited number of opportunity for people to be on campus. Our focus is corporate worship so there are no groups happening on campus and our worship is by registration due to limited capacity in our worship venues with an attempt to social distance as much as we can. So the 31st, we had a fair turnout for our two venues, about 150 plus people were on campus and that gave us an opportunity to see if our planning was going to work. Lay people who were serving as greeters and different servants, we had to do a lot of retraining for reentering as far as how to greet at the door without huggin’ a neck or shakin’ a hand, which is our norm, and how to try to help people not touch a door and help even monitor bathrooms as a number of people go in ’em. The 31st went well, we always learn from what we do of things that we need to do different or better. And then this past Sunday on the 7th, we had two worship opportunities at 9:00 and two venues and then a worship opportunity at 11 and we had about 30% of what used to be our normal worship attenders attend Sunday. We were well pleased with that. It’s a lot of effort to regather and come back on campus. That’s one thing that we’re learning. The people are excited certainly to be back on campus and most of our folks are coming back honoring the caution of social distancing. It goes against our grain to not shake hands and hug necks and so we are doing our best to equip people to think of others and to take the precautions that we can when we gather back on campus. But Sunday was a great day, a great vibrance. Our senior adult folks, we’re encouraging them to continue online if they’re not comfortable gathering on campus and so many of them are doing that, though we had senior adults serving at doors that were ready and willing to go and you couldn’t hold ’em back. But many of them are bein’ slower to come back and rightfully so due to health concerns. Then our young adults with young children, we do not have any preschool, kids, or student ministries goin’ on on campus and so those young families are stayin’ home until they have help here on campus with preschool and kids ministry. They’re welcome to come, but it wears ’em out to come, that’s what we’re hearing. It’s easier to wrestle the toddlers in the living room than it is in the worship center and so at least we have that online option. So things are going well, we are askin’ a lot of questions and getting a few answers and we just are listening and learning and trying to figure out how to lead and navigate through this time. I keep thinkin’ about growing up mom cooked spaghetti a lot and I remember watching her take the noodles out and throw it on the refrigerator and through that process, she said, “This is how you tell if the noodles are ready, “if they’re done. “If it sticks to the refrigerator, they’re done.” So in staff meeting, it’s a common conversation, we’re throwin’ a lot of noodles and some of ’em stick and some of ’em don’t. Every day’s an adventure, we make a plan to change it before Sunday comes. And Ken, one of the biggest surprises to me is how hard this is. I’m surprised by the duration of the disruption for churches. I was hopin’ weeks and it’s months. And I’m surprised at the emotional energy, the physical effort, the learning curve, and just the spiritual stamina it takes to keep on. I woke up today, to be transparent, just exhausted. I’m askin’ myself, “Where did that come from?” Even looking for more energy and it’s just a tiring process, but at the same time, it’s one that we see God doin’ some very great things. People are bein’ saved, groups are growing. Our groups do meet through Zoom or some of ’em are meeting in person off campus with social distancing. So our groups have been active, just not on campus. That’s kind of a summary of where we are and my big surprise is the duration of this thing and how it taxes us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Amen, Tim. I’ve got to get another phrase for this, but I’ve said often in these webinars that we’re trying to hit a moving target and it’s just continually moves around. It is, it’s a challenge that’s just unlike anything that we’ve ever come up against and so that’s some of the emotional taxing is just being able to grab hold of this and it’s just so hard to do that. Robert, would you please share where you guys are and what’s going on at this time.

Absolutely, thank you. You know Tim, I as laughin’ at the end of what you said about the spaghetti. On June 1st, we put out a Lifeline newsletter and on Wednesday, everything that we had communicated was different . We went in a staff meeting and changed everything so now we get to communicate again with the church and thank you Lord for a gracious body of believers and community and fellowship. Like you, we actually had a service on campus March 15th and our group was down. We had optional, that sort of stuff. Then, of course, the next week we did not have an on campus until May 31st, just like you did. Ours is a little different. We are kind of in the middle of a lot of things goin’ on in Elmore County and just geographically, and our building is interesting just tight hallways and those things like most of us have and all that sort of stuff. We do have one thing that was kind of in our favor and that is that we had what we call the NorthRidge, and if you’ve ever been on our campus, if you go to the NorthRidge side of it, there is a… It’s almost like a park. It’s like a… It’s really a park, I mean we have the fire pits and the benches and swings and you know all those sorts of things, but we have… And it’s a large area that we do a lot of our outdoor activities on a regular basis yearly whether it’s a fall festival or Easter egg or whatever, you know, any of those things. We’ve even done just fish fries and that sort of stuff for our church and community. So we had this area and to be completely honest, I was… You know we talk a lot about pastors struggling a little bit through this thing of decision making and the stress that you feel and I know I was feeling those things because I was feeling the pressure of, “Hey, we gotta do this. “This is silly, we needed to open up weeks ago “and we need to do this” versus the people that say, “Hey, I don’t feel comfortable meeting outside right now “and I’m not comin’ back.” So all this pressure, all this stuff was kind of brewin’ and the Lord, I guess, the Holy Spirit, just said, “Hey, why don’t you all just do outside? “Why don’t we just use the NorthRidge?” So we just started planning that way and we have been able to use the NorthRidge for a gathering. We do our normal worship time, 10:00. It’s kind of a “ya’ll come” because it’s big enough that we can spread people out. Your family sits here on a tarp and your chairs and then your family sits over here in a tarp and chairs and I’ve seen some churches that are meeting in parking lots like that. The good news or the thankful part that we have is we have these beautiful, big oak trees and it’s been really cool, nice weather the last couple of weeks. We’ll see how long that lasts, but we have had a great attendance. We’ve been shocked by our attendance and I think it’s because the people are comfortable already because coming to the NorthRidge for an event is not a new thing for us and it just kind of gives us that out. We’re also in the middle of… Here’s a curve-ball for us getting back into the building. We’re in the middle of a renovation, a major renovation of about almost 5,000 square feet is getting renovated for a children’s wing and so the dust and debris and everything is right there by the entrance to the worship center, our sanctuary, and so to clean it and to actually do that would be virtually impossible for us right now so the people are real understanding. Our folks are really understanding about all that. So we’re offering two options for worship and that is to join us on the NorthRidge and we’re kind of, I’m not gonna say condensing our worship service, but there’s certainly not the meet and greet time, there’s not some of the… The offering is you drop it in the box. And so some of those, I hate to use the word time-fillers in our normal worship service, but some of those things are not there so it’s a little shorter. We get it within an hour and it’s good in an hour and folks are good. But also online, one thing we did that was just because of our, I call it a local predicament, I mean where we felt like we needed to be was we produced a hour long video for each week worship service. We didn’t have… We weren’t tryin’ to do a live stream at church on Sundays. We weren’t recording something that I would normally stand up and preach. I was actually, each week, sitting down at a table and teaching the same sermon. And so now we’re offering those two things. We’re offering, you can come to the NorthRidge and be a part or you can be a part online and we drop the YouTube video every week at 10:00 and you can watch that video. The only thing that’s new now, now here’s a caveat. We had so much pre-recorded, whether it’s the welcome with our children’s pastor or the exit with one of our ministers, what part of the service, we’re able to kind of plug and play that now. We had so much recorded whether it’s worship songs or any of those things that our worship team did and so now we’re able to plug and play so the only thing new is a sermon. As a matter of fact, I’m about to go from here and record our sermon for the week. So I’ll do a sermon, kind of good practice, I get to do it again in a few days. But, we’re gonna continue the recorded service that we’ve done and the reason is because we felt like this was a higher quality than we were getting when we were just usin’ our Mevo in the sanctuary. We don’t have high tech cameras and production stuff in the sanctuary weekly, we’re not on TV or anything like that. We just kind of were doin’ the Mevo thing and puttin’ somethin’ online if you were absent that day or whatever. Well now it’s a little different in the fact that there are people literally choosing, that are a part of our church, they’re choosing to watch online. They’re choosing to worship online. And so that’s important for us to keep the quality of that at the same level that it was while we were staying at home. Another thing that we do is we have… I started a… This is somethin’ maybe I would encourage people to do if they don’t already. But I started a group, a private group, for our Life Group leaders, and I’m able to oversee that and really as the pastor, encourage those Life Group leaders because they’re the shepherds of those small groups, right? I want to be the one to encourage them and just try to get them goin’. And it’s been really great ’cause we’ve been dialoguin’ through that, some private stuff. I’ve even put little videos on just to them, things like that, encouragin’ them to call their folks, talk to their folks, go ahead and do your Life Group if you can, if it’s feasible. And, just like Tim said, some of our Life Groups are off campus. All of our group are technically outside or off campus, but what we do, we had this last Sunday, we had many of our Life Groups, I’d say half our Life Groups were meeting either before worship, at their normal time, or after worship at their normal time on or near our NorthRidge. My Life Group that I’m in, Keith and Kelly teach our Life Group, and I was sittin’ under the pavilion in just a fold-out chair and we had Life Group. And it was great to sit in a… I mean we’d be on the Zoom call for weeks and it was great just to sit in a circle. Those are the things we’re doin’. I was encouraged, and I wanna share this, by a quote from a pastor. As all this was comin’ to a head, like okay we’re reopening, we’re doin’ this stuff and all this pressure was comin’ in and I just felt this like, “Man, we’ve got to get it in, “but we’re not ready, we’re not ready. “We can’t clean the building yet, “all the debris and stuff .” Pastor Jon Tyson who’s the pastor of the Church of the City in New York, he said this in a tweet that I thought was fantastic and we need to take heed to this and this really encouraged me and I hope it encourages you. He said, “I’m not worried about how soon we ‘open church’ “in New York,” he’s in New York City, “because I love this place and, God willing, “have another 25 years of pastoring here.” And he said, “Play the long game, folks. “Don’t blow future credibility for momentary relief.” And I thought, wow, that is good because it allows me to take that one step at a time, to walk in the steps of the Holy Spirit, see what God’s doin’, evaluate all those things, and then be able to make a decision on it. So that’s kinda where we are and what we’re doin’. So far so good. We’re gonna keep pushin’ one step at a time.

Yeah, great. Guys, just to help our attendees just to be aware of some of the attendance that we are hearing and anyone chime in, George, Dr. Lance, feel free. But I’m hearin’ anywhere from 30% to 75% and it’s all seemingly dependent upon the particular context of the church, in the city, rural, hot spot, non hot spot, the personality of the church. And that 30% as I was just doing some research yesterday was a number that came up in one particular discussion that came up often. But somewhere in that general area are the numbers that I have heard as I’ve spoke to guys as they’ve regathered. And again, thank you guys for sharin’. Thank you for the quote, Robert, ’cause we can get so anxious about what to do, when to do, how to do, that it almost immobilizes us. So again, there’s some things there. Thank you guys for sharing where you are and what’s going on. Have you all seen, again, in all of this, any adjustments to what you’re doing as you’ve regathered? Has there been anything that said, “Oh, we could do this better or do that better” or just in any way?

One of the main adjustments that we’ve made is our livestream service. ‘Course we were pushed to rely upon that for our gathering, but as we have gone through these weeks and anticipated reentering on campus, we have done a lot of work with our livestream understanding that there’d be many that would stay online even through the summer. So we offer a 9:00 and 11:00 option for two different services of livestream and so we’ve really focused there, realizing that’s going to be a viable tool for us in the foreseeable future to continue a very quality livestream for our congregation that is maybe apprehensive about coming on campus quickly. It’s a good opportunity. We as a staff are rethinking everything in ministry and how we do and why we do and so it’s just a great opportunity to ask ourselves what are we learning through this, are there things that we need to stop? ‘Course one of the obvious things that I’m hearing is we don’t pass the offering plate. We’ve been doing online giving and so it’s been a great opportunity for us to really encourage our people to move toward more online giving and we’ve seen a great increase in the amount of online givers. So rather than just one way to give, we have many ways to give, and so that’s been new. The other thing would be just all the precautions that we feel like we need to offer our folks that come on campus, to help them feel safe for the time being. So we’re tryin’ to pay attention to that and that changes week to week of how we do and how it worked and how people are navigated on campus when they’re there. So livestream and just some changes from Sunday to Sunday of–

Sure.

what works better. But it’s good ministry audit for us of what do we keep, what do we need to start brand new and keep, or are there things that we’re gonna stop and not go back to? It’s a good opportunity for those improvements of ministry effectiveness.

Robert, anything that you guys have done in a way of adjustment or what you’ve seen? Is there anything?

Yeah. The biggest thing is for us, is we’re literally steppin’ together. I’m not at all making these sweeping decisions being the CEO of this church. I wanna say that clearly. We are making decisions as a ministry team and even throw in those ideas off of our leaders and even just our folks that serve, they’re the biggest leaders of all. But just tryin’ to take our… The word oikos, we call it oikos, and we communicate that clearly is that it’s our entire household of believers like everybody that’s a part of this thing, we want them to be a part of the oikos. We’re trying to move together and one of the things that I’ve done, I’m a dreamer and a big vision person and I don’t know about you pastor, if you’re out there like me, that’s been my biggest struggle is that I haven’t been able to cast vision like part of my love is to sit down with a journal and to just go and dream and write all the great things we’re gonna do and we’re gonna be able to do and that’s been really hard in this season. However, I have a tool that I’ve been using called “The Rightside Up Journal” and the reason I like it so much is because it gets very specific. What are you doing in the morning? What are you doing in the afternoon? What are you doing in the evening? And so it’s kept me on task as far as each day, individual day. I’m not looking at the mountaintop trying to get up to the mountaintop just by looking at it. I’m tryin’ to take individual steps each day. So one thing that we’ve done is I just ordered these, gave them to our entire staff, and this week we started all going through this everyday so that everybody on our team is taking individual steps. One of the questions that that asks us is this and you never hear this question anywhere. I think it’s a genius question, but it’s in one of the days and it says, “What is on your to don’t list?” And Tim that goes back to what you were sayin’ earlier about having to cut some things out and what are we gonna cut out? I was in a call yesterday and one of the guys asked, said, “What is it that you are going to eliminate “after COVID?” What is it one of those things that you’ve realized either A wasn’t necessary, not important, or just maybe it wasn’t life giving, maybe it was life draining. Maybe it was something that wasn’t beneficial to you as a church and so we need to reevaluate those things. And now’s a great time. Early on we heard, kind of this conversation, that now’s a great time for change and that there’s some changes that you, as a church, can make, you as a pastor can make. And I highly encourage that. Obviously if the Holy Spirit is leading that change. If He’s not, then you don’t need to do it. But again, take time to breathe, to understand those principles that you need. Don’t make those big decisions by yourself. Get people on board. I think the thing that I was a little worried about was that people had their own agendas and the more I talked to and communicated with people, the more I found out that people want to support their pastor, they want to support their church team, they just want to be a part and know what’s goin’ on and so the more communication you can do, the better, I think.

All right, let me… Anything else? I want to make sure George or Dr. Lance, if ya’ll have got anything to add?

Ken, I agree with what these guys are sayin’. I really appreciate Tim and Robert both and what they’ve shared. I’ve seen and heard both here in Kentucky and in Alabama, churches I’m workin’ with there, some of the different things that’s goin’ on. I love what, especially what Robert was talkin’ about, the variety of havin’ the service there on the NorthRidge and then also the online service. Our church has been doin’ online services as many has. We’ve also been doin’ a drive-in service. And then a couple of weeks ago, what they started to do during that drive-in service is if you don’t wanna come sit in your car, bring your lawn chair. And we’ve actually increased the attendance just by doin’ that. Plus we’ve still got the online service, but ours is all live. One of the fortunate things that came out of this for our church, personally, was someone donated a nice camera so instead of usin’ a cellphone to record the services now they’re usin’ a really nice video camera. That happened there. I know one church there in Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, began. They had their first meeting this week, this past Sunday and they did their service and did it in two locations. They had it in their worship service and that’s for their senior adults and others like that. And then families, they opened up the fellowship hall or family life center and did a broadcast, the same service, just broadcasted over there so families could sit together and kids could have a little bit more at ease time than tryin’ to stay in a pew like that. I am seein’ and hearin’ a lot, as you all are, different variety of stuff goin’ on and churches that are makin’ it happen.

Thank you George. I’m gonna get to some of these questions. Yes, Robert?

I just wanna throw… George reminded me of somethin’ that I think was important. He talked about the families and the different needs there. I would like to say that one thing that I didn’t think about because I don’t think this way, but our children’s pastor, she put together these incredible bags for each kid that just had all the stuff that a kid would need for an hour. Everything in that bag was centered around, she’s done an excellent job just communicating with me. What are you preachin’ on? What’s the sermon? Where you goin’? So that everything in that bag is for that child to participate in worship that day. That was a huge and is a huge thing in connecting them, but also, as you can imagine, keeping their attention span.

Yeah, amen, great. Those are the practical things that folks need to hear. And there are churches that we’ve heard about cameras and things like that, there are a lot of churches that have invested money during these days in upgrading their cameras, et cetera. There are those that are now, I’ve heard from, that are debating about what to do and if this is the time or should the wait, again, that moving target to see how things go. So that is something that really is going on right now, the use of tech. There’s been a question about worship distancing and what you guys are doing. I have been a part of two or three in-person worship services at this point. I’ve seen every other pew. I’ve seen just a larger building with a smaller congregation and it being easy to social distance. What are you guys seeing as far as the social distancing and the singing? What are you doing? I know for Robert it’s outside so that may be a little simpler. Tim, what are you guys doin’?

Outside helps a whole lot. Both of our primary worship venues, we have chairs and so basically we’ve taken out a lot of chairs and the rows now are at least six feet front to back. And we encourage family groups to leave several chairs in between them and someone else. So far, in the last two weeks, that has worked well and family groups have cooperated by putting space in between them and others and so having the flexibility to change the landscape of the worship venue has been real nice with the chairs. We’re not as restricted as if you had somethin’ anchored to the floor and so we’ve removed a lot of chairs that limited our worship capacity to about a third of what norm used to be. But that way we can have a number to target for registration for worship and we know when that venue is full. Our people have been very flexible and cooperative with that and we’re not requiring masks, but we have a mixed congregation, some wear masks and some don’t.

All right, great. Again, some are meeting in fellowship halls or gyms and doing the same thing with chairs with that. If there’s nothing else, we’re developing a number of questions that we’d love to be able to get through during this time. Lord’s Supper, there’s a question that certainly we’ve already been three months plus without the Lord’s Supper. And that’s something we need to be participating in as a congregation. Robert, again, have you guys done anything yet with the Lord’s Supper or planning it?

We have when it was on video when we were doin’ the stay at home order, we were doin’ that. However, one of the things we will do very soon is have the Lord’s Supper and we will try to figure out. The biggest thing, I think, is that we want people to be able to come and get it themselves. We have not done the little cups with the lids on ’em and stuff, which I wish we could find right now, but they’re a little difficult to find right now. So tryin’ to come up with a creative way to do that. Although, I would not be… Right now, I wouldn’t be afraid to do it the way we did it on Good Friday and that was that we just put the word out there “At noon on this day, we’re gonna put a video out “and we’re gonna be observing the Lord’s Supper.” And I would not be afraid to do that at home, to lead our folks to do that again at home right now. You’ve got the material, you’ve got the things you do, and you’re in your house, you’re in a safe environment, and you have an opportunity for one of the pastors or folks from church to lead that through the video. So I think it’s a great idea to continue that if you’re not able to get the individual cups that would help with social distancing and those kind of things.

Any thoughts, Tim?

Our plan’s much the same. For on campus, we’ll probably go with the indiviudal cups. We’re tryin’ to get those in. We have an order placed. But online is a great option and it has been well received, works well. We’ve had… Our home group did online communion together and, of course, around Good Friday that was a good option and well received, so being creative. People are hesitant in our congregation about passing the elements person to person to person or even by intinction which would be a little harder. So we’re being creative. We will do the Lord’s Supper, haven’t done it on campus yet, but that’s coming soon.

Yeah, again, passing the plate, offering, or Lord’s Supper, I think that we’ve got to acknowledge that that will likely not be possible for a while, at least for some, and feel safe with it. I’ve seen in the past where there’d be mulitple tables stationed around inside the building, and maybe even more so to keep people from being congested. All right, business meeting. Anyone? So no business meetings yet, you guys?

I have not had a business meeting yet. Certainly communication with admin teams, deacons, those things, but not a church-wide business meeting.

Again, your context will dictate. If you’ve got a smaller church and plenty of room, then meeting together will not matter. It’s gonna matter more in those larger contexts. All right, Randy, if I believe if I’m not mistaken, he may be there in Arab at Gilliam Springs, staff member. “We have been back in worship services “for three Sundays offerings services in two venues “on our church campus at two different times. “We are not getting good attendance in our second venue “nor are we getting good feedback “about the worship experience, live worship, “and sermon livestreams. “What are you experiencing or hearing about churches “offering other venues on campus for worship?” All right, so this is a specific question for those that may use two venues. Any of us who have heard or calls with pastors that’s comin’ to your mind something that you have heard or experienced? Yes.

Ken, let me. We do two venues, that’s just part of our DNA prior to the disruption. Some folks don’t mind the livestream sermon, while others, it’s just so far into them, they don’t want to be a part of that venue. It works in our context where we are because we’ve done it for a long time. Some key things that we found made it better is to have a worship team that is live in the second venue and to lead in worship with a worship team in person and even have a key staff person there to be the minister in that venue to kind of guide and navigate the service. But we do a livestream feed and it works for us, but again, we’ve been doin’ that for a long time due to space limitations; and our people receive it well. But having the live worship was a big element for us in the beginning.

All right, thank you. And there are so many good ideas that are out there as far as mask only worship for maybe senior adults, along with another worship service, so all kinds of great ideas that are going on. Jeffrey Gardner says, “We’ve been doing drive-in worship “since Easter and we started back inside May 24th, 10 A.M., “continuing drive-in services at 9. “So far, drive-in service still has better attendance “and the total between the two services is equal “to attendance prior to quarantine. “What has been the experience of other churches?” Again, drive-up is still going on. Again, I think there’s a mass of folks who started in the middle of May and a mass that started this past Sunday and continuing on into June. But those who seemingly were not meeting inside were meeting, many of them were meeting in drive-in and it seemed like almost all of them were having great attendance with their drive-in, drive-up experience. Anything else with that that anyone would want to add? Again, it is one of those things that you want to look at, offering multiple or more than one opportunity for folks to get that personal touch as much as possible these days to be able to see each other and still feel safe. Are you hearing of any churches that have a plan in place for the future such as staging how to begin Sunday School on campus, congregational singing, choirs? All right. And again, small groups ya’ll have mentioned that. Tim, when could you possibly see on campus small groups?

Maybe when school starts and that’s with a question mark. We may experiment with some registration things this summer and kinda get our feet wet there, but our thought process right now is maybe when the school rolls out, that’ll be the opportune time for us to be ready to make it happen on campus. That’s our hope, that’s what we’re planning toward, praying toward, but it’s subject to change, certainly.

Subject to change , key phrase. Anything else, Robert? I know that you guys are stationed a little differently with that and have already been more accustomed, maybe, to meeting outside of that on campus.

Yeah, and of course we want to get into our building. I mean the big thing for us is we’re about to have a massive renovation that we can’t use and we have been behind the times on our children’s space for a long time, so we’re very excited about that. This week, we decided not to have our Vacation Bible School on campus like we were. It was going to be July 19th through the 23rd, so we kind of waited. I saw a question about Governor Ivey’s next conversation with the state on the 3rd or somewhere around there. I have no idea what she’s going to say so we can only speculate. But let’s say that they continue loosening the instructions for us. That happens, our plan now is to be in the building in August, like Tim said, but what we’re gonna do is instead of have our normal Wednesday nights, we’re going to have Vacation Bible School every Wednesday night of the month. So we’re going to say the women, no Bible study for women’s, men’s, all that stuff. That everything that we do Wednesday nights, youth ministry, everybody’s gonna do Vacation Bible School and we’re gonna push that every Wednesday night so that we can… That’s our goal right now, that’s our plan, and as we know, plans are all tentative these days, but we are very excited about that plan. We have a good facility for doing that, we have great space for it, and that’s our plan right now. As far as Life Groups, man, I think we’re learnin’ a lot about creativity and flexibility right now and so I’m not in a hurry to get people back. Our adult space is very small so to put an adult Life Group, crammed wall to wall doesn’t make much sense right now. That’s in our next phase of renovations . But anyway, yeah, just being flexible, I think, right now with that. But, I mean like I’m sayin’, to make sure that you or someone is encouraging and equipping your Life Group leaders right now and your Sunday School leaders like never before. You just can’t get complacent right now. I just believe if you get complacent, we will have people drop out and we don’t want that.

Sure. George, I noticed you unmuted.

Yeah, I just wanted to commend Robert for that. That’s twice he’s brought that up and I was gonna say something about it after his first time. So good and somethin’ that I’ve seen missing in many of our churches is the not encouraging the small group leaders to stay active. We talked about that some last week in connecting, how to connect members to members, and how to do that through the small groups. Man, it’s just so important right now that, as Robert just said, more than any other time perhaps, to keep encouraging those shepherds of these small groups to stay encouraged and to stay in contact with their people ’cause it will be so easy for ’em to drop through the cracks. And I am hearing, not only through Alabama, but other states as well, a lot of people echoing what both gentlemen just said about August being a time to look at campuses, comin’ back on campus with small groups.

By the way, Jeffrey, thank you so much for sharing what you shared about the drive-in services. Again, I preached in an in-person, in the building, and also there was Facebook Live going on and there were people on Zoom that were watching it so whatever we can do to connect people is a good thing and certainly the drive-in is a great thing. Anything about baptism? Has any one of you guys seen baptism during this time or how it’s particularly treated? Wearing a mask? Anything you yet or how you would plan to do that?

We have people waiting to be baptized, but we have not had a baptism. I’ve seen some posted on social media and some had masks and some were identified in maybe family groups where a father baptized a child. So there’s been very creative ways out there. We have not scheduled one in our baptistry yet. Saw some guys baptizin’ in swimmin’ pools and at the beach and so that’s always exciting to see.

Again in your context, if you’re able to get the church together around a pool of some kind, it certainly could work.

We had a… Doin’ the outside or the drive-in would work this way. We have a relationship with Tractor Supply and they let us borrow, I don’t know it’s probably a six foot by three foot plastic, black plastic trough basically, and they let us borrow that for baptism when we do it outside. And so that’s kind of on the docket if the, and we’re like you Tim, if the ones that have made that commitment to Christ to follow Him, they wanna be baptized while we’re in this transition period, we are more than excited to do that. So there’s two that are prayin’ through that right now so we’ll get the trough goin’ if we have to. But yeah.

Yeah, one asked about any thoughts about possibly installing automatic doors at main entrances. Certainly havin’ people stationed where no one touches anything or propped open is one of the more readily available, easy things to do at this point. Again, those automatic hand dispensers, I imagine are hard to find these days, but all of those things are good things to consider especially wondering how long this will last. VBS, anyone? We talked a little bit, Robert, you mentioned VBS earlier, about that. Any other thoughts as far as what we’re seeing with VBS? Go ahead Tim.

Our children’s director rolled out a plan to do a virtual type VBS and so to be continued, I’ll let you know how that goes. A lot of creative ideas and they’re working hard to come up with a plan and they’ve been very active with our families, as Robert mentioned, creating bags for kids worship that parallel what we’re doin’ on Sunday from preschool to kids ministry. They’ve been engaging families so we’ll see if we can pull somethin’ off that we’ve never done virtually and have a VBS experience this summer.

John Thomas posted just what I was thinking, those Backyard Bible Clubs, really condensing down your number to something that is small and manageable and with parents there with them so that they can handle the responsibility of being with them. Again, just thinking, praying, and seeing how you can continue to reach children. All right, again, Dr. Lance do have any idea about the meeting on July 3rd with the governor? Any word with that?

We’ve used this term, and all of you are familiar with it, moving target; and I think I might add, many of you know this, Robert certainly would, Montgomery is probably the hottest spot for the virus right now. And the capitol being at Montgomery, I think that kind of informs her thinking with her advisors and there’s a lot of intrigue and concerns about why that is the case. Why is Montgomery all of the sudden exceedingly having more cases and dealing with it? I think with the pressures, and I mean that as a qualifier, the pressures that we have economically and the pressures we find from our people in restlessness, we probably have to live with a lot of caution and courage so I think July 3rd is a mystery. I’m not sure she knows what she’s going to say on July 3rd.

Yeah.

That’s a terrible answer to a good question.

No, I think it’s just an honest answer that we’re all wondering at this point. Certainly we’re hoping that here in Alabama we begin some great down slope, that would be certainly a thing that we all be praying for. All right, I am trying to see… I think the point was that the current, good Michael, that the current order expires July 3rd so that was the reason for that. All right so wanted to make sure… Go back here to our questions. And again, congregational singing, we talked a little about that, and spacing. I think more are having congregational singing than are not. Robert.

I was just gonna throw this in, one thing we’re doing and it may help you even inside, I don’t know. But I know that inside you’re able to use screens and stuff, outside, maybe even a drive-in, you’re not. We have handouts that people with gloves are walkin’ around, passin’ around the handouts and so they’ll take one individually and hand it to a person and that way, nobody’s goin’ over the whole stack and that sort of stuff. But each week we’ve done the handout thing.

Yeah.

And it bein’ outside, people can sing and so that is nice.

Yes, and I’ve been in a service to where everyone was asked to wear a mask during the singing part. I know that there are variations on that so I’m not… It’s not an easy thing. Certainly, I’ve not heard of anyone having choir at this point at all. I don’t even particularly like the scene of having a group of people up there with masks on. I’m not even sure how that would even present itself. That is certainly likely a ways off at this point too. Thank you guys so much for being a part of the panel today. This is, to me, one of the things that are needed in the ever-changing environment that we are living in is just being able to carry on conversations. So I would encourage that beyond our time this morning. If you’re not already doing that with local pastors or pastor friends around the state, I would encourage you. Mentally you need to share, share your emotions, sharing what you’re going through. This is not a time to be macho man, this is a time to really lay feelings on to someone that you can trust, someone that you can go to. Share them, share them. Just talk through things that are goin’ on. Any other word from anyone before we get off the air, so to speak? Again, thank you so much. Tim, thank you for your leadership around the state. George, thank you. Robert, if you would say briefly something about Passion Tree, we’d appreciate hearing from you.

Well it goes right into what you just said and the big thing is connection. Let me speak to pastors and church ministers, staff leaders, other pastors on staff. We would love to connect you. We have disciple-making huddles for pastors that are going on right now, obviously, you can imagine are not only disciple-making huddles at this time, they are life blood for some folks to just really not be alone. If any pastors feel out on an island, I’d like to encourage you to go to passiontree.org. Check that out and just see, just connect with us. Send me an email, robert@crossroads.family. We would love to have that. You can subscribe on there and we can encourage you on some different ways there to connect with us. It’s a great thing and right now, we’re seein’ a lot of momentum come from that where the pastors that are connected are encouraging others to to do the same. We don’t want anybody to feel like they’re on that island out there by themselves.

Thank you. Thank you Dr. Lance for being a part of our panel, as well. Thank you for your input. Thank you guys for your years of leadership in the local church and, again, thank you, George, for your leadership among our state missionaries. Let me lead us in a word of prayer. Again, thank you. Father, again this day, we’re grateful for Your grace and Your mercy, for Your love for us. God, we can have a walk with You in the midst of all that is going on around us, Father, how critical it is that we realize fresh and anew every morning, Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. All that we need, we need to be zeroing in, coming from Him and Lord, knowing your nature and who You are and pressing into You. So Father, thank you for these men, thank You for your ministries, for their ministries, and all those that have been a part of the attendees and the comments, Lord, today. We thank You, we praise You. In Jesus’ name, amen. Amen. God bless, everyone have a great day.

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