As residents begin to slowly resume daily activities with the gradual lifting of restrictions on businesses and gathering places, many are looking forward to the opportunity to resume attending church in person. The stay-at-home order forced many congregations to further embrace online platforms, reaching out to parishioners through Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, and other services. But both local pastors and church members are growing weary of meeting virtually.
Following often heated discussions, Jackson County amended the Phase One executive order on May 13th to allow gyms, fitness centers, and places of worship to open with occupancy limits. Places of worship are also now allowed to open with the same occupancy limits as nonessential businesses. Jackson County Health Department continues to encourage the use of drive-in and online services whenever possible, especially for high risk populations.
Faith United Methodist Church in Grain Valley plans to continue to online-only worship through the end of May. Pastor Mike Cassidy explained his congregation is following guidelines from both the County and the Missouri UMC.
“This has been a difficult decision because we do miss meeting together and have some members of our community who are unable to access the internet. Also, May 31st is Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church. It will be hard not to be together on that day, but we trust that we are making the best decision for the health and safety of our congregation and our neighbors,” Cassidy said.
“When we do return to worship, we are looking at coming back in phases. We've already set the chairs in our sanctuary 6 feet apart to get a feel for what it might be like. We've got plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfectant ready to go. Most likely, our first phase will only include worship in smaller numbers without Sunday school or nursery care.”
“One of the biggest long term changes for us will be the continuation of online worship. This has been something we've been working toward at Faith and the shutdown really sped that process up for us. We've been reaching new people and even bringing back some families who had drifted away. We are committed to continuing this online community even after we return to life in the sanctuary. It is well known that churches see an increase in attendance and giving when they add online worship opportunities, and this has certainly proved true for Faith,” Cassidy said.
Crossroads Church in Grain Valley resumed in-person services last Sunday and will continue again this Sunday, abiding by the social distancing and sanitization protocols as well as limiting building capacity. The church will only hold one service, with no nursery, preschool, or children’s ministry programming. Attendees are asked to RSVP for church service so the church may maximize seating and accommodate guests. RSVPs may be made at the following link: https://crossroadsgv.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/425319
Live streaming of services will continue on Facebook and YouTube.
First Baptist Church Grain Valley will meet online this Sunday, but resume in-person services on May, 31st. The church has been utilitizing Facebook Live and their website, www.grainvalleyfirst.com to share online services, but Pastor Wayne Geiger said he and his congregation are looking forward to the day when they can worship together in person.
“The notes and messages that we are getting from our folks are that people have appreciated our approach and are enjoying the online broadcasts but are really looking forward to meeting again in person when the storm is over,” Geiger said.
Valley Community Church meets at Sni-A-Bar Elementary and have finalized plans with Grain Valley Schools to resume services this Sunday with 25% capacity.
We will ask families not to arrive early, but to enter just before service time (10:00am) and go directly to the auditorium as a family. Families will sit together at a distance from other families for a shortened, family style worship service,” Valley Community Church Pastor Jason Williams said.
“We will not have any kids ministries in operation for the foreseeable future. Several other suggestions for safety will be implemented as well.”
“The last several weeks have been challenging and difficult for us, but our people have done a tremendous job of following the advice of our leaders. Our most vulnerable will be staying home but many will be in attendance for much needed fellowship together,” William said.
Church attendance is not the only factor affected by the shut-down. Youth, community programs, and ministry work has been impacted during this time, but not always negatively.
“Throughout the shutdown, a lot of our programming has been either suspended or seriously pulled back. Our children's and youth ministry have been hosting gatherings through Zoom, but we are definitely feeling Zoom fatigue at this point and it is not at all the same as sharing the same physical space. Some of our small groups are also taking advantage of Zoom. Our taekwondo, cardio class, and music groups have had to take a hiatus and we are still unsure when they will be able to resume. A bright spot has been that we've been able to continue our relationship with the school system to pack and deliver backpack snacks to elementary students in Grain Valley. This is a joint effort between the local churches, Bright Futures, and Grain Valley Assistance Council. We've seen an increase in support from the community for this project since the outbreak. One family in the church stepped up to pack 100 bags each week while wearing masks and gloves to help minimize contact and possible spread of disease,” Cassidy said.
“During the stay-at-home orders, most of our Groups, KidzMin classes for Elementary and Preschool, our Middle/High School Ministry and our Sunday Services have all offered Zoom or Livestream venues to continue to participate. We really enjoyed some wonderful things about this season of ‘The Great Pause’ - getting to do a lot of ministry in some really new ways was a challenge that stretched many of us and grew our church family,” Jones said.
“During this time, our deacons, program leaders, and small groups leaders have continued to stay in touch with members. We have also provided online, downloadable content for families with children and youth and have done targeted Facebook Live and Zoom connections with them. We also have Zoom courses that have been happening during the week for men and women,” Geiger said.
The ability of churches to continue to fund operations and ministries was certainly a concern, but the shutdown has created some positive results.
“Our giving was down slightly initially, but as our people realized how long it was going to last, began giving online and we saw very little change. I'm thankful that our people are so generous! It allows us to continue to be a blessing as a church to our community and to many different ministries around the world,” Williams said.
“Not having people at the church has been odd and saddening, and all of us are craving the opportunity to worship and fellowship together. However, God has continued to bless us as a church. We have not cut back on any of our missions giving and this time of not being able to get together has not affected our overall budget,” Geiger said.
“We certainly lived out, through this period, that the church is not a building. Since our very beginning, we've always taught the value that we don't go to church...we are the church,” Jones said.
“Financially, our offerings have never been better. Not only have we continued to meet budget consistently, but our offerings have also increased over the first quarter. Not only that, but we've raised several thousand dollars in special offerings for people groups suffering in our city and around our world.”
“All in all - it's not the same, but we believe that God is in constant care for and absolute rule over all His creation, for His glory and the good of His people. This pandemic didn't catch Him by surprise or off His game. He's teaching us and strengthening us through these trials for the work that He's prepared for us to do,” Jones said.