Unity in the local church is under attack. We are way past hymns vs. praise music. Pastors are currently dealing with issues like reopening vs. virtual and the timing of those decisions, racial items and the timing, content and intensity of those messages, safety vs. services, public protests but no public worship services, and if those were not enough, wearing masks vs. not wearing masks as you reopen. Pastors need help with their church’s mask policy.
This past Sunday I attended Fellowship Bible Church’s re-opening service in Roswell, GA. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. I previously wrote about Senior Pastor Crawford Lorrits’ amazing message in the post 39 Quotes On How You Become A More Forgiving And Charismatic Leader. You should check it out.
In addition to Crawford’s message, one of the reasons it was such a great service was the spirit of those in attendance, particularly on the issue on wearing masks. EVERYONE wore masks but it was a non-issue. This is because how it was handled in the weeks leading up to their reopening. As always, you will prepare or repair as a leader.
If you are a pastor dealing with this issue, the following are principles I gleaned from last weekend.
8 Steps to Successfully Communicating Your Church’s Mask Policy About Wearing Masks in Church Services
1. The Pastor Must Be the Moral Authority and Visionary for Wearing Masks.
So goes the leader, so goes the people. Starting several weeks prior to the reopening service, Crawford provided weekly videos discussing several things on his heart. These ranged from standard church news to racial reconciliation items to the wearing of masks when they began meeting again. I will discuss his content more below but Crawford clearly communicated he would be wearing a mask and why. For unity within the church body, the pastor must lead in clearly communicating the church’s stance on this topic. It cannot be delegated to another staff member or buried within a weekly email. Leadership determines direction. Organization determines potential. People, with God’s help, determine success. But I cannot stress this enough, it all starts with the senior pastor.
2. Wearing a Mask Is an Act of Love.
Crawford acknowledged there would be a variety of opinions by those in Fellowship on wearing masks. However, to provide a safe and secure environment for ALL who wish to attend live services, everyone would be wearing masks, starting with him. In short, Crawford said The Law of Love is demonstrated by putting aside your personal preferences and opinions for the sake of others. Wearing a mask during the service would be a sign you loved your neighbors who were sitting near you.
3. Go With Rules Not Guidelines.
Language is a big deal. Phrases like “we prefer” or “we are making masks available if you choose to wear one” or “we’re asking” or “the CDC is recommending” give people the openings to decline. Guidelines are suggestions. Rules provide clarity. People need and appreciate clarity. In this instance, if you did points 1 and 2 properly, clarity on this topic becomes a non-issue.
4. Value People Over Process.
Rules without relationship lead to rebellion. If you love your people they will gladly follow the process. The goal is not to get people into your building. The goal is not to get people wearing a mask or social distancing. The goal is to be a host. When you host someone in your home, you want them to feel welcomed. After all, you have not seen these people in months. First, you should be genuinely excited to see them. Then you can implement your processes.
5. Pastor Leads From Out Front.
Crawford was in the lobby, wearing a mask, and welcoming the people. If the people see the pastor leading in an appropriate fashion, they will gladly follow suit. Pastors cannot be in the green room as churches reopen.
6. Approach Is Everything. Sing With a Mask. Listen to Preaching Without a Mask.
For people struggling with wearing a mask, give them permission to take it off during the preaching. This provides a welcome relief. This approach demonstrates all opinions and viewpoints are appreciated.
7. Say “Thank You” Early and Often.
Kindness is such an attractive quality. As the beginning of his message, Crawford graciously thanked everyone for social distancing and adhering to the church’s stance on wearing masks. He was also genuinely so excited to see everyone. He humorously said, “Don’t leave me!” When leaders express appreciation, most people will follow them anywhere.
8. Exit By Rows Not Sections.
At the close of the service, the congregation was thanked again (remember, early and often) for loving their neighbors by wearing masks. They were then instructed to exit the services by putting their masks back on and dismissing from the last row to the front. When you exit by sections, social distancing does not take place and the spirit of safety is removed.
How are you handling the wearing of a mask issue?
This article about your church’s mask policy originally appeared here.