Dear NCD Pastors and Church Leaders,
In the coming months, our churches will begin a slow transition from Minnesota’s stay-at-home order to a new normal for small groups, fellowship groups, ministry teams and corporate worship. In light of current restrictions and the anticipated easing of MDH guidelines, our district would like to share the following recommendations:
– Until the stay-at-home order is lifted, we encourage all NCD churches to continue postponing in-person congregational gatherings, including corporate worship services and in-person small groups, through at least May 18th.
– Recent adjustments to Executive Order 20-48 may allow your church office to reopen at this time (see section 8 for details). If you do reopen your church office, we encourage you to continue to allow staff to work remotely and to employ recommended social distancing practices. You can find more information at the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Also, we find Minnesota’s Safely Adjusting the Dials infographic helpful (below).
– As time passes, frustration and fear have begun to grow. Some think our state response has been too strong and the restrictions have lingered too long; others fear the easing of social distancing and have personal concerns about gathering in groups again once the stay at home order is lifted. In situations like this, most pastors and church leaders experience increased criticism and feel pulled in multiple directions. This is normal and unavoidable. Moving forward, we encourage you not to let the criticism and the pull derail you from making shared leadership and shepherding decisions with wisdom, grace, care and courage. Our district staff is available to interact with you about how best to lead forward in light of the unique challenges your local church is experiencing.
– Common, too, is the temptation for pastors to view a crisis like this from the pulpit and not the pew. It is easy to allow our upcoming decisions to focus too much on seeing our churches full, budgets healthy and initiatives moving forward. When the time comes to make decisions about reopening, I want to encourage all church leaders to consider the perspective from the pew as well. Many people in our congregations are rightly concerned about being exposed to the virus in large gatherings. They are understandably hesitant to come together again after so much time under the stay-at-home realities. They worry that we will unintentionally pressure them to set aside personal concerns for the sake of filling the church. So please be gracious, watch your words, and avoid applying implicit pressure to staff and congregation members in the days ahead.
If you have any questions regarding how these recommendations relate to your local church, please reach out to anyone on our NCD staff.
Thank you for your ministry and leadership. Godspeed as we move forward together!
District Superintendent | North Central District
Evangelical Free Church of America