What does your future look like?
COVID-19 Project of the Week: Cleaning out the refrigerator. It’s my firm belief that one’s fridge should be cleaned out once every pandemic…whether it’s needed or not. In fact, I’m pretty sure I found some homemade jelly that survived the Spanish Flu. Count me in for “Antiques Roadshow: Refrigerator Edition!”
In addition to watching things grow in places where they shouldn’t, I’ve also been keeping up with some pretty interesting data.
One of the organizations I work with is a well-established (66-years running) community theater. Heartbreakingly, it has just postponed its entire season. For a long time, I’ve thought that there’s a strong commonality between community theater and church. Seriously. People feel passionately about both. They have opinions about how things should be run. They are – for the most part – volunteers (aka: laity). They love the community they experience. They are invested.
That’s why I find the weekly updates from Colleen Dilenschneider so compelling. Dilenschneider does “market research and behavioral economics surrounding cultural organizations.” She and her crew have been collecting information about when people will return to pre-COVID cultural activities, what would make them feel comfortable doing so, and where they will return first. These numbers are from her post today (a response of 50 indicates no change, as if COVID never existed; numbers higher than 50 mean a more positive response; numbers lower than 50 mean a more negative response).
Where will people go first when things return to “normal”?
Top three? “I’ll go there straightway”
1. Public Park - 64
2. Zoo - 56
3. Public Beach - 57
Bottom three? “Uuuuuh…I’m pretty leery”
9. Concert Hall – 37
10. Other Performing Arts (e.g. live theater, dance) – 34
11. Movie Theater – 34
See a pattern? Being outside will be seen as “safe.” Being inside will (as of now) be seen as “risky.” And…where do our congregations meet? I’m sorry. Meeting inside makes a space like church complicated in the post-COVID future.
Take note of this from another Dilenschneider study: “How susceptible people believe they are to the virus may play an important role in their attendance decisions. Symphony audiences tend to be comparatively older and thus may be more concerned about contracting the virus.” Sound familiar, church people?
Now, what will make people feel “safe” returning to cultural organizations (and, as I propose, to church)?
There’s no real surprise here:
1. Availability of a vaccine - 86%
2. Government lifting travel restrictions - 65%
3. Seeing others visit - 60%
I love what Dilenschneider says (and I’ll put in a plug for church too),
These findings do not at all imply that performing arts [or the church] – or any other entity – are irrelevant, ineffective, uninspiring, or unnecessary. That’s not what this is about. The findings are instead about feeling safe while enjoying the experience. This isn’t necessarily a deep-rooted issue calling into question what you do or why you do it. It’s the how that may need to evolve.
Bottom line: people want to feel safe. In fact, I’ll yell it: PEOPLE WANT TO FEEL SAFE.
How are you going to make that happen? There’s no magic answer but there are some simple steps to take:
- Have hand sanitizer stands available
- No more “passing of the peace”
- Map out where people can sit to be socially distanced
- The collection plate will now be a box in the back of the church
This is an excellent time to meet with your key leaders to form a plan to reopen your church safely and with safety in mind. Use available data to make sound decisions.
And, when your Re-Opening the Church plan is in place, communicate it with your congregation. Don’t make them guess what you’ll do. Give them the confidence that you’ve got this post-COVID thing ready to go. Their safety matters because you (and Jesus) love and care for them. Be sure to let them know.
*Upcoming Webinar* Exciting news! Rev. Ken Sloane, Director, Stewardship & Generosity, UMC Discipleship Ministries and I will be doing a webinar for the Greater Northwest UMC next Wednesday at 9am (PST). “Stewardship in the Age of COVID-19 and Five Tips for Managing Your Church Budget During the COVID-19 Crisis.” Please join us. Register here.