The majority of IBSA pastors surveyed in May plan to reopen their church’s building for public worship this summer. The survey of 115 pastors found 55% plan to resume worship gatherings in June or July, while 10% said their churches started meeting in May. A smaller share—8%—said it may be fall or even next year before they resume public worship gatherings, and 27% don’t know or haven’t decided yet.
An overwhelming majority of pastors—90%—said their church has a plan ready for implementation or is in the process of developing one. Only 5% of pastors said they do not have a plan but understand one is needed, and 4% said their church does not need a detailed plan.
As for the areas where they feel least preparing for reopening, 30% responded that their church’s worship attendance is over 50 and they need help with compliance. Fewer pastors cited religious freedom issues (8%), information about CDC regulations (7%), and online giving and live streaming (4%) as areas of need, while just over half chose “none of the above.”
When asked what primary sources they’re taking most of their cues from for reopening, the largest share—37%—cited the directives of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, followed by their denomination or other Christian advisors (29%), local authorities (11%), and the example of other churches (6%). Of those surveyed, 41% of the pastors surveyed said their churches are in line with the phases in the state’s reopening plan, Restore Illinois, while 46% said they are aware of the plan and will follow some of its recommendations. Smaller shares have chosen not to follow the Restore Illinois plan (10%) or are not very familiar with it (3%).
Some pastors reported feeling more pressure from their congregation to either reopen as soon as possible (24%) or be cautious and stay closed (3%). But 27% said the pressure is equal on both sides of the issue, and 45% said their congregation is not exerting control in either direction.
The Illinois Baptist State Association has hosted two virtual town hall meetings focused on reopening, available for viewing here (May 14) and here (May 28). IBSA is also hosting weekly webinars to help churches navigate issues related to COVID-19. Past webinars, along with dozens of resources on reopening, virtual ministry, shepherding from a distance, and the financial implications of the pandemic, are available at IBSA.org/church-helps.