By Bruce Chesser
President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.
One of the more difficult challenges that we are all facing these days is in the issue of figuring out how to re-gather in our small groups and maintain social distancing. A classroom that normally holds 50 people would only accommodate about 10 people with true social distancing. The largest classrooms that might hold 100 or more would be limited to 25 or so. The question is: how can you offer enough space for the needs of social distancing?
Here is the approach we are taking at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville. We are offering four options to each of our Adult Connect Groups (Sunday School classes). No option is considered better than the other. No option is preferred over another. Each group should do what works best for them.
Option 1. Continue to meet via Zoom or another social media platform. No doubt, a weariness has developed of using these platforms, but they are better than nothing and provide many people with an option.
Option 2. Meet at the church facility during a weekday. We will provide an adequate sized room to accommodate the group. We will allow at least one hour between the classroom being reserved for another group so that it can adequately be cleaned (along with the corresponding restrooms). We are allowing these classrooms to be reserved in two hour blocks to allow plenty of time for Bible study, fellowship, etc. We have discovered that many of our senior groups that are made up of retired people enjoy having their class during the week.
Option 3. Meet at the church facility during a weeknight. The same options listed above are true for this option, too. This might appeal to some of the younger groups that could be a part of these groups in the evening after work.
Option 4. Meet at the church facility on Sunday morning in the more traditional format. This allows the children to be in a group designed for them. Make sure that you evaluate what different age groups/demographics are having classes offered on Sunday morning. If there is an age group/demographic that is being missed, this would be an excellent opportunity to begin some new groups. Small is good! A group of 6-10 people is a great size group with which to begin.
We want to be good neighbors to our community and we want to help mitigate the health crisis that has engulfed us. But, at the same time, we must do everything we can to offer people an opportunity to continue to grow spiritually and to be encouraged by being around other believers. We cannot live in isolation.
The TBMB stands ready to assist you in any possible way. B&R — Chesser is president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville.