The March 28th edition of the Stewardship Journal focused on the churches opening back up and returning to many pre-Covid traditions, such as passing an offering plate or passing out the Lord’s Supper. The Sr. Pastor of 1st DeSoto, Brad Delaughter, wrote about their plans to return to normal. Mark Brooks, The Stewardship Coach, wrote about why churches needed to consider a return to normal. We thought it would be interesting to see what other pastors across the state thought about this topic by doing another Missouri Baptist Pastors Speak Up post. This time we asked a select group of pastors about their plans for opening back up.
We started by asking, have you or will you at any point return to passing the plate as well as passing the Lord’s Supper? Here are a few of the replies to this question pastors gave us.
Jeff Anderson of Calvary, Hannibal said, “We did the Lord’s Supper last Sunday, ‘passing the elements,’ it was awesome! We will start passing the offering plate very soon.”
Charles Kempf of Mount Carmel, Lake Ozark MO, said, “We returned to the common plate Sunday, April 3rd.”
Mitch Jackson, Miner Baptist, Sikeston said, “We have been passing the plate and having traditional Communion for months now.”
Not every church has returned to pre-Covid normality with regards to passing things out to members. Here are a few replies from pastors who have decided on a different path.
Matt Culbertson, Faith Festus commented on this by saying, “We no longer pass an offering plate. Instead, we have baskets at each exit. Our giving has actually increased. We now focus on online giving, and as a result, I am not sure we will ever go back to passing the traditional offering plate.”
Dennis Gard, Central Eureka said, “We are not back yet. We have been trying to get back to passing the plate but every time we get close we have a Covid incident and must back off. We are talking about implementing it again probably in thirty to sixty days barring no further Covid issues.”
Randy Shipman, 1st Clinton said, “We are not passing the offering plate or the Lord’s Supper elements yet. I’m not sure if we ever will. What we are doing now is working. It gives me a chance to explain our giving process at the end of our service. This allows us to connect worship to giving. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, we are using a self-serve family approach now that is working very well for us. Our current strategy is not based upon fear but practicality.”
Paul McKim, Laura Street, Maryville said, “We do not plan to return to passing the offering plate. Our giving has maintained great strength, and we have decided that it will remove a stumbling block to some who might come that think that churches are after their money.”
Paul has this to say about the Lord’s Supper, saying, “We are currently passing the plate for the Lord’s supper. We feel that this puts us at very little risk of infection, but it gives our deacons an opportunity to model servanthood for our congregation.”
Greg Fine of 1st Higginsville said, “We are still not passing plates in worship. We have offering plates in the foyer for people to put their offering envelopes in and turn them in during their Sunday School class. Before the pandemic, many people turned in their offering envelopes during Sunday School. We have not resumed a collection during worship because what we have been doing seems to be working now.”
Greg had this to say about passing out the Lord’s Supper, “We have returned to the deacons serving the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but we have continued to use the individually contained elements, so we only pass the trays one time (the bread and juice are individually packaged). I prefer the visual image of our deacons serving the congregation the elements of the Supper but will continue to use the individually packaged approach for convenience and health concerns.”
What percentage of attendance are you currently seeing compared to pre-Covid numbers?
Jeff Anderson said, “Before the last 2 or 3 services, our attendance was around 75% of pre-Covid. For the last three services, I believe we are very near 100% of pre-Covid #s for this time of year. Looking to break out this spring!”
Mitch Jackson said, “We have seen a coming back to worship this spring. I would guess, without time to research the numbers, that we are at least 80 to 85 percent back from pre-Covid numbers,”
Greg Fine said, “We are currently averaging about 175-180 in worship compared to 275 before the pandemic, so we are still running about 36% less. We have a senior adult residential facility in our community, and many of our senior adults from church live there. Most of them have not returned to in-person worship. But many of our younger adults and families have also not returned to in-person worship. It is frustrating to see them out and engaged in school/community activities but not re-engaged with the church. For some, I believe they have just gotten out of the habit, and it is easier to stay home.”
Paul McKim said, “Our worship attendance is about the same as before Covid, but I would say the people are different. We still have some who have not returned, and I don’t know that they ever will. Our Sunday School attendance is up about 20% from before covid.”
Randy Shipman said, “We opened back up on Mother’s Day 2020 with about 50% of our pre-Covid attendance. We are almost back to our 2019 numbers as we are pushing 90% attendance now from what we ran then. We are pleased that while we have lost some members due to Covid, we are attracting new people. We have adopted a strategy that is not a come-back mentality but a come-to mentality. Coming out of Covid, people are looking for a place to belong.”
Without passing an offering plate or bucket, how will churches keep a focus on giving? That concern was expressed by several who also gave ideas on how they are handling this issue. Greg Fine of 1st Higginsville summed up what most pastors wrote us about not passing a physical plate.
He said, “We do lose the worship element of giving in the service, but it saves us time. During the announcements at the end of the service, I almost always reference giving using one of the stewardship moments from the Stewardship Journal and review the different options for giving.”
Overall, we found that most pastors we talked to were seeing around 80% to 90% attendance compared to their pre-Pandemic numbers. One exception was Central Baptist in Eureka where Dennis Gard is the senior pastor. Here is what Dennis said about their attendance.
Dennis Gard said, “We actually had more last Sunday than we have ever had in our history. For us, we are in a season of growth. Attendance has only been impacted a few times as Covid cases would spread in the community. But each time we bounced back. Many of our Seniors are not back yet but we have an influx of new people. God has opened a door to our community to come back to church. As a result, we have an overflow of people!”
What did we learn from our queries across the state? We learned that there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to responding to the limitations of Covid. At the same time, we learned about the resiliency of the local church and the creative pastors who worked to keep their doors open. We might not be back to normal, but Missouri churches have found and will continue to find ways to do our Great Commission Work.
Would you like to participate in our next Missouri Pastors Speak Up series? We would love to hear from you and put you on our list. Your views and opinions are valuable to your fellow pastors and us. Reach out to Rob Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.