Recently, we’ve been to more gatherings as restrictions begin to ease. Many of us have jumped right back into being comfortable with face-to-face meetups. But what about those who are having a hard time adjusting?
We’re slowly going back to pre-pandemic normal. Malls, dine-in restaurants, and other indoor establishments are now allowed to operate for larger capacity and even those below eighteen years old are freely moving around. Also, one of the most fantastic news this 2021 is that most of us no longer need to use our face shields!
This also means that our worship services can now accommodate more people onsite. As we go back to our pre-pandemic way of living (with face masks on), we should also think about those who’ve already adjusted to the “pandemic normal”—those who are now comfortable in their homes, and enjoy and thrive on the online platform more than face-to-face. How can we help those who are struggling to go back to onsite fellowship?
There are multiple factors to consider in determining why others have a hard time adjusting. Maybe, they’ve seenzoned many of their friends or they’ve been kept off from all social media platforms. Maybe, they’re afraid or shy to go back. Or perhaps they believe that there’s no one to go back to. Whatever the cause, here are some tips on helping them ease back to connecting onsite again.
Transitions are vital in any change of season in our lives. It is crucial that we don’t force anyone to change what they’re used to. One thing that you can offer is to help them process their situations.
Help them process and navigate through their feelings and thoughts about what’s happening (whether that’s anxiety or fear) by asking questions. This way, you’re helping them transition gradually and carefully. Transitions can be messy, but it’s the only way for us to embrace our new reality and season as we move forward.
Help them process the present reality through the lens of future hope: One day, every tribe, nation, and tongue will confess and worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as one family (Revelation 7:9–10). And that in His presence, for eternity, there is no more sickness or pain, no more COVID or any of its variants, no more sin and shame. What will remain is only eternal fellowship with God and with everyone who eagerly awaits His coming.
No matter how many times they’ve seenzoned us, we can invite them to a face-to-face meetup or a small, organic gathering, because they’re always welcome. As we fellowship, we encourage one another to share lives and testimonies. And so we gather, even in small numbers because fellowship happens when we walk together, eat together, laugh together, cry together, believe together, and hope together.
Communion also happens when we gather together in a fellowship. We don’t usually use communion in a sentence, but communion amplifies our experience and gives meaning in our fellowship. Oxford defines communion this way: the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.
As a church community, we don’t just do fellowship and communion, but ultimately celebrate it. Communion reminds us of the gospel (1 Corinthians 11:23–26), and at the same time, we partake with the story of Jesus and His disciples in the Bible. And just like how we invite people to parties or events, we invite them to fellowship because we want to celebrate God’s faithfulness and grace in our lives through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The pandemic forced us to distance ourselves from one another physically, and sadly, many were tempted to isolate and stay distant from church community for good. Perhaps some have even done the very things they swore not to do—went back to their old lives.
Our job is not just to invite them but be a spiritual companion for them who’s willing to fight their unseen battles through prayer. We may never know what is happening to them entirely, but we trust that God was and is with them always. The apostle Paul knew that when all is said and done, prayer is still the best option (Colossians 1:9).
Lasty, don’t give up on them.
If Jesus didn’t give up on us, let’s not give up on others, too. God’s perfect patience was displayed through our past, present, and even in our future. There’s nothing too small that we can do as we walk with someone—whether we help them process, invite them to an organic fellowship, or pray for them.
They may have felt that God has abandoned them, or that we have abandoned them for a season, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t with them. We can be comforted with this truth and we can comfort others as well:
Even when we turn away from God, His love never changes and His presence remains available for them anytime they choose to turn back.