It’s hard for me to think of those two words, Together Again, without hearing Buck Owens singing them. And if you don’t know who Buck Owen is, stop reading this right now and go educate yourself.
But these two words are not about a classic country music song. They are describing what will happen on Sunday, September 13 as we resume onsite, in-person worship gatherings at Journey’s physical locations in Apopka and Lake County. We will worship together in-person again!
Over the next few weeks in this column, we will be sharing some important information about our latest strategies for re-gathering. We met onsite briefly in late May and early June. Obviously, that didn’t go as we planned. We’ve been extra cautious this time around and taken longer than some would have liked to resume onsite gatherings because we are not coming back the same as we did the first time. Our staff has worked hard learning, and several have visited area churches that have already resumed in-person gatherings, asking questions of their staff, and gathering helpful details. What I’m about to share reflects many of the latest best practices that we have recently observed.
So, what are the differences this time?
- The Apopka campus worship gatherings will be held on Sundays at 9:30 and 11:15am. Lake County will resume gatherings with just one worship service at 9:30AM.
- Children’s ministry for one-year-old’s through Fifth Grade will be provided at all services at both campuses. There will be limited space due to social distance protocols and a reservation system will be utilized to check children in. Nursery rooms will not be open, but an infant retreat area will be made available for those with children age one and under.
- Student ministry for middle school students will be offered at 5PM on Sundays at our Apopka location starting on September 13 as well. High School ministry at Apopka will resume on Wednesday, September 16 at our Apopka campus.
- Student ministry programming for both middle and high school students will be offered at 9:30 at our Lake County campus.
- The café will be open at our Apopka campus with limited menu options. Both campuses will serve free coffee.
- Seating for adults at both campuses will be done through a ticketing system that can be accessed online through our website. This system automatically spaces people out for social distancing purposes and can help us utilize more seats in our worship centers. PLEASE NOTE: Tickets will be available the week prior to September 13.
- Face coverings will be required at both locations.
That’s a lot to take in, so you may want to read that again.
There are some things that beg for greater explanation from that list, so let me start with the most obvious. In the coming weeks, we will cover the rest OR you can click here and go to our website for the full details on all aspects of our onsite restart.
Why are we not resuming Saturday gatherings at this time? Two primary reasons:
- Saturday evening worship services began in 2012 at Journey to make room for more people at our near capacity Sunday morning gatherings. However, onsite attendance at churches comparable to the size of Journey that have resumed in-person gatherings are now seeing roughly 15-30% of their pre-pandemic attendance–which is consistent with what we saw in May/June when we first restarted. Accommodating capacity crowds is not currently a perceived need at Journey and may not be for some time.
- The challenge of volunteers. The biggest challenge facing all churches who are meeting onsite is having a sufficient volunteer base to serve all areas of ministry that are open with excellence. As stated above, when we resume worship gatherings this time around, we are opening children’s ministry environments as well as our café. We did not open them during our first attempt at re-gathering back in May. We believe these ministry offerings are vital to the Journey weekend worship experience, especially for families. We simply do not have the volunteer resources to cover three worship services adequately at this time. There is a saying that “less is more.” We would rather do less gatherings better than offer more gatherings poorly. That means for now, we need to streamline our ministry offerings and consolidate our volunteer resources to provide the best gatherings we can in the midst of a pandemic.
It should also be noted that we will continue to offer the Saturday at 5PM online worship gathering.
Don’t forget this Sunday evening, August 30th at 5PM, we are offering a Prayer and Worship Gathering to prepare for a return to onsite ministry by asking God to bring revival as we do so. Seating reservations are not required for this Sunday evening’s gathering, but face coverings are, and social distancing will be practiced.
One church put it like this with regard to their gathering protocols: “What is the most loving and wisest thing we can do at this time?” If we let that be our guide, we will not go wrong.
Loving the Journey,