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During the recent primary elections in the United States, the voting process was hampered by several factors. One of them was that many of the poll workers were senior adults and other vulnerable people who were the needed volunteers and chose not to work at the polling places because of their fear of the spread of COVID-19. We were not sure about the turnout of seniors and vulnerable people to cast their ballots.
As churches ReLaunch and ReGather, one of the key aspects of their actions is how they choose to address the need for childcare and programs for children. In many cases churches are choosing to not have childcare and other programming for children under 12 years of age. This limits the number of families with children under 12 who will return to live worship unless they desire to sit together as a family appropriately physically distanced from other families and individuals.
Senior adults and vulnerable people are divided. Some of returning for live worship as they miss being in the presence of congregational friends and in their worship center where they have often experienced the presence of God. But this is a long way from deciding they will return to volunteer positions where they are in close contact with children, and with preschoolers dealing with their personal sanitary needs, runny noses, and uncovered coughs.
Particularly if your workers are vulnerable people and seniors, perhaps they are more in danger than the preschools and elementary school children who ReGather at church. Or, at minimum, these vulnerable people and seniors are sufficiently anxious about their health safety that they are not going to return to their volunteer roles any time soon.
When will they feel safe returning to these roles? One answer is that they will return when preschools, non-essential daycares, and grade schools are back in session. Since that is not until August, then this is one marker.
A second answer is that when COVID-19 testing has saturated the area in which they live, and the rate of positive infections has significantly decreased to where they feel safe to have close interaction with people.
Third, is when the reclosing of restaurants and other places where people are in close interaction with one another has stopped or dwindled to where they can open again. A corollary is when churches around them that have reopened stop reclosing due to the spread of the virus in their network of congregations.
Fourth, and this goes with several of the others above, when they get over their personal anxiety. Fear is keeping many vulnerable people and senior adults inside their homes except for essential shopping and medical appointments. They have become skilled at online video conversations and find these to be a reasonable substitute due to their fear.
Fifth, is when their adult children release them to return. Adult children are having a lot of influence on their parents. While seniors are around their children and grandchildren now, their adult children may not continue to allow them around their grandchildren if the seniors return to childcare and elementary school children teaching roles in their church.
Sixth, when the spouse in a senior adult household returns to church in a non-children role, the other spouse may decide to try it. They do not want to miss out on the fellowship they have not been having with people they love and enjoy.
Seventh, when their pastor or a staff person or a lay coordinator of children shames them into coming back. This is not a very good reason to come back, but some will respond to this negative approach.
Eighth, and one not to be discounted, is when they feel that God is calling them to go back and help with children. This is an important one for some seniors, and for some otherwise vulnerable people.
If you are vulnerable or a senior adult when you are ReGathering at your church?
George Bullard, BullardJournal@gmail.com, June 12, 2020