An Update From Pastor Mike
Let's Stay Connected
Why have other churches deemed it safe to gather in-person?
Some churches have decided it’s safe to gather while other churches have decided it’s not. This week, North Point Community Church in Atlanta, one of the country’s largest churches, decided to eliminate large, in-person gatherings for the remainder of 2020. We don’t disparage any church for its decision making because these are thoughtful and prayerful decisions. Each church has to assess their comfort level with gathering in-person. Each church has to consider staffing, facilities, capability, attendee age and community risk level.
What data and/or sources is Vista using to make this decision?
Ohio Governor’s Office, Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Center for Disease Control (CDC), other churches and increasing national media attention to “places of worship” associated with viral outbreaks and hotspots.
If Franklin County’s Public Health Advisory drops to a Level 2, would we gather in-person?
Possibly. We would re-evaluate at that time.
If cases decrease in the Fall, will we reconsider gathering in-person?
Possibly. We would re-evaluate at that time.
Will the Dublin Campus continue meeting at Jerome High School once we gather again?
At this point, we don’t know. There are many variables with regards to using a public facility. Currently, Jerome High School is unavailable. We have to prepare for the reality that it may not be available for an extended period of time. Additionally, we are still looking for and evaluating the potential for other venues.
Is Vista discussing this with other churches?
Yes. Vista is relationally connected with Catalyst for Columbus and a round-table of pastors in the Dublin/Hilliard areas. In each group, church leaders and pastors are sharing concerns, thoughts and ideas about how best to lead the church and serve their respective communities during this time.
How does this decision impact Lifegroups or upcoming student gatherings?
We won’t mandate what groups should do or shouldn’t do during this time. However, we encourage groups to follow any advisory and instruction provided by our local officials. Although Vista will not be arranging in-person gatherings, groups can decide what’s best for them. There are a few groups meeting in-person following socially-distant, COVID-appropriate guidelines.
Without meeting in person, I feel very disconnected from Vista right now. What should I do?
We hear and understand you! Everyone probably feels disconnected in some way right now. Please email Pastor Lisa, Pastor Justin or Pastor Brian – they would welcome the opportunity to talk and help in whatever way they could. If you’re not in a Lifegroup, they would like to help you find one!
Our group doesn’t feel connected over Zoom any longer. What do you recommend?
Zoom fatigue is a real issue. We encourage you to talk with your group leader about this. Feel free to bring one of the pastors into the conversation as well. We want to help!
The online services aren’t connecting with me anymore. I need to be with people. Why can’t we meet outside in socially distant gatherings?
We were moving in that direction. However, based on the Governor’s last address along with data and reporting prior, two things are clear:
- In-person gatherings of any form are discouraged.
- Franklin county, along with surrounding counties, is trending towards a Level 4 Public Health Advisory.
Although we would like to meet in-person, we don’t want to create a space that puts your health at risk or unknowingly contributes to the spread of the virus.
Are you afraid that Vista will lose attendees as people attend other churches that have begun to gather in-person?
We’re not. Certainly, some might choose to attend a church that’s gathering in-person. We sense that God is calling the church to something different. We’re working on a number of exciting and inspired ideas that we believe the church will also be excited about! For example, this Fall, not only will Lifegroups restart, but you’ll also have access to the following online offerings:
- Financial Peace University
- Grief Share Support Group
- Soul Satisfaction
Is Vista struggling financially? Has not gathering in-person hurt the church financially?
Not really. God has gifted this expression of His church with a community of faithful and generous followers of Jesus. And, the thing to remember more than anything else, especially in a time such as this, is that Vista belongs to God. Although we don’t know what the future holds, we’re going to keep believing, trusting following our King wherever he leads us!
As a church, we’re deeply thankful for the religious freedom we enjoy when choosing when (and when not) to meet together. We long for having everyone together again!
There are various perspectives of when we should resume indoor gatherings. Some feel we should do so immediately, while others believe we should wait much longer. Not surprisingly, differing opinions also exist among our leadership.
Due largely to the unknowns and potential risks associated with the first third of a pandemic cycle, patience seems most prudent. Additional factors (listed below) contribute to the decision to delay large-scale, in-person gatherings. But, we are very excited to move into appropriately distanced, moderately-sized, in-person gatherings!
- The State of Our State: At the time of this writing, Ohio is among only ten states whose COVID-19 cases are spiking. Ohio also ranks among the nation’s worst in coronavirus testing rates, stifling efforts to identify and isolate those who are infected. The challenges associated with those reports are only amplified among the Vista families with summer travel to various locations and hotspots around the country.
- The Challenges of Large Indoor Gatherings: Even as our country begins to reopen, every jurisdiction in the country continues to recommend that people avoid large crowds and large indoor areas without outdoor ventilation. If we were to gather, we would essentially be opening an environment that people have been specifically encouraged to avoid. Even if we reduced our normal gathering capacity by 25-50%, that would still mean hundreds of people gathering together in our indoor locations. All other areas of society that involve large indoor gatherings at this scale are still waiting to re-open, including schools, universities, sporting events, and conferences. Many of these institutions have access to much higher level medical response and preparation than we do as a church. Yet, they are still developing their own reopening plans. We simply are not experts on large-scale indoor gatherings in the midst of a pandemic. As such, we want to watch and observe early adopters of large-scale gatherings so we can discern best practices. In the meantime, since people are phasing in the entire reopening process – from less than ten to less than 50 to less than 100 and so on – we believe it is wise to also phase in our gatherings at smaller levels before immediately bringing hundreds of people into a large indoor gathering.
- The Safety of Our Staff and Volunteer Leaders: Some might wonder, “Why not just open for those who are comfortable with gathering in person?” One answer to this question is that our gatherings each week require a large and very diverse group of people to work in a number of hands-on roles to make them possible. We do not feel comfortable requiring or expecting staff and volunteer leaders to serve in this way if we are not yet sure about the respective best practices for large-scale indoor gatherings.
- The Unity of Our Body: Any attempt at reopening right now will necessarily exclude large portions of our church, both in number and demographic, including many older brothers and sisters or others who may find themselves at higher risk for any number of reasons. We also know individuals and families have varying levels of comfort with being in crowds at this time. While we don’t believe it will be feasible to wait until everyone has the same comfort level, we do want to wait until we can encourage as many people as possible to attend while confidently saying, “This is a safe environment for members and guests alike to worship.”
- The Nature of Our Gatherings: Our worship gatherings are not designed for social distancing. We sing and shout. We take the Lord’s Supper and we baptize. We are individuals and families, including children who aren’t always easy to keep in one place to monitor everything they touch! While it is certainly possible to gather together without doing some or all of these normal activities (we’re thinking through all of these possibilities), and while there are various ways to reduce risk (we’re exploring all these ways as well), the above factors cause us to take added precautions before gathering for worship as the church.
- The Credibility of Our Witness: By God’s grace, we are spreading God’s love in many ways beyond what we were doing before this pandemic. Members of our church have banded together to serve in new ways; dozens more have joined us online and some have come to faith in Christ. So as we read stories of church gatherings resuming in other places and see examples of staff and attenders inadvertently transmitting this virus across their communities, we want to be extremely careful to display the wisdom of Christ as we exalt the name of Christ. In short, we want to be agents of the Gospel and do not want anything we might undertake to hinder that eternal message.
- The Opportunity for Observation: Every week (and seemingly every day!), there are new developments in the local, state, federal, and global response to COVID-19. These rapid developments include more knowledge about how the virus responds to treatment, summer weather, the reopening process, or how individuals might better protect themselves. In proceeding with caution, we give ourselves access to more information to make a wise decision on reopening. There are many areas in which we are glad to take risks in order to be on the cutting edge now and in the days ahead…spreading the Gospel, discipling children and students, restoring lives, strengthening marriages, caring for the poor and oppressed, being family for widows and orphans, planting churches, reaching the unreached, and on and on. However, we do not feel the same burden to take risks in order to be on the cutting edge of re-opening large gatherings. Knowing this virus is latent for as long as two weeks before symptoms might appear, we are inclined to lag behind more large-scale reopenings to determine if various practices are safe in reducing risks. In the end, we want to maintain and increase our focus on the areas mentioned above while carefully observing and humbly learning from other large-scale in-person gatherings.
- The Pursuit of God’s Intention for His Church. This by no means should be the last point. It should be first, but we don’t yet know precisely what God is doing! It’s worth mentioning that 18 months ago, we began a dialogue with Vista leaders and pace-setters about the future of the Church in general, and Vista in particular. Based on national church trends and an increasingly post-church culture in the Columbus and Central Ohio area, it’s fair to conclude that today’s church models are failing to reach the next generation and will need to dramatically adapt to reverse that trend. In our view, God is leveraging this pandemic for his purposes. These unusual times provide an incredibly unique, once in a lifetime(?) opportunity to figure out new ways to stay together, care for one another, and reach our city like never before. Of course, there will always be the Biblical mandate to gather, and we will, but there is an argument to be made that God is posturing His Church for a new day while giving us the time to figure it out. It took 40 years for God to reset His people after Egypt – we can surely find a way to endure these delays if He’s up to something big. And, of course, He is.
In sharing these factors as reasons why we are slow to gather, we hope to communicate to you and to our community that we love you. We are indeed eager to gather en masse again soon, and we commit to do so as soon and as safely as possible. We are continually evaluating the factors above as well as others that arise, and we are committed to providing new updates.
In the meantime, let’s remember: Vista is not closed! We are absolutely open with regard to Jesus’ command to make disciples. The church is not a building, but a body of people committed to loving God and loving one another while spreading the good news of God’s love in the world around us. And a global pandemic cannot stop us from doing these things!
– Mike Smith, Lead Pastor
Let’s see if we can squeeze in the word unprecedented one more time! The last three months have been, well, unprecedented. The last three months have been hard…they have been trying…and…they have been tragic.
We find ourselves in a space where we are not exactly sure how the next three months are going to look. What we can be sure of however is that the church is alive as its ever been! People are taking steps, needs are being met and God is moving! For these reasons we rejoice and proclaim that the church is still open!
Like you, we are eager to gather in the community we know and love. We do not anticipate gathering in large groups (like Sunday morning) until late summer maybe fall. In the meantime, we are planning for alternative gatherings. We are putting plans together for a Friday evening “drive-in” worship service at Dublin and a Sunday evening “drive-in” service at Worthington. Additionally, we have begun to make plans that would allow access to the Worthington building for small groups of 20 people or less. Here are some things you can expect to see for anything inside the building:
- Registration or RSVP (Ohio Department of Health Contact Tracing Guidelines)
- Limitations on attendance
- No children under 10
- Face masks required
- Temperature check at the door
- Ohio Department of Heath protocols in place (read here)
- In the event that someone tests positive, the building will close
With regards to Lifegroups gathering in-person, that decision is at the discretion of the group leader and the group. Some groups have already met together adhering to social distancing guidelines.
As we continue to assess and plan, your input is needed and valued. We have put together another “Returning to Church” survey. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey in one of these ways:
- Text CHECK2 to 90888
- Go to this link
- Scan this QR code
If you have questions about any of this, please contact your campus leadership.
Let’s keep going church!
As the economy begins to open back up the question about opening up churches for gatherings has been front and center for church leaders and government officials alike.
We’ve been tracking closely with this dialogue both within Ohio as well as across the United States. Some churches are making plans to open quickly. In fact, we’ve heard that some churches in Ohio are considering public gatherings as soon as next week. Meanwhile, other churches are taking a much more cautious approach and have already determined that they will postpone public gatherings until September.
Where is Vista in this?
We’ve already communicated that we will not be open for gatherings of any size any sooner than June 1st. That still holds true. The reason behind that was to give us time to see how the initial phases of opening up the economy might impact our city.
We are making “open plans” to reopen Vista that follow CDC Interim Guidance as well as Responsible RestartOhio guidelines. Additionally, we are in close communication with other churches, organizations, and friends in the city such as The Joseph Council.
In partnership with Catalyst for Columbus, we’ve had the opportunity to participate in the PPE Church Initiative which provided Vista with direct access to a healthcare PPE supplier. Through this initiative we were able to place a low-cost bulk order for goods that we’ll need to stay aligned with current safety protocols. We also leveraged a portion of our Crisis Support fund towards helping under-resourced churches in our city.
Your safety continues to be our greatest concern!
We’re going to do everything we can to prepare for an eventual church gathering. We don’t yet know when we’re going to open our doors and we don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like just yet. And even after we make all the necessary preparations, we still may keep the doors closed for a little while longer.
As the ODH has warned, the COVID-19 virus is still as prevalent as when the first Stay At Home order was issued. We’re treating that reality with the utmost sensitivity especially keeping in mind those among us that are at higher risk if exposed.
While we continue to prepare I encourage you to keep on being the awesome church that you are! Keep connecting and reaching out to people! Keep sharing the gospel message of God’s mercy and grace. For many people out there these are times of fear and hopelessness – God has appointed you to be a voice of hope and confidence!
Thanks church – keep going!
~ Pastor Chris
There’s been a lot of talk on the news about the 3-phase federal Opening Up America Again plan. Here in Ohio, Governor DeWine has stated that Friday May 1st is the target date to start “reopening the economy.”
Naturally, this has prompted many questions and concerns about what this means for public health in relation to places of “social gathering.”
This statement from Gov. DeWine is helpful:
“…the big gatherings, coming together for sporting events, coming together for concerts, those are not going to be the first things that open up. Those present the most challenges for social distancing. We’re going to do things where we can get the most number of employees back and people working back with the least risk. That’s where we’re going to start.”
That being said, these types of venues along with places of worship are included in the permissible venues for phase 1 reopenings. However, under the guidelines for individual safety, people are encouraged to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people where “strict physical distancing protocols” are difficult to follow.
This is a little confusing. It’s hard to decipher how these protocols are best applied in a church setting.
So you know, we are actively discussing and planning for what an eventual “reopening of Vista” will look like. We’re making sure we’re fully up to speed on the latest guidelines for the health and welfare of our communities.
Your safety is our greatest concern!
Many of us are eager to gather again but in light of the current state of things we are holding to a policy of no “in-person gatherings” sooner than June 1st.
I know that is frustrating news but again, the safety of our community is our greatest concern – especially for those among us that are at higher risk.
In the meantime…
You will begin to see more people in our online service offering. Rest assured, all the proper safety and distancing protocols are being observed!
If you’re not in a small group that’s meeting online, we encourage you to get plugged in! It’s as easy as filling out one of our online Connect Cards and checking “learn more about small groups.” Many of our groups have increased their meeting frequency and are enjoying the benefits of deeper engagement!
If you’re already in a group that’s great. Stay connected!
If you know someone who needs community, reach out and invite them! In times like this, having a sense of connectedness makes a big difference. Being the Body of Christ is all about bearing each other’s burdens and loving one another well.
We recognize the difficulties people within and around our community are experiencing. With the recent development of our COVID-19 Crisis Care Fund and Crisis Care Team, we’d like to provide assistance however we can. To receive support or for more information, please visit our COVID-19 Crisis Support page.
Ok, that’s it for now. As plans get clearer and decisions are made we’ll be sure to update you asap!
Thanks church – keep going!
~ Pastor Chris
Wow. These are some crazy times. Hard in many ways. Terribly difficult for some of you. But I must admit, while feeling the burden for you, I’m energized by how we see God moving in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine. In ways that are unlikely except in these unusual times. Did you see this spontaneous request for prayer during primetime television on MSNBC?!?
As an introvert, the stay-at-home order has actually been an advantage to me in some ways. Particularly, it has created the space and means to be more connected to so many of you! It’s truly been a pleasure and a privilege. I’m sorry for my extroverted friends…I know it’s all very hard on you. I get it, I do.
I hope you can find a way to keep leaning into the special connections this week…Holy Week…and it’s not too late to start now!
- Good Friday – a 6PM online reflection of Jesus’ sacrifice for the world.
- Easter – a 9:30AM online Sunday celebration.
- I’m going to intentionally tailor the Easter message this Sunday morning to those far from God, non-believers, the unchurched…whatever word you choose…those without eternal security and hope. Tune in with that mindset, pray and be excited for who God might reach. Pray, pray, pray. Invite, invite, invite! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
- Break for Devotional – online every Monday at noon with Adam Heath.
- Break for Prayer – every Wednesday at noon on Facebook Live with Pastor Brian.
- Break for Worship – every Thursday at noon on Facebook Live with Pastor Tammy.
A schedule of upcoming events and other points of connection is available on the website.
Additionally, our recently redesigned Vista website provides a number of other ways to connect:
- Prayer Wall – submit prayers and pray for others
- Care Needs – submit a need or let us know you can help
- Life Support – resources and links from the church and community
- Sunday Worship Playlist – song sets from Sunday service (scroll to the bottom of the homepage).
It’s wonderful how you’ve found ways to continue to care for one another and for your neighbors. This week, maybe more so than any other week in our recent history, people are looking for something; people are looking for hope. Thankfully, we have a message of hope from a God of hope! Check our Facebook page and our website for ways to invite your neighbors, friends, classmates and family to our online services!
P.S. If you‘d like to find your way into a regular connection space…a small group of friends…to process life, please try. Whether extroverted or introverted, the human soul needs interaction…it’s healthy for the mind, body and spirit.
Here are some relational contact points, but if it’s more helpful to you, just reach out:
What a week. And I couldn’t be more proud of how everyone has adapted to all the changes and upheavals. Do your best to stay connected through the various technologies at your fingertips…who knew how vital the various communication platforms would become?
Lifegroup leaders in particular, I’d like to encourage (even challenge) you to get ahead of things. Invite a few friends to try the Zoom platform – have a random meeting to interact and try things. Make sure it works and that you understand how to use it. Maybe even consider a paid license for the next few months. Although it’s all pretty intuitive, there are always issues…with audio or video or feedback, etc. A few practice runs and you’ll have it. And if you’ve already decided not to gather in person for LG, get your Zoom invites out for your next meeting!
Consider virtually gathering your LifeGroup on Sunday morning during the time you would normally see each for church! Personally, I think this would be a good habit to form. Our first online service will be available this Sunday morning and based on what I’ve seen, it’s gonna be excellent!
Visit the front page of our website Sunday morning at 9:30am. You can access the entire service online!
And finally, allow me a moment to encourage you in your giving.
- It may not be possible, but if we can continue to employ all of our staff through these tough times, we’d sure like to.
- If we can continue to support our young Sunday Kids Community Staff, we’d sure like to (at least to some degree) even though we won’t be using them for a little while.
- If we can continue to support our partners overseas, their families and ministries, we sure would like to.
- We have just finished the search for a Student Engagement Pastor, and we’d like to follow through and hire him.
All that and more can and will keep happening, if we all continue to faithfully give, start to give, or initiate an automated gift. Your generosity will continue to be leveraged to reach more and further, just like always, but in some new ways also.
As always, I am humbled and grateful for your support!
For the time being, all in-person gatherings, of any size, are suspended.
We’re paying very close attention to, and respecting, the social distancing guidelines expressed by the Governor’s office and local health authorities. Though it’s always our desire to get together and worship God (what a privilege right!?), it’s the better part of wisdom that we pump the brakes while we travel through this season together.
But, what about Lifegroups and other small groups?
We encourage you to be in good communication with your people and carefully consider where you’ve been, who you’ve recently been in contact with, etc. We advise that you make good use of social distancing guidelines out of consideration for one another and our surrounding communities.
So, are we just going to go radio dark?
No! Not at all!
We’re rapidly putting together a virtual platform on which we can stay connected. It’s amazing that we live in an age where technology offers us the option to see and hear one another while being in separate places. Oftentimes technology gets a bad wrap (and rightly so) but this time, we’re so thankful!
In fact, for your small group, you can easily make use of several free or low-cost video meeting applications such as Google Duo, Skype and Zoom. We will be sending group leaders info they can make use of right away.
So, stay tuned and stay connected! We will be regularly communicating through our various communication channels.
Please share with your family, neighbors, friends and coworkers!
~ Your Vista Team