As state guidelines allow for churches to start meeting again for in-person services this weekend, local congregations are doing their best to make the right decisions on just what to do.

For some, that means implementing new measures in order to keep their members safe, and for others that means delaying the opening of the church.

First Baptist Church on South Main Street in Russellville made the decision last week to not reopen the sanctuary for service, and will instead continue having members worship in their homes while watching the service online.

“With the age of our congregation, if you’re asking everyone 65 and over to strongly consider staying home — that’s the majority of our people,” said First Baptist pastor Joe Ball.

And with limits placed on how many people can attend and how singing should be limited, it just didn’t make sense for the church to open at this time.

“To me that’s not what we want when we come back,” Ball said. “We want it to feel like it’s a family reunion.”

New Friendship Baptist Church in Auburn, however, will be opening its doors this weekend — but the services there will be very different than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit America.

“Because we’re a multi-generational church it made our decision difficult,” said Alex Watkins, Pastor of Worship and Missions at New Friendship. “What’s best for the Millenials may not be best for the baby boomers. And we want to do something for those that want to worship in person, but we don’t want to discourage worshiping online or at home either.”

The Auburn church will be going to three services instead of two this Sunday. And a maximum of 57 people will be allowed to attend at a time.

“We crunched the numbers and utilized social distancing guidelines to figure out just what that would look like for us and that’s the number we came up with,” said Watkins.

Services at New Friendship will take place at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11 a.m. The sanctuary will be thoroughly sanitized between each service and all other areas of the church will be closed.

Watkins said that singing will be incorporated into the service, but congregational singing will be decreased.

“It’s going to shorten the time of our service,” Watkins said, which is necessary because of the extra time needed to clean between services.

Members will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks at all times while inside during the service.

“The only people who will not be wearing a mask will be pastor Barry Raley who is preaching or when the worship team is singing,” Watkins said.

Those that wish to attend a service are being asked to sign up online at the church website,, to reserve a seat. As of Thursday morning, none of the three services were at half the capacity yet, but Watkins said he expects some people to show up without having signed up online.

While making the decision whether to open or not, local churches have leaned on each other and brainstormed ideas about what may and may not work.

In the end, it’s up to each congregation to make the choice about what seems like the right one for them.

“Just like society, we’ve got people in our church all across the spectrum when it came to opening back up or not,” Ball said. “We’ve got some people that want to be back in church this Sunday and we’ve got some that don’t think it’s safe to come back anytime soon.”

In the end, First Baptist’s decision to remain closed at this time appears to be the right one for their congregation, Ball said.

“Everything has been positive since we announced it — even those that didn’t necessarily agree, understood,” the First Baptist pastor said.

“I don’t want us to be the next church the governor uses as an example of what not to do. We don’t only have an obligation to our congregation, but also to this community.”