As governmental authorities issue guidance for the gradual reopening during this pandemic, there’s a lot to consider for how to safely reopen our churches. While no one has a perfect answer, there are several organizations who are thinking through the variables and offering potential solutions.
Some of the areas to consider when planning to reopen include:
- How many people can we have in the church facility at a time?
- How do we maintain some level of social distancing (6 feet apart)? Do we block off every other row in the sanctuary?
- Can we have children’s ministry or should that wait for a while?
- Do we need to have a signup or registration method for people who want to attend a service in-person? Since we’re limiting seating, we’ll have to ask people to come back for a later service once we hit that occupancy limit.
- Do we allow for any small groups to meet at the church?
- Do we host any events in the foreseeable future or do we keep it to weekly services only?
- Do we need to install hand sanitizer stations at all entrances?
- We should disinfect high-touch areas (door handles, restrooms, pews/seats, countertops, etc.) between services. How do we organize that effort?
- We should probably discourage handshakes and hugs for the foreseeable future. How do we communicate this and help people remember to keep their distance?
- Should we ask (require?) everyone to wear a face mask? Should we provide masks for those who arrive without one?
- How do we take up the offering? Passing a plate doesn’t seem to make sense with the potential to spread germs, so what are the alternatives? Do we put offering boxes in designated areas? Should we encourage online giving more?
- How do we communicate the changes? Social media, email, signage throughout the church building, and more are all possible methods.
- Many people will remain hesitant to attend services in-person. How do we address their concerns and encourage them to attend online for now?
- If individuals who attend a service in-person are later found to have COVID-19, how do we communicate the potential exposure to those who’ve been at an in-person service?
That’s just a start to the questions surrounding how to reopen. Thankfully, you don’t have to try and figure this all out on your own.
Here are resources for you to consider as you plan to reopen:
- Vanderbloemen is hosting a series of Facebook Lives to facilitate a discussion about how to reopen.
- Smart Church Solutions has a checklist for your facility manager to use in preparing the building to reopen.
- Tony Morgan has a post on various shifts churches need to make as you reopen.
- Ed Stetzer has an article in Christianity Today on the process of reopening.
As you prepare to reopen, whether that’s in a week or in a few months, please proceed in prayer and with careful planning. There’s no easy formula or standard plan for this situation. As you plan, you might want to bounce ideas off other church leaders.