Meeting Together Again

Things to Think About Before Your First Sunday Back in the Building
It’s likely that congregations will begin worshiping together again over a series of weeks. It is also likely that conflicting or unclear recommendations from our state, county, and city leadership will require us to interpret guidelines and make decisions based on our own individual congregations and community context.

The following information is intended to help church leaders navigate returning to corporate worship, and it will be updated periodically as new information becomes available.

Click Here to Read Governor Greg Abbott’s Protocols for Church and Places of Worship (4/27/20)

“Please note, public health guidance cannot anticipate every unique situation. Churches, congregations, and places of worship should stay informed and take actions based on common sense and wise judgment that will protect health and support economic revitalization. Churches,. congregations, and places of worship should also be mindful of federal and state employment laws and workplace safety standards.”

Click here to read the full executive order from Governor Abbott (4/27/20)

Read Governor Abbott’s OpenTexas-Report( 64 pages).

Read Christianity Today’s Four-Step Plan with Modified Church Activities

Questions about liability? 

Read Brotherhood Insurance’s guide to COVID-19 related questions.

Download Post-COVID-19 Facility Preparation: A Guide from Smart Church Solutions.

Who: Encourage High-Risk Individuals to Continue Worshiping Online

Encourage high-risk individuals NOT to attend services in your building. High-risk individuals include people over 65 years of age and people with underlying health conditions, (click here for a list of underlying health conditions).

In addition to meeting in person, keep streaming your services if at all possible. You’re reaching a lot of people who won’t come to your building. Also, these services need to be available for high-risk individuals who should not be attending your services during the pandemic.

When: Making the Best Decision

“While we want to go back to church soon, we also want to go back to church safely” (Ronnie Floyd, President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee).

Does your congregation have the capacity to implement necessary measures and social distancing to meet safely in the building?  How many of your members are over 65 years of age or have underlying health conditions?

Remember 1 Corinthians 10:23-24:“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’–but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

How: Sanitation Guidelines

  1. Before opening your buildings again, deep clean the entire facility. Consider shampooing carpets, sanitizing pews, bathrooms, doorknobs, light switches, and microphones.
  2. Pay attention to the preschool and children’s areas. Consider removing everything nonessential from the room to limit surfaces for potential contamination. Do a thorough cleaning between uses.
  3. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), if you discover that a person who has visited your church facility has COVID-19, you should close your facility so that it can be cleaned in consultation with local health officials (click here for source information). Important:Wait 24 hours to clean so that the people cleaning are not exposed to infectious respiratory droplets remaining on surfaces.
  4. If you discover that someone in your building is sick (even if you don’t know if it is COVID-19), they should be isolated immediately and given a face mask to wear (if they don’t have one already) until they can leave the building to go home.
  5. Regardless of whether an infected person has been in your building, churches should clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched at least once a day. This includes doorknobs, light switches, sink handles, etc…). This is best accomplished with EPA-approved disposable wipes.
  6. Restrooms: You must decide whether you will allow bathroom usage at this time. If you choose to keep your restrooms open, be sure to post signs about washing hands in bathrooms with appropriate guidelines to doing so. Consider assigning greeters to monitor the bathrooms to ensure hands are washed and social distancing is followed.
  7. Provide an abundance of hand sanitizing stations.

Worship Services

  1. Celebrate the return! Hopefully you have some time to plan a Comeback Service. Encourage praise, provide times of testimony, and a sermon that spurs people to embrace life changes God has revealed to them during the quarantine.
  2. Seat attendees every-other-pew and at least 6 feet apart on each pew (except for members of the same household).
  3. Christianity Today suggests assigning seats to attendees. This can help with contact tracing later if someone becomes sick.
  4. Avoid passing microphones on the stage.
  5. Come up with a fun way to greet others in a no-contact way.

 

Preschool & Children

You may consider not opening preschool and children on the first Sunday back. Many churches are delaying reopening their preschool and children’s areas until school begins in late August.

  1. Pre-register children to limit how many are in any room at a time. Some churches are starting with a five child limit in each room.
  2. Limit leaders in the preschool and children’s areas to those who do not have pre-existing conditions. Also limit leaders to those under 65 years old.
  3. Consider one-way entrances and exits to decrease crowding in hallways.
  4. Have extra volunteers to help in the preschool ministry where some children may suffer from separation anxiety.
  5. Have only one person handle child check in stations, and do not pass the check-in device.
  6. Do not permit parents past the “double doors” and instead drop them off at the welcome desk.
  7. Have a cleaning checklist in each room.
  8. Clean in-between classes. 
  9. Develop a list of procedures for your volunteers. Train them (online) on this list prior to the first meeting.
  10. Sanitize preschool toys a minimum of every 4 hours.
  11. Consider providing individual supply/craft bags for each child so that crayons, pencils, and other items are not passed from child to child.
  12. If preschoolers will be required to wear masks, ask parents to let them”practice” wearing them at home so it will not be a new experience for them when they come to church.

Small Group Meetings

Christianity Today says that opening small groups before corporate worship might be a good idea: Numbers can be kept smaller, and by keeping the same people in each group, it’s easier to identify and track people who might be sick. Regardless of when you begin small group meetings, remember this:

  1. Clean the doorknobs, water fountains, and other high traffic areas between uses.
  2. Space chairs six feet apart in all directions.
  3. Have a plan for your leaders and teachers. Will they discuss what God revealed to them in the quarantine? Will you encourage a prayer and praise time?
  4. If you don’t have class, make sure you have provided an outline for your teachers and leaders to continue engagement for your groups. This is still an excellent time to build classes and community.

Take a Test Drive: Recommendations from Southern Baptists of Texas

  1. Be sure you are legal and on the same page as local and national authorities to resume assembly.
  2. Be sure you are following up-to-date social distancing guidelines (CDC Guidelines).
  3. Start building your test teams right now. This way you are ready to test run when the local authorities allow.
  4. Choose families who are healthy, trustworthy, and represent a wide demographic. It is also helpful if they have the talent to help execute the various aspects of corporate worship. 
  5. Invite 5-10 fewer people than the maximum permitted gathering size, in order to allow for guests and walk-ups to your service.
  6. Try to run absolutely everything you are hoping to do. This will give maximum value to your test drive.
  7. Communicate your test run plans to the congregation.
  8. Health screen all attendees and volunteers. A test drive service is a great chance to see what is helpful and possible. For instance, if assembly group sizes are limited to 50, is it practical to ask all attendees to be screened before entrance?
  9. Learn as much as you can from attendees. Give them the opportunity to choose not to do something or to offer a better solution on the spot.
  10. Do a follow up Zoom meeting with your test drive group and learn what you need to know from them.