As government officials around the nation are considering what, when, and how to reopen the country after the COVID-19 pandemic, there is lots of conversation among church leaders as to what, when, and how to reopen their church. As with each state, county, and city, each church will need to tackle this a different way. I’ve spoken with many church leaders and heard many ideas. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this: It’s going to be VERY different.
The details are still being played out and some may open next week while other churches still may not open for months. Regardless, here is a list of questions that you need to consider:
1) The government may still insist on attendance limits. As such, you may need to have more services if you grossly exceed those numbers. Consider expanding from one service to two or three. Or your three services to four or five. While this may seem like a lot, you need to figure out the balance between opening your church and following the government guidelines.
If preaching this many times is a challenge, perhaps record yourself on video and play it during the later services or those which may be smaller in attendance. Many churches do this for multi-site already and frankly, your congregation has already gotten used to watching you on a screen!
When starting church services again, consider more services, shorter length, and longer time between services.Tweet
If you need to have more services than you’re accustomed to, consider shortening them so it’s less time for your volunteers and musicians. Also, how will you spread out volunteers to ensure you have adequate coverage for all services? How will you handle children’s and youth services?
Also, should you schedule more time between services to allow for less crossover between service attendees?
2) How are you going to layout your seating? Add more room between rows, space chairs out to be an every-other-seat type setup? Perhaps even have them be 6’ apart from each other? Instead of allowing people to keep to the social distancing guidelines, you may want to simply enforce them by predetermining your seating arrangements.
3) How are you going to change communion? Perhaps stop doing it for a time? If your traditions require it often, then perhaps do not pass the elements, but rather have them on a table people can walk up to and take one at a time, the elements being space out from each other and replaced by someone wearing gloves.
4) Since you’ve decided to stop passing communion, perhaps you should stop passing the offering plate as well. How many people will be touching that basket or plate? Continue to promote digital giving online and if you don’t already have them, put offering boxes in the lobby or in the back of your worship space.
5) If you regularly schedule baptisms, it’s hard to not touch each other. For those who traditionally dunk the person being baptized, either delay the baptism for a couple months or consider a mere sprinkling of water. While I personally believe in total submersion, I also believe in a God who understands the circumstances we currently find ourselves in.
6) If you offer coffee or donuts during Sunday services, consider how you’re going to handle this. Perhaps have a designated person with tongs that grabs each donut or pastry and puts it on your plate, or a single person with gloves making coffee that never touches anything else. My good friends offer cereal and pastries and coffee drinks to whole families during their services and it’s a major part of their Sunday morning culture. If you do something similar, you’ll have to re-think the whole process.
7) In addition to children’s and youth services, how are you going to handle the nursery and preschool? All those babies need touching and hugging and changing! Make sure you communicate with all your volunteers what your plans are and that you have ample sanitizing wipes, gloves, etc. to keep the environment clean and healthy.
How are you handling children’s and youth services once you return to regular Sunday services?Tweet
8) What do you need to inform and train your volunteers? You’ll need to discuss non-touch greeting, working with kids, elbow-bumps, sanitizing, wearing gloves, etc. It may be a good idea to simply have someone standing at the doors opening them for people so that fewer people come in contact with the door handles.
9) Speaking of volunteers, what is your plan for those that don’t come back? Lets face it…there’s a lot of scared people out there, many are in your church. They just won’t come back for a while until this whole thing is long behind us. If that’s the case, you’ll need to fill those volunteer roles.
10) Stop doing the meet and greet thing. That’s not much of a question, I know. But as a church consultant, I can tell you that a vast majority of visitors don’t like it anyway. You can find out more here. Just stop doing it!
Stop the “meet and greet” your neighbor during Sunday services. People don’t like it and now you can’t shake hands anyway!Tweet
11) How will you continue your online services? One pastor I spoke with suggested they’ll stop their online services once they can meet in person again. Just don’t. Keep the online services operating as you have during the pandemic. You’ve probably just now figured it out and nearly mastered it. Don’t put all that effort to waste and stop now! Keep it going while you relaunch your in-person services. That said, you’ll have to figure out how that works, what it looks like, and how to keep doing it.
12) In addition to everything above, how will you handle this same list as it relates to mid-week services, on-campus Bible studies, small groups, and Adult Sunday School classes?
There is certainly a lot me every church needs to consider. This is just a short list.
What would you add? What are the challenges your church is facing?
Since you’re here, I bet you’re wondering how to increase financial giving during this crazy pandemic. You can learn how from a series of posts that start here.