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To Open, and How to Open, That is The COVID Question.

Five years ago, a Pastor asked his leadership team, “What does Church look like in 2020?” It was intended to be a probing question, forcing us to reevaluate everything. The question led to wide-ranging conversations about all aspects of ministry. One thing we never contemplated, the impact of a global pandemic that would close churches for more than a month. Now everyone is asking, “What does Church look like in 2020?”

In this post I propose, “Open the doors, and they will come”, is not a good strategy. We need a plan to get our doors open and keep them open. In our planning we must consider that there are some who would prefer churches stay closed until a vaccine is widely available. They will blame Churches for any resurgence of COVID-19. Headline like this, “Closed Churches will keep people safe!” would not surprise me. Therefore, it is in our collective best interest to be careful and get this right. I pray God will give us wisdom for our ministries in these days. Below are some questions and thoughts we should consider before we open our doors:

1.) What if religious services are limited to no more than 100 people? How do we accommodate that?

2.) Can the early service (first service of the day) be for high-risk members and visitors? (like some of the stores have first hour for seniors)

A.) Allow space for social distancing,

B.) Everyone in the room must have a mask,

C.) All must use hand sanitizer station at the door.

D.) Temperature check required before entry,

E.) No touch offering and communion. (more on that later)

3.) Do we have a room that can serve as the High-Risk Room? Like an overflow room for high-risk members and visitors. If possible, have an alternate door for high risk members to enter the building. High-risk room uses the same rules at item 2 above.

4.) Should we take the temperature of people entering the building? (If temp is above 100.1 have someone who can pray for them and send them home with a pamphlet created by the ministry with CDC guidelines.)

5.) Do we request / require people to wear a mask? (I understand this is not a pleasant thought but, some people do spray when they sing… just sayin)

6.) Maybe create an Amenities Team who is responsible for moving thru the building continuously cleaning all high contact surfaces (door handles, check in stations, back of chairs / pews, railings, buttons people may press, bathroom fixtures...)

A.) What doors can be propped open to limit contact with doorknobs? (Bathroom, classrooms, Sanctuary, Auditorium, entry and exit doors.)

7.) Coffee and food? Some of us really need our coffee. Maybe the first few services we do without or Consider masked and gloved hospitality team member(s) to serve food items and coffee with single serve cream and sugar to prevent the coffee station from becoming the contamination station.

8.) Should we have no touch communion and offerings to prevent “passing” communion and offering containers?

A.) We can use self-contained disposable communion cups passed out at the door when people enter. Example:

B.) Offering envelops placed on seats (or back of pews) before service by a gloved team member or passed out at the door or Print/insert an offering envelop in the bulletin. (If you are going to have a paper bulletin.)

C.) Offering collected at the end of the service in the back as people leave or have offering boxes at the sanctuary exit doors and in hallways.

D.) Pass out service items in a Welcome bag. It could contain communion cup, offering envelope, welcome home gift, a meet and greet sign for a no touch meet and greet, bulletin, sermon notes etc.

E.) How do we protect the people who count the offering? I remember a bank teller said to me once, "It's just dirty green paper to me."

9.) What efforts should we take to facilitate social distancing:

A.) Have extra services to reduce the number of people at each service.

B.) Remove chairs / Block off pews in your worship center to help people avoid close contact.

C.) Have ushers reset chairs as families come in and then use a 6’ foam noodle to measure where the next set of chairs will go for social distancing between families.

D.) What strategy will be used for entering and exiting to avoid the pile-up at the door(s) on the way in and out of the service.

E.) Should we create one-way isles?

F.) How will we provide for social distancing in hallways and lobbies between services?

10.) How much time will be required for cleaning between services?

11.) What do we do with children’s church?

A.) Prepackaged or no snack for kids ministry.

B.) How do we social distance kids?

C.) Can we require kids to wear masks? (Maybe make it a game?)

12.) How do we manage or avoid Back-up at the kids check-in?

A.) Extra check-in stations B.) Move the check in stations farther apart. C.) UV light over kids check-in (UV light kills virus)

13.) Continue on-line services directed to people at home, not just broadcasting the live service.

14.) Do we continue “meet and greet”? if yes, encourage a no contact greeting.

15.) Do you have a special needs ministry for the emotionally and mentally challenged? I am wondering what that class looks like when we return? Some of the people who attend will not comprehend social distancing. One of the guys in our Joyful Praise ministry is a compulsive handshaker. Wow... this is going to be hard for him.

16.) How do you decontaminate Items reused each service? (Tech booth equipment, two-radios, translations system receivers, video equipment, flashlights, microphones)

17.) How do we prevent CAVID-19 exposures of people serving on the platform? (Pastor, speaker, worship leader, worship team, service host) these people will likely not be wearing PPE.

A.) Who touches the pulpit, instruments, music, platform tech systems? If the pulpit or other equipment is moved during the service the person touching it should have face mask, new gloves, just washed hands or be freshly hand sanitized.

B.) Do not share microphones if possible. Only the speaker / pastor touches the pastor’s microphone. Only Worship Leader touches WL Mic, and so on.

C.) If microphones must be shared, keep them at a safe distance from the mouth.

D.) Can we use UV light to sanitize microphones and other tech equipment between services?

E.) Regarding musical instruments, only the owner / person playing touches it.

18.) What is the Safety Team doing with someone who starts coughing? Could be a dry throat, could be an intentional disruption, could be COVID.

A.) Do you ask them to step out and temp check them, get them some water... let them go back in?? If temp check is bad, do you document who was around them for contact tracing?

19.) How do we address people who refuse to wear face mask? (No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.)

A.) What if they take off their mask in the auditorium after entering? Does safety team address it?

20.) How will we deal with the rise of COVID-19 related addictions?

A.) One mental health expert said in a webinar meeting last week, “I’m hearing that porn sites are giving away free memberships during COVID-19 just what people don’t need.”

B.) In that same webinar, the presenter told the audience that substance abuse is on the rise. Alcohol sales are soaring. He cautioned us to be ready to do lots of counseling and referring of people to professionals in our post-COVID-19 reality.

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