Re-opening the church: practical suggestions

Challenging! Frustrating! Exhausting!

These are the some common words I’ve heard church leaders use over the past several months. Whether you’re new to ministry or you’ve been doing this for many years, you’re facing situations during this pandemic that you haven’t faced before.

Bob Anderson
Minister, Church of the Nazarene
Sales Manager

There’s no history to learn from. There are no pastor mentors who’ve been through this before whom you can consult. You’ve been on your own as you try to figure out how to lead your congregation through this unprecedented time.

Now there’s a new challenge facing ministry leaders …

How do you bring people back together again?

A pastor friend recently stated: if there is a committee of 12 people looking at how to “re-open,” there will be at least 15 opinions.

Even so, I think there are a couple of things we can all agree on:

• We want to make sure our people feel safe from the moment they pull onto our property.

• We don’t want anyone to be able to say they caught the virus while being at our facility.

So, following safe social distancing practices and sanitary practices is essential.

Here are some practical guidelines that probably most everyone reading this is already considering:

Seating arrangements that allows for social distancing — There are some new products on the market that help designate restricted areas to help with this. Whether your church has pews or individual seats, these products are designed to look very “official” and give attendees confidence that cautions are being taken to keep them safe.

Greeters — We still want people to feel welcome when they come to our building. One simple way to do this is to have designated greeters stationed at entrances who offer a smile and word of welcome. No more handshakes or hugs. You might even consider a plexiglass partition for greeters to stand behind.

Hand-sanitizing stations near entrance /exit doors — These can be mounted on walls or freestanding.  Make sure there are plenty of them.

No more passing buckets or offering plates through the rows to receive donations — Most churches are already encouraging on-line giving, but you also want to provide an opportunity for people to give while they’re in the building. Secure donation boxes will need to be used in the back of worship areas or foyers.

Singing — This is a tough one. Do you provide an opportunity for people to sing or is all the music provided by people on the stage? Maybe even from videos?  Recommendation: err on the side of caution.

Masks — Wow, where do we even start with this one? Simply put, they should be required.   

What if we use a bus or van for some of our ministries?

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In this case, keep these guidelines in mind:

Capacities — Be sure to consult your state authorities to determine how many people you’re allowed to transport in a single vehicle and still maintain social distancing requirements. Chances are it will be based on a percentage of the designated capacity (noted on the driver side door jamb). Seat bands are available to designate seats that should not be occupied.

Driver safety — The driver of your vehicle(s) has the greatest potential for contact with those being transported. Affordable and easy-to-install shields are available to help isolate drivers from passengers.

Providing safe environments — Sneeze guards are available for the back of seats to help prevent the spread of germs.  There are also anti-microbial guards that can be added to grab rails on the top or back of some bus seats.

Disinfecting between uses — Be sure to check state and local guidelines for these requirements. Church leaders have been faced with an incredible challenge over the past few months, and this fall doesn’t look as though it will get any easier as they face the challenge of bringing their church family back together again. Hang in there!

And if no one has said this to you lately … thanks for all you do!


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