During Blueline’s recent webinar on church operations, we were asked what guidelines existed to help churches reopen. Here is a summary of what we have found so far.

When to Reopen?

In Facebook Live events hosted by Vanderbloemen (a Christian Executive Search Firm), pastors around the country talk about syncing their plans for reopening church facilities and meeting with the guidelines of local and state government. https://www.vanderbloemen.com/reopening-church

Your city, county and or state likely have published guidelines and timelines. Some state guidelines are very general and open-ended, some will reopen in stages and some states are already open. Try searching: “[your state name] reopens” to find out what your state is doing.

Planning for reopening begins with asking, “Why?” The Gospel Coalition urges you to consider your motive for reopening and be mindful that not everyone in your church will react the same way to reopening.

Pastor Lillian Daniels of 1st Congregational Church in Dubuque, IA urges churches to avoid a preoccupation with just getting back to the way we were but to see that the crisis is “teaching us new ways to be the church.”

How to Reopen?

A common first step is to start with small gatherings of 10 or fewer persons. This may be regular community groups or Sunday School classes meeting in homes, back yards or in smaller rooms in your church. The typical next stage is groups of 100 people at a time – possibly distributing attendees among different rooms within the church and using technology for attendees to share worship and preaching.

However churches ramp up meeting, they will need to observe social distancing. Asking people and family groups sit to six feet apart will generally be easier for smaller churches or those who have existing capacity. It may mean going to multiple services.

Here is a summary of what we have found. Ken Braddy’s blog is one of the most referenced blogs on this topic. I have repeated many of his suggestions.

For churches with multiples services and/ or limited capacity, attendees may be asked to sign up for a service using apps such as Eventbrite.

Changing the format of the service, including possibly shortening the service to allow for multiple services per day, is a common tactic.

In warmer areas, worshipping together while observing social distancing will be easier with outdoor services.

Separate entrances and exits if possible. Try to create one-way traffic flows.

Prop open doors or have gloved ushers open doors so people do not have to touch door handles. There is door hardware that allows you to use your foot to open a door.

Set up numerous hand sanitizer stations.

Ask people not to shake hands or embrace.

Encourage people to wear masks.

Create special accommodations for at-risk persons.

Deep-clean and sanitize your building before reopening. Check out this checklist by Smart Church Solutions. Tim Cool and his team are the best there is when it comes to facility maintenance.

Celebrate Communion with pre-packaged elements. However, a quick web search revealed most sources are out of stock.

Many churches are waiting until later stages to re-start Children’s Ministries. When you do, follow CDC guidelines for daycare:

Avoid passing the offering plate. Some churches plan to install giving boxes. Others are encouraging people to give by mail. Some churches already have on-line giving. It is interesting to note that churches that already have on-line giving are experiencing less drop-off in giving than those that do not have online giving. In some cases, churches with online giving are experiencing an increase in giving during this time.

If your church uses hymnbooks, now might be the time consider investing in projection equipment. Screens aren’t just for contemporary worship anymore!.

Conclusion – God is at Work.

As we talk to clients and monitor social media, we hear amazing stories of blessing, abundance and grace. Church of the Highlands in Alabama offered drive-through testing early in the crisis. One church in Atlanta is giving away Chromebooks to overcome the inequities of access to technology for learning. Another church converted their weekly meals for their city’s homeless to take-away. Many churches that already had an on-line presence are experiencing engagement up to five times what they had pre-COVID 19. As one of our clients said, “Anonymity is a great boost to church attendance.”

When and how you re-open has many practical and logistical considerations. More importantly, though, it is an act of listening for and recognizing God’s leading. More than ever, God is at work.

Author: Randy Seitz: CEO & Architect