Updated: Jul 11, 2020
By Garry M. Spotts, M.Div.,
The Covid-19 Crisis has gripped the entire world and resulted in illness and death on a scale many people have never witnessed before. Churches, pastors, and members are responding by taking to the internet and other innovative ways to maintain a sense of community and communication. As an indirect result of the pandemic, Facebook has been adopted by many as the streaming option of choice because it is well known, widely used, and perhaps most importantly, it is free (for the time being.)
Other services such as Zoom meetings and Go To Meeting online virtual meeting platforms have also seen an explosion in use. Governor Beshear has started a phased rollback of the state-wide shutdown. Churches and retail stores are slated to open on May 20, 2020.
Re-opening churches pose significant challenges and may result in delays for churches attempting to re-open until the issues are resolved. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) encourages businesses, families, and community gathering venues to prepare a re-opening plan. See the CDC information Here.
Some of the issues to consider in developing your re-opening plan are:
How will you implement and maintain Social Distancing?
Will you limit attendance by adding alternative worship times?
How will the church collect Tithe and Offerings in the absence of collection trays?
How will you implement and maintain Cleaning and Disinfecting commonly handled surfaces, pews, doorknobs, restrooms, hymnals, bulletins, newsletters, and programs? (See the CDC's Guidance On Cleaning Here)
How do you ensure that members will not engage in handshaking, hugs, kisses, or any other close physical contact?
Will the choir be required to sing in a mask?
Will Masks and gloves mandatory for admission to worship?
If masks and gloves are required to attend, will the church provide those to members, or are members expected to provide their own?
Do you advise the most vulnerable in your congregation to attend or remain at home?
Will you implement temperature screening upon entrance to the building?
Will Plexiglass screens be used to reduce the potential for heavy droplet transmission?
What can we do to protect against aerosol transmission of the virus in a closed, recycled air environment?
How can you know if a person is Asymptomatic but does not present with any illness?
Working through the details of a phased re-opening of a church poses significant challenges and obstacles. The combination of things must church put in place to make the return to communal worship a success is an uncertain equation. At-risk are member’s lives and those they contact daily at home, at work, and in the community.
The pandemic offers excellent learning opportunities for church leaders. Here are a few to consider:
Does your church have a Crisis Communication Plan for its members?
How will your church educate its members and the community it sits in about potential emergencies and disaster preparedness in the 21st Century?
Can a church become an agile enterprise?
One thing is sure, we are witnessing the end of the world as we knew it, more to the point we are entering a “Brave” New World, and we can not hope to thrive in this new reality with mid to late 20th Century methods and practices.