This week we all received good news from our president: the country is going to slowly reopen, and that includes houses of worship. Here are 24 questions your church should answer before people return.
I can guarantee that we will not go back to “business as usual” as a country, and that includes our churches. If you think we’ll all rush back to church and pick up where we left off, don’t kid yourself – it’s not going to happen. Or at least it shouldn’t happen. We need to think and plan carefully so we do not endanger people simply because we let our guard down and believed that the Coronavirus crisis had passed. Now, as believers let’s agree to live by faith and not operate in fear, but let’s also agree to be proactive and to act in wisdom towards our members and guests, especially those among us who are most susceptible to becoming infected with COVID-19.
We have a short time to prepare for the return of the church to the church campus. As I have thought about my church, and listened to friends and ministry experts over the past several weeks, I’ve compiled a list of things that most of our churches are not thinking about. Don’t let the excitement of finally coming back together cloud your judgment or cause you to ignore the “new normal.”
Let’s think through 20+ things that we must think about before people return to the building:
- What if your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 100 people? Never happen, you say? Remember that we’ve been limited to gatherings of no more than 10 people in the recent past. Take my church, for example. Pre-COVID 19 we averaged 350 in worship (two services). Should we be planning on adding a third service, reducing the time to 45 minutes with a 15 minute “passing period” so that worshipers can either go to Bible study or go home? One friend in ministry has said, “My church runs 2000 people in worship – we can’t have 20 worship services all weekend long! What will we do?” If we are limited to a smaller number of people by our government leaders, what’s the plan at your church to provide a place and time for them to worship?
- What adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms, and your choir ministry? Do you believe you can conduct communion like you have in the past? Your church’s tradition may involve passing a plate of elements, or it may include drinking from a common cup in some denominations. Will you use the self-contained juice and cracker cups? What about baptism – it’s going to be impossible to practice physical distancing in a baptism pool. And as one reader said, “What do I do about my church’s choir program?” He realizes that people standing side-by-side won’t be practical.
- How will you go forward with VBS? This is a question on people’s minds. There are practical alternatives, and I know many churches that are going to find new times and ways to provide a VBS experience. Click here to read an article by LifeWay about VBS in the wake of COVID-19.
- Is a physical “pass the plate” offering a thing of the past? How would you feel if you were the 100th person in a worship service to touch the offering plate that 99 other people just touched? Would you be worried about COVID-19 transmission? Sure you would. So how will you take up your weekly offering? Will you install boxes at the doors of the worship center, and perhaps place some of those in the lobby, so that worshipers can slide their envelopes, cash, or checks into those secured boxes?
- What are you doing now to sanitize and sterilize your church building? Now is the time to wipe down all classrooms (especially those where children meet because of the toys and other items they touch during the course of a Sunday or Wednesday class experience). Have you sprayed pews and chairs with disinfectant? Who is wiping door knobs and handles? Have you had carpet cleaned and disinfected? Now is the time for all this to take place, not the week of the “you can go back to church” announcement by government officials.
- Are you going to continue offering children’s church? As a short-term alternative, family worship be encouraged as the primary option in these COVID-19 days? Should parents take their kids to worship, practice physical distancing, and keep a close eye on their little ones?