7 Things to Consider When Reopening for Worship
To reopen or not to reopen? That is the question many congregations and church leaders are discerning. Based on the CDC guidelines for reopening for faith communities, we provide things for your ministry to consider before reopening from an insurance perspective.
As churches begin to reopen or consider reopening, we want to help your ministry have a thorough internal discussion regarding this issue. We are providing these so that your leadership team can begin discussions and are not guidelines or rules. Rather, these are seven areas of consideration in your planning from an insurance perspective.
State and Local Guidelines
Any guidelines or reopening plans provided by your state and local officials should serve as a starting point. Following these guidelines will help ensure you’re providing the appropriate worship experience based on the COVID-19 infection levels in your area. The demographic make-up of your worship community can also provide valuable information for your reopening plans. Advise those who don’t feel well and those who are in an at-risk population (age, immune status, etc.) to stay at home until they feel better or the risk of transmitting COVID has passed. Establish good communication both externally with officials and internally with your community. Doing this helps you gather appropriate information and properly communicate your plans for worship and reopening. Also, we encourage communicating your plans with any organization or group that meets in your building to ensure proper care is taken. Provide clear documentation and signage through your facility of any changes and adjustments to the worship experience and help your hospitality team be your first advocates for any adjusted plans.
Provide notice to your District and the Conference offices of your ministry’s intent to reopen. Their approval to open is important from a liability perspective but doesn’t guarantee safety or removal of liability. Be aware that reopening your church against the advice of your district or conference leadership can open your ministry up to some liability issues.
Personal Hygiene Practices
Check your ministry’s personal hygiene materials inventory. Anti-bacterial hand soap, hand sanitizer, and paper towels are essential in maintaining the safest environment possible in your facility. Having extra hand sanitizer and sanitizer stations can aide your defense against the spread of germs. Staff, members, and visitors should be reminded to cough or sneeze in the elbow pit. Providing no-touch trash cans will also help decrease opportunities for disease spread.
Consider providing your staff and any visitor to your facility face masks to be worn while in the building. This could also be used as a marketing tool for your members and staff. Several companies offer cloth masks that can be outfitted with your ministry’s logo. There could be a local vendor or business that your ministry could partner with to produce these masks. Be aware of any guidelines provided by manufactures on use and maintenance of masks.
Reviewing, revising, and implementing your cleaning plan and processes could help your church further its efforts to maintain a safe environment. Take inventory of cleaning products and restock needed materials or supplies. Also, your ministry may want to consider increasing the frequency of cleanings and the thoroughness of routine cleanings.
Your ministry should consider what steps it can take to encourage social distancing within the facility. Consider changing your worship venue if you have access to a room larger than your sanctuary. Larger rooms provide more opportunity for distance and potential for proper ventilation. Also, the number of individuals who can gather in your facility may be limited by local or state guidelines. In those cases, consider providing alternate worship experiences or platforms. Using signage and markers can help congregants maintain safe distances away from each other while attending worship.
Community Sharing Worship Materials
Providing alternative worship materials will help limit the opportunities for shared worship materials, like hymnals and bulletins, to spread any disease. Consider storing all hymnals and Bibles in a secure location until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. This could be an opportunity for your ministry to embrace digital and projection-based song lyrics, bulletins, and orders of service. Your ministry should also explore alternative giving options. Offering digital tithes and offerings can reduce the risk a collection plate being a source of disease transmission.
Monitoring and Response
Encourage all staff and members who are sick or think they may be sick to stay home. This encouragement should also be extended to individuals who may have encountered a person with COVID-19. As individuals enter your building for worship, consider developing a monitoring system with local health officials to identify people who may be visibly ill. Your ministry should also consider what actions would be appropriate in response to a visibly ill person attending worship or being notified that a COVID-19 positive individual attended worship. Having clear safety and response procedures will help increase your ministries preparedness to appropriately react to these situations.
The excitement of joining together again in worship with your community can be a great opportunity to reconnect. As you decide when and how to reopen your facility, take care to provide your members and visitors with the safest worship experience possible. Visit our website UMInsure.org/covid19links for more COVID-19 related resources and links to CDC resources for faith communities. While you’re on our site, request a quote from or property and casualty insurance partners at Suracy Faith.
This information is intended to serve as a starting point for creating a plan to return to your place of gathering and worship. Please review your state and local guidelines and stay abreast of the latest information through the CDC and your state health department. These and other measures can reduce the chance of the spread of Covid-19 but nothing can completely eliminate the risk of the transmission of this or other illnesses. Wear your mask; wash your hands; maintain safe distances; and if you don’t feel well, have been exposed to Covid-19, or have underlying health issues then please avoid gathering with others until it’s safe to do so.