• Adam Schell

A Plan for Reopening Your Church

I know that many churches are working on developing their plans for when and how you will reopen. I wanted to share with you the plan that I developed with my church's Leadership Team so that you can use it as a resource as you think about reopening your church for in person services.

Feel free to copy and paste this post and make any modifications necessary for your congregation. Introduction

On March 6, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the city of Louisville. Within a week, the Governor of Kentucky recommended that all places of worship cease meeting in-person to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Following our governor’s recommendations, the Leadership Team at Melbourne Heights made the decision to cancel all in-person services and activities beginning on March 15, 2020.

Not being able to meet in-person has been a challenge that our church has never faced before. However, we have been able to meet this challenge and continue to minister to our church members/regular attenders as well as our community throughout this unprecedented time.

We have done this by moving all of our services and activities online. Each week we worship together, study the Bible together, and even have a children’s storytime together on Facebook and our church’s website. We have moved all of our meetings from Small Groups, to Leadership Team, to Deacons’, to Staff to Zoom. Our staff and deacons continue to reach out to our members/regular attenders through regular phone calls, emails, text messages, and cards. And we have continued our work in our community by partnering with the Cabbage Patch House to provide pantry and personal hygiene items to families who have lost their jobs due to this pandemic.

Now our church is preparing to face another new challenge. On May 11, 2020, the state of Kentucky entered into Phase 1 of our governor’s Healthy at Work plan, where we are beginning the gradual reopening of our economy. As part of this Healthy at Work plan, all places of worship are allowed to resume in-person services and activities beginning May 20, 2020.

Although we will be allowed to meet in-person beginning on May 20, 2020, our Leadership Team has made the decision that we will not resume in-person services and activities immediately. We will be waiting until at least Phase 2 of Healthy at Work before resuming in-person services and activities at Melbourne Heights.

But, as that time quickly approaches, we have developed this plan to help us reopen while also protecting the health and safety of our congregation. This plan has been developed in consultation with guidelines for places of worship developed by our state government and our denominational offices.

Plan for Reopening

As we reopen for in-person services and activities, your health and wellbeing is our primary concern. To help protect you and the rest of our congregation, we are asking:

  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, etc.), please stay home and contact a medical professional.

  • We encourage you to take your temperature before leaving your home, if your temperature is above 100.2 please stay home.

  • Follow appropriate social distancing, maintaining a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others.

  • Do not make physical contact with anyone who does not live with you. (This includes handshakes and hugs.)

  • Wear a face mask the entire time you are in the church building.

In addition to the things that we are asking you to do, we will also be implementing the following procedures to help keep you and the rest of our congregation healthy.

When we will meet:

  • No decision has been made on an exact date to resume in-person meetings. We will communicate that date with you well in advance once a decision has been made.

  • We will be limiting the number of people who can gather for our in-person services. During Phase 2 of the Healthy at Work plan, we will limit the number to 50 individuals.

  • We may require you to pre-register and reserve your spot for in-person worship services.

  • When we begin meeting in-person, we will only meet for worship. All other meetings, including Small Groups, will continue online.

Arriving at the church:

  • We will ask you to park in our front and side parking lots when you arrive, leaving one empty parking space between vehicles to allow for proper social distancing in the parking lot.

  • We will only use the front portion of our building for in-person services. We will use the sanctuary, foyer area, and front restrooms. The rest of the building will be off-limits.

  • We will open the doors to the building at 10:15 AM, fifteen minutes prior to the start of the service. We ask that everyone who is not involved in leading worship refrain from entering the building until the doors are unlocked.

  • We will prop open the main entry doors to the building so that you do not have to touch these handles as you enter to worship.

  • We will have a greeter stationed by the front door to welcome you, as well as encourage you to sanitize your hands before entering the building and to wear a mask the entire time you are in the building.

  • We will provide 3-ply, disposable face masks for anyone who does not have a face mask when they arrive at the building.

Before entering the sanctuary:

  • We will ask you to move from the entrance of the building into the sanctuary as quickly as possible. We will do this to reduce the crowds in our hallways.

  • We will not have our Welcome Center open. Again, we will do this to reduce the crowds in our hallways.

  • Only one person may use the restroom at a time. After using the restroom, please make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds.

  • We will also provide hand-sanitizing stations by each set of double-doors leading into the sanctuary.

  • We will not pass out any printed materials when we gather for worship. This includes bulletins, inserts, song lyrics, etc.

  • We will place donation boxes outside of the sanctuary for your tithes and offerings. We will not pass offering plates during the service.

  • We will have a limited number of ushers who will help you find a seat in the sanctuary that is appropriately distanced from other worshipers.

In the sanctuary:

  • We will mark off areas in the sanctuary to maintain an appropriate distance between individuals.

  • We will remove all Bibles and hymnals from the sanctuary prior to resuming in-person services. All lyrics and scripture references will be projected on the main screen in our sanctuary.

  • We will remind you to wear your face mask throughout the service, including during congregational singing.

  • Masks will be worn unless an individual is speaking or singing on stage. That individual will be asked to wear a mask while they are not on stage.

  • We will not have a choir. This will be done to protect our choir members from being in close proximity without wearing face masks.

  • We will implement a no-contact procedure to use during communion.

Exiting the sanctuary and building:

  • We will remind you to not make physical contact with anyone who does not live in your house as you exit the sanctuary.

  • We will encourage you to leave the building as soon as possible after the service concludes.

Other considerations:

  • When we resume in-person services, we will continue to offer our services online. You will still be able to join us on Facebook and our website for worship.

  • We encourage the most vulnerable members of our church to continue to worship with us online even after we resume in-person services.

© 2020 by Adam Schell