Reverend Russell St. Bernard is the director for ministry operations at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Silver Spring, Maryland and a guest blogger for Givelify. This month, he is writing a series about how to prepare your church building, your team and your worship experience for a return to in-person service.
As the world and our country slowly begin to speak about opening up, some churches in some regions are already holding in-person worship experiences. Others are starting to plan for a return to in-person worship. As experts predict it could take until 2022 for most Americans to receive the COVID vaccine, many churches are asking, “How can we prepare to go back to in-person worship safely?” The truth is there isn’t just one answer, and as much of this season, we don’t fully know nor understand what is ahead. However, we must consider some key areas before we return. In this series of articles, I will cover how to prepare your building, your team and your worship experience for the eventual return to in-person services.
Buildings or Places of Worship
First, let me speak about those who set up and breakdown every week because we don’t own a building. Now or very soon is the time to begin communicating with every venue you used to hold services or find a new place. Some places might not be willing to allow churches back in yet, because they’re still working on opening up for the general public; schools and community centers might not want to risk an outside group. However, some other places like hotels and university buildings might be more open now to rent space to churches. Consider praying, planning, and thinking through who might be a great partner for this new season. Once you identify the location, you can follow the same steps as those who own their buildings.
We all have to make this a priority, no matter where we’re leading a worship service. The guidance has stated that as much clean airflow coming into the building is best for everyone in the area. The Centers for Disease Control has published guidelines and recommendations related to airflow. You might need to have a conversation with a heating and cooling company to inquire about increasing the airflow into the building and possibly upgrading the air filters. You can also look into getting some purifiers for the worship space to improve the air quality.
You need to consider who is coming to the building and what changes need to be made regarding signage for the building entrance or parking lot, to help with contactless entry and exit. It would be best if those changes are clear from the outside and the inside. Restrooms might be changed if you are thinking about the flow of traffic in the building. Stickers on the floor to encourage spacing and give direction are essential. Will people have to check-in or sign anything before they attend? If they registered for the service beforehand, where do they check-in so you know they have been cleared? Think about the airports as a guide and then move toward as many contactless areas as possible.
Now is the time to double down on technology as much as possible in our buildings. Allowing people to register ahead of time and use their phones to check themselves and their children in will be the best way to go. Reimagining your building’s entrance and exit allows for one-way traffic to lessen people’s chance of crossing paths. I think the use of QR codes will help the congregation complete forms, sign-up for ministry, and receive information from the church, if you don’t already have an app with these items loaded in. Also, consider using an online giving option for in-person services. The Givelify app offers a safe, easy and contactless way for your members to give with a few taps on their smartphone.
Think About More Guests
I know churches that have already returned to some in-person worship, and many of them have shared that they’re seeing more first time guests. As we prepare to return, this needs to be a priority. The thought here is these people will know even less about your building, and there will be an even greater need for correct and clear signage around the building and parking lot. One small note here, some of your current members might decide that they want to stay online for a few months longer, and you might not be able to allow as many people as before into the building. As we prepare to head back, you must make sure that your building is prepared.
We’d like to hear what have you done as you prepare to return to in-person worship? Let us know in the comments.