Why Clarity Matters When Reopening Your Church

by | Apr 21, 2020

Most of us are now over a month into our local stay-at-home orders. It’s been weeks since we were last inside our church building worshiping together. We’re all no doubt anxious to get back together to worship and fellowship.

Soon, we might have that chance. Many states will begin (some as early as this Friday, April 24) to slowly reopen in phases. Churches will soon be able to start holding small group meetings and maybe even worship services.

When that time comes, it will be important for your church to have a clear plan for how you expect people to conduct themselves when meeting together as well as what steps the church will take to help ensure everyone remains healthy.


Why Clarity Matters

In the absence of a clear path forward, people will create their own narrative.

What I mean is, if you don’t explicitly tell people what to expect when you resume in-person gatherings, they will formulate their own expectations in their head.

As we have seen this week on the news, people have extremely different opinions on the impact of COVID-19 and if or how to prevent the spread.

On one hand, you have millions of people all around the world sheltering in place, only venturing outside their home when necessary for groceries or medical needs.

On the other hand, as we saw locally here in Indianapolis with protests over the weekend, there are many people that believe this is all a hoax and are determined to go about their lives with no tangible precautions.

No doubt, you may have some differing opinions in your congregation as well. It will be important that you clearly communicate what you expect from your congregants and what they can expect from you.


What Can Your Congregation Expect From Your Church?

As you move toward reopening your church, what steps do you plan to take to ensure the safety and health of everyone that enters your building?

  • Handwashing stations
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Kleenex
  • Extra space between seats
  • Designated gathering areas
  • Provide masks as people enter the church
  • Suspend communion or change your practices
  • Cleaning procedures and frequency
  • Use of Hymnals and pew Bibles
  • Procedures for passing offering plates or attendance pads
  • Suspend greeting time or adjust for distancing and no contact

There are a ton of logistics to consider. However, if you don’t consider all the possibilities and clearly communicate your procedures and expectations, people will determine for themselves what is safe and appropriate. Not everyone will agree.

Before churches began to close, I shared this article with recommendations for churches from a public health expert. Some of these suggestions might still apply.


What Do You Expect From Your Congregation?

Just as your people should know what they can expect from you to keep them safe, you need to let them know what you expect from them. What can each individual that enters your building do to make sure they are protecting themself and those around them?

Things like…

  • Wear a mask
  • Wash hands upon entry
  • Don’t come if not feeling well
  • Those over 60 stay home for now
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Keep 6ft between each other

Again, there are a lot of possibilities and without a clear understanding of the expectations, people will vary greatly in how they interact with others.


A Clear Plan Calms Concerns

Regardless of whether your church holds an in-person gathering in a few weeks or a few months, people will be nervous and concerned about participating.

Not only will a clearly communicated plan for gathering keep people safe and healthy, it will calm their fears and anxieties.

If we’ve learned anything in the last month or two, it’s that uncertainty brings panic and anxiety. Countless people, including myself, have wrestled with painful anxiety due to uncertainty and an unclear path forward.

Help your congregation avoid anxiety and lay out a clear plan for what to expect once they enter the building again.

Let’s be honest, the plan will change over time. Be honest about that fact. Still, be sure to have a plan and adjust it accordingly as we progress through the phases of reopening and even re-social distancing at times.

Does your church have a plan for eventually reopening? Share it with us in the comments!

Additional Resources

Illinois Great Rivers Conference

United Methodist Church

West Ohio Conference Guidelines

United Methodist Church

Iowa Conference Guidelines

United Methodist Church

Tennessee Conference Resources

United Methodist Church

East Ohio Conference Resources

United Methodist Church

Michigan Conference Resources

United Methodist Church

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