Each worship venue will be different (chairs, pews, theater seating) and will have unique challenges for practicing social distancing and disinfecting between services. There will be no one-size fits all solution that works for every church.
Worship Service Planning
- Determine the number and locations of services (large and well-ventilated spaces) to ensure proper social distancing and following all CDC & state guidelines.
- Set a maximum occupancy per worship service. Consider following the occupancy guidelines for restaurants and bars. If exceeding the maximum occupancy is a possibility, consider pre-registration options or adding multiple overflow spaces for worship spaces.
- Ensure the length between services allows for proper cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces.
- Some form of social distancing could be necessary for an extended period of time or may be reinstated in the future. Make plans and invest in the resources needed to ensure the worship experience works for staff, volunteers, and attendees for more than this season.
Entrance, Seating, and Exits
- Set up worship space to effectively follow all CDC & state guidelines proper spacing for social distancing. Current recommendations are spacing individuals or family units one or two spaces and skipping every other row.
- Designate certain doorways for entrance and exit.
- Provide volunteers to open the doors or prop doors open.
- Have ushers’ direct attendees to their seats or have them in sections across worship space to ensure proper social distancing
- Control exiting process to ensure social distancing by directing attendees to exit by row and keep six feet between individuals or family units.
- Encourage attendees to move directly to cars without socializing.
In-Service Leadership & Elements
- Speaking loudly and singing and creates an increased risk of exposure. Reduce the number of speakers, worship leaders, choir members, and instrumentalists to ensure proper spacing and limit the sharing of spaces or equipment.
- Congregational singing. Singing, far more than talking, aerosolizes respiratory droplets and increases the risk of exposure to those nearby. Churches are considering no congregational singing, encouraging those who sing to wear a mask or increasing spacing between attendees to address this issue. Here is an article for more information.
- Avoid elements during or after the service with close physical interactions amongst attendees like approaching the altar or sharing of objects.
- Temporarily remove anything that cannot be properly sanitized between services (pens, paper, envelopes, hymnals, prayer books, etc.).
- Utilize electronic media (screens or phones) to provide in-service direction. If hand-out is needed, limit to a single page document.
- If communion is to be performed, the preparation team and servers should wear fresh gloves and masks. Use individual cups; hand individual wafer to congregants; or use individually packaged communion elements. Allow for more time to provide distancing if the congregation forms a line to receive the elements.
- More information is needed on the safety level of baptism, especially immersion. Consider encouraging congregants to wait for baptism or record video of baptism and play in services. Here’s an article on the conversation on the safety level of baptisms.
Staff & Volunteers
- Staff & volunteers should have their temperature checked and always wear a mask (if not leading), practice social distancing, and clean regularly. Unfortunately, they are the most susceptible to contract and transmit COVID-19.
- Assess the status of current volunteers: who is at risk, who is willing to serve. Perhaps conduct a survey determining the willingness of less at-risk volunteers to step into these roles.
- Provide online training with new guidelines.
- Attendee safety should be their priority. Consider custom branded masks. Provide wipes/disinfectants for volunteers to keep surfaces clean near them in addition to a full sanitation plan.