How to Create Safe, Spacious and Sanitized Services at Your Church
Are you heading into reopening your church for in-person services but aren’t sure where to start?
Are you worried about the complex communication required to connect with your people in this season?
Today’s blog post is by Ben Stapley. Ben serves on the Executive Team at Christ Fellowship as the Weekend Experience Director overseeing the production, worship, creative, communication, online and guest service departments. Christ Fellowship has 17 campuses with 7 based locally in Miami and 10 across Latin America.
Today he’s giving us some really practical next steps for creating weekend services that people will attend in this reopening phase.
As we look towards reopening our churches, my desire as a leader is to help others create and capture moving and memorable moments. To help you meet that goal, today I want to teach you how to welcome your people back to church by creating safe, spacious and sanitized services.
Welcoming your folks back to church is not going to be easy. Some have likened it to launching a campus or even planting a church. I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult, but I do acknowledge that it’s not going to be an easy process. That being said, with some focused coaching and increased effort, you will be able to welcome your people back to safe, spacious and sanitized services.
There are unique circumstances each of our churches face, such as population density, denomination differences, and how your governor is feeling this morning. But I have compiled generic best practices that apply to all of us regardless of your church’s situation. For those of you who have already reopened, don’t worry. This post contains best practices that you can still implement at any stage of reopening.
Before we talk about the elements of safe, spacious and sanitized services, we need to talk about the communication that will set you up for success. These three foundational communication points will ensure your people know your plan and will want to actually participate in it.
Survey your people. If you haven’t done this already, DO IT. It will gain you valuable and actionable information. Our executive team at Christ Fellowship Miami discovered a ton of useful info through our survey. The biggest realization was that our volunteers were coming back to church in thirds. A third would be willing to immediately serve once we reopened, a third a couple weeks after we reopened, and a third a couple months after we reopened. This discovery of a decreased volunteer base had major implications for how we planned our reopening.
A survey communicates that you value feedback from your congregation. There will always be folks that throw stones at your leadership and plans, but you minimize that group and the stones they can throw by giving them a voice in the process through a survey. Here are a couple of very practical tips when conducting a survey:
- Keep it anonymous to encourage greater levels of honesty.
- Incentivize participation by offering people the chance to be entered into a draw for a gift card when they provide their email address.
- Consider using the Google Forms platform for the survey. It is easy to use, gives real time results, and puts all the data into informative and easy-to-read charts.
- Provide a catch-all question at the end of the survey reading something like, “Anything else you would like us to know?”
If you want to survey your folks but don’t know what questions to ask, then visit benstapley.info/welcomeback for a free downloadable template survey. It will help you hit the ground running.
Over, Cluster and Deadline Communication
You need to step up your communication game by over communicating, cluster communicating, and deadline communicating.
Over communicate by repeating your main talking points until even you are sick of hearing them. Then repeat them some more. Your goal should be to communicate so much that you start hearing your people parrot what you’ve said.
It can be confusing and overwhelming to send out updates to your staff and guests every day. Cluster communication combines your talking points, provides people with multiple points of information at once, and avoids any confusion. If you don’t practice this principle, people will stop listening to your bombardment of singular communication.
Even if you don’t have the answers about some things at present, let people know when you reasonably expect to provide that information to them. This is deadline communication. You might not be able to make the call on when you are reopening right now, but at least let people know when you will. Deadline communication brings comfort and calm to wondering and worried hearts during a stressful season.
Discern when God has called you to reopen and execute that. On one end of the spectrum there is Ed Young and Fellowship Church who reopened weeks after Easter. On the other end there is Andy Stanley and North Point Community Church who won’t reopen until they can do church like they did before. After you prayerfully consider when God is calling you to reopen, confidently communicate that timeline to your congregation. Remember, what is right for you isn’t necessarily right for others, so refrain from critiquing churches that disagree with or differ from you.
Creating Safe Services
Now that we’ve covered foundational communication, let’s talk about creating safe services. Here are five ways to establish safe practices in your church as you reopen:
- Symptoms // In your communications, encourage anyone that is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to stay home. This releases any unnecessary pressure on guests with symptoms from feeling like they have to make it to church. It also gives guests without symptoms a greater degree of confidence in being able to safely attend.
- Masks // I recommend you require all staff and volunteers to wear masks and that you encourage your guests to wear them as well. Considering that recommendation, be sure you’re able to provide masks for any guest that forgot theirs at home. That being said, if a guest doesn’t want to put a mask on, I wouldn’t prevent them from entering your auditorium. The risk they present to the other guests is pretty minimal, and you could have a very volatile situation on your hands if you start banning unmasked guests from entering.
- Touchless Thermometers // Keep a couple of touchless thermometers on hand. This allows volunteers or guests to have their temperature tested if requested. A volunteer might feel fine getting ready in their air conditioned home, but after serving for an hour at your church during summer, their temperature may rise. A touchless thermometer is a quick and easy way to verify if your body is just naturally feeling warm or if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Touchless Experience // Aim to provide a touchless experience. There are a number of ways you can do this. Ditch the bulletin and provide message notes on your website. Remove the physical Bibles from your pews or chairs and direct people to an app. Use a texting service for digital connection cards instead of physical ones. Stop passing the plate and provide a drop-off location at the exit for cash and checks. Or better yet, encourage recurring giving online. Other than the bathroom, prop open all doors to reduce surface contact on high-touch areas.
- Food and Beverages // Stop providing unpackaged food and beverages to your staff, volunteers and guests. Stick to individually wrapped items such as granola bars, crackers and bottled water.
Creating Spacious Services
So, we talked about creating safe services; now let’s talk about creating spacious services. Here are five ways to create a spacious service when you reopen:
- Limit Capacity // To ensure guests are seated six feet apart, you probably need to limit your seating capacity to 25%. You may want to ask guests to reserve seats. This helps you ensure that you have enough volunteers and seats to meet the demand. EventBrite and Planning Center are two great platforms for event registration. Check out cfmiami.org/reopen to see an example of this.
- Limit Contact // The more we limit contact, the more we limit infection. Encourage fist bumps and elbow touches instead of bear hugs and high fives or handshakes. Ask people to submit their prayer requests through your online connection card instead of calling them forward at the end of the service. Stop the meet and greet time in order to limit contact between people.
- Limit Flow // Limit traffic flow to one way throughout your experience to ensure the safety of everyone. There should be a seamless flow of people from your parking lot, into your auditorium, and the back into the parking lot. How folks connect and interact in the parking lot after the service is over is on them.
- Model Spacious Behavior // No one is going to remember your rules when they show up, so you and your team have to model spacious behavior. Coach your staff and volunteers to refrain from their natural instincts to hug a friend they haven’t seen in months. Lead pastors, this is going to be hardest for you because the majority of people will be approaching you. Wave at guests before they approach, as this lets them know you love them but that they should keep their distance.
- Provide Spacious Seating // When people enter, seat them from the front to the back. Skip every other row and leave three seats between clusters of people. Also, since your worship team will be singing in the direction of your guests, start the first row of seats 15 feet from the stage. This will prevent any droplets from being projected onto your guests. When the service is ending, the pastor should instruct everyone how to exit. The safest way is wedding style with ushers releasing rows from the back to the front.
Creating Sanitized Services
Now let’s talk about creating sanitized services. Here are three ways to clean your space to help your people feel confident when attending your church:
- Hand Sanitizer // Place hand sanitizer stations at entrances and exits. Nuff said.
- Clean Before Service // Provide professional-level cleaning before, during and after each service. I suggest using an electrostatic spray, which is recommended by the CDC, to clean all of the chairs and surfaces in your auditorium. It only takes 10 minutes to dry and this ensures your guests sit on sanitized chairs.
- Reopen In Phases // The easiest way to keep things sanitized is by reopening your programs in phases. This is because kids (and some adults) struggle with keeping socially distant. So, start with a family friendly service with no kids program. Then after the schools in your area start allowing students back into the classrooms, consider reopening your kids program. If parents are comfortable sending their kids back to school, they will probably feel comfortable sending them back to the kids’ ministries in church as well.
During this reopening phase, take the steps you need to in order for your people to feel welcomed back into safe, spacious and sanitized services. Communicate with them clearly as you move through this process. If I missed any points, let me know! I would love to hear from you and learn from you. You can email me at [email protected] and watch more training videos at benstapley.info/speaker.