6 Creative Ways to Safely Reach Your Congregation During COVID-19
In a time where people find themselves with more fear and anxiety, more need for compassion and community, and more desire to understand the big picture of why the world is in the state it is in–churches are more important than ever. People need the support, guidance, love, and truth you have to share.
We understand that church leaders are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges during these troubling times. From additional responsibilities with a leaner staff, to enhanced cleaning procedures and analyzing compliance with local guidelines, you may find that you and your team are stretched.
We know that your priority is reaching and serving as many in your congregation and community as possible, which is increasingly difficult with limitations on in-person attendance. And while outdoor worship gave us more breathing room, colder weather is rolling in, requiring us to move back inside.
Adding more services to compensate for reduced capacity would be another huge undertaking–one you may simply not be able to do at present. So how do you effectively communicate to your congregation while providing the sense of togetherness that we all need so much right now?
These decisions may seem easier to put off until things seem less uncertain. But we have solutions to these challenges that you and your team can start implementing today to help you get unstuck, so you can continue to serve your congregation and community in these difficult times when they need your guidance.
In this blog, we want to help you make the most of what you have, so you can safely serve as many people as possible without adding more to your day-to-day. We understand that your funds may be limited–no church had a COVID-19 line item in their budget. These suggestions can help you get you on the path to solutions that meet your needs and available resources.
1. Making the Most of the Space You Have
With empty seats serving as a barrier between families, many churches need more space to hold service. But an expansion may not be viable at the moment. However, there are some things you can do to keep church-goers safe in your existing space without stretching your funds.
By reevaluating and repurposing existing spaces, you may be able to create a plan that allows for the room you need to accommodate your congregation and community’s needs. Do you have smaller rooms or areas that are going unused? With a little work, you may be able to open up these spaces and expand your existing worship space, or even create a secondary one. Reconfiguring your space will cost much less than an all-out expansion in many cases, but it will still give you additional room to safely hold services.
In addition to reconfiguring your space, there are a few things you can do to keep safety top-of-mind without any construction. Create a new flow of traffic by implementing a specific plan for entry and exit doors and ensure the plan is well communicated. Place signs to remind people to wash their hands, wear masks, and social distance. Likewise, strategically place hand sanitizer near high-touch areas, and use tape to create social distancing markers where people often queue. While we all have good intentions, it’s sometimes easy to forget these new “rules” when talking to old friends or listening to a service.
Try to limit shared materials or items that get passed from one person to another, like prayer books, worship aids, and bulletins. Consider instituting a stationary donation box, as opposed to one that gets passed around. If you plan on sharing food and enjoying a meal together, opt for pre-package items as opposed to a buffet-style. Make sure tissues and napkins can be grabbed quickly if needed and disposed of in a no-touch trashcan.
2. Expanding Your Church to Accommodate More People
If you have a busy church and overcrowding was an issue before COVID-19, it’s certainly an issue for you now. With less people permitted in each service, it’s difficult to serve your entire congregation with in person worship services With so many additional tasks church personnel have taken on these past few months, adding more services may simply not be an option.
However, adding extra gathering space will help you stay connected to your congregation during COVID and can also help once things go back to normal. Your church will have room to accommodate all who presently attend comfortably and may give you room to grow.
Another option is to consider expanding your multi-purpose space or adding one if you don’t currently have one. These rooms can have a variety of uses, including providing a larger, more open area to worship during COVID.
Once things return to normal, this multi-purpose room can serve a variety of uses for encouraging fellowship, serving your community, or hosting events. The opportunities are endless, and the space can be customized to your church’s needs.
If you’re considering starting a construction project at your church, we have several free resources that will help get your church off on the right foot. Check them out today!
3. Online Worship
Online worship has gone from a novelty to a necessity for many churches during the pandemic. Your congregation can watch at home or wherever they feel most comfortable, and it can help cut down on the number of people seeking to come to the church for in-person services.
Recording and sharing your services online can vary in complexity, from options requiring little to no investment to those that would necessitate a full audio/visual set up. Ultimately, this comes down to what you are comfortable with and what resources you have to work with.
To keep things simple, you could live stream the sermon on your church’s Facebook page through a smartphone with a high-quality camera and a tripod. Just be aware you’ll need a stable internet connection, and you’ll need to be sure the pastor’s words can easily be heard on the recording.
Another way would be to have the pastor record the sermon on a Zoom call or virtual meeting. Members of your congregation could join live, or the video could be recorded and uploaded to the internet and shared later. If your church doesn’t have a website to share the service on, you can upload the pre-recorded video to a Facebook or YouTube account. Both are free and easily accessible to everyone.
If you have more resources, you could invest in some camera equipment such as video capable DSLR cameras or video recorders, microphones to ensure high sound quality, and some lighting. Chances are there are some tech-savvy church members that would be willing to help out with producing the video.
Another option is looking into hiring local A/V companies to come in and record the service. Some churches may even go all out and install a recording studio in which virtual sermons can be recorded and where sound and lighting can be controlled and optimized.
4. Online Giving
It is important that your church is able to raise the funds it needs to continue operating safely. With smaller in-person services, you need to implement other ways for donations – such as online giving.
Like online worship, online giving can seem like a huge undertaking that is meant for larger churches with more resources. But just like online worship, there are ways churches of any size and with any budget can implement an effective solution.
Money transferring and crowd fundraising websites and apps have been around for a few years now and have proved themselves to be a trustworthy and simple solution.
PayPal Donations charges 2.2% of the donations, plus a $0.30 fee per donation. GoFundMe will charge a slightly higher 2.9% with a $0.30 fee per donation. Both are easy-to-use and many in your congregation may already be familiar and comfortable with these platforms. They’re also free to set up, meaning you won’t have to lay out any money upfront.
Giving sites like Kindrid, SecureGive, and RebelGive are slightly different. These sites require monthly subscription fees, which can start at around $45 a month. However, your church will have access to potentially lower donation/transaction fees as well as additional giving options, like a customized mobile app or a giving platform on your website.
Regardless of the app or website you choose, be sure to clearly communicate how to use it to your congregation and remind them that it’s there whenever they’d like to use it.
5. Outside Worship
Many infectious disease experts agree that outside gatherings can be a safer way to get together if proper precautions are taken. Many churches with access to a field or plot of land have been using it to gather for outside worship in the spring in summer.
However, outside worship isn’t without challenges. In most areas of the country, late-fall and winter doesn’t provide a hospitable environment for sitting outside. And in any season, a sudden rainstorm can make things challenging.
To combat the rain, you can or may have already set up a temporary tent. If you have the resources, now may be a good time to replace a temporary tent with a permanent pavilion or even a field house with walls and a roof to keep winter air outside. With less frills, fieldhouses may be erected for less money and in shorter time than a full church expansion. This structure could also serve your church in other ways, even after COVID-19 subsides, as a multi-purpose space.
While comfortable spring Sunday mornings may seem like a world away, now is the perfect time to start planning the construction of a permanent pavilion or field house. It will take a few months to go through the design, permitting, preconstruction, and construction processes. If you begin the project in the fall, you’ll have plenty of the upcoming spring, summer, and fall to worship in your new space.
If your church doesn’t have access to the resources to do this, there are a few more options to extend outdoor worship into colder months. If you have access to a parking lot, you can get creative and implement drive-in services or drive-through prayer sessions. For more ideas, check out this article from Brian Dodd on Leadership.
6. Consider Your Maintenance Staff
The COVID-19 journey has stretched many churches’ personnel. This is certainly the case with their maintenance staff, as well. They are working extra hard and longer hours to clean all the frequently touched surfaces and commonly used spaces, on top of their normal duties. Adding a bigger space to clean could overburden them.
Some companies are opting for antimicrobial finishes for things like door handles, faucets, and light switches. These finishes, such as copper and other related alloys, will start to kill germs on contact, meaning they won’t need to be cleaned as often.
Additionally, you could install touchless fixtures, such as automatic doors and motion-sensing lights. Whatever you can do to decrease the number of surfaces on which germs can spread.
Keep Worshiping Safely
When it comes down to it, it’s all about keeping your congregation safe and providing a place for them to worship in an environment in which they’re comfortable.
Whether that means creating an outdoor worship space or implementing small-scale changes to encourage healthy behaviors, the best approach will differ from church to church.
We understand that COVID-19 has added a lot of new responsibilities and challenges you need to tackle. Taking on another project may seem like too much right now, but a little time invested upfront can help make things easier for you going forward.
We specialize in church construction projects big and small, and we’ll help make the project simple for you. Give us a call and we’ll talk about how we can help solve your challenges.
*We’re specialists in construction, not infectious diseases. Please consult medical experts, comply with local guidelines, and reference the CDC’s page on considerations for communities of faith.
Posted October 27, 2020