Everyone is navigating through uncharted waters. Is it time to re-open your church with social distancing in-place or do you continue online worship? These are the questions many leaders are currently debating. If you decide it is time to re-open there are many questions to ask yourself and your team before opening.
Are You Prepared for Families?
- Do you know what families are feeling and thinking? It’s not only important to survey families’ prior to returning to your physical space. Once they do return, keep seeking their input. Did they feel safe? What did they enjoy? What would they change? Ask for permission to post comments on social media or encourage them to share their experience on their social media pages.
- How will you build confidence for families to return? Sharing your cleaning and opening protocols across all communication platforms early and often. This will ease fear and build trust. Consider sharing a draft with health care workers and educators for their feedback before publishing with the whole church.
- What is your plan in the event of a confirmed Covid case in your congregation? While this doesn’t need to be published, it is wise to be prepared to respond. Your local health department has information to inform and support your response. Be ready with the right systems and procedures should this happen at your church.
- Were you aware that a picture is worth a thousand words? Create short videos, sharing your various protocols for check-in, dismissal, cleaning surfaces, toys and equipment, and how you are addressing social distancing (if at all). Share via email and on your website.
- As your focus turns to preparing for in-person ministry, how will you continue to engage with families who choose to remain at home? Review your online strategies. What has resonated? How will you re-prioritize your time and budgetary resources to ensure continued online engagement? Don’t forget that not all families will be comfortable coming back to in-person meetings right away, but you don’t want to lose your connection with them.
- If you’re not a senior leader, have you communicated your protocols and plans for your program to your senior leaders? If you are a senior leader, have you communicated the protocols and plans to my staff? Investing the time to create and share a detailed written plan that includes the budgetary impact serves your senior leaders well. Ensuring the whole team is on the same page is really important.
- Have you advocated for family friendly content for family services? It’s not enough to include a kid’s message from the children’s pastor at the beginning of a service. Senior leaders feel pressed to address racial tensions and consequences of the pandemic in their messages. It serves them well to raise the question of how to do this appropriately with young children present. If you fail to address this, families will attend a few times and then stay away until kid’s ministry resumes. Consider other ideas for how to create family friendly worship.
- Have you listened to the concerns and needs of your staff team? As a senior leader, it’s important to make space to hear feedback and concerns from your whole team. People are experiencing things differently and have different fears and anxieties. Hear people out and make sure you’re addressing their concerns in clear and effective ways.
- Have you provided senior leaders with an accurate assessment of volunteer needs? Senior leaders may feel pressure to provide children’s and youth ministry. If you are a children or youth leader be prepared to share the number of children or youth you can serve, based on committed volunteers. Avoid the temptation to overlook ratios. They are more important than ever to build parent’s trust. Be ready to share creative recruiting strategies you are pursuing. It’s not your senior leader’s job to recruit for you. It is your job to inform your leadership of the obstacles you are encountering and invite support to implement creative solutions. Consider these questions when thinking about how to engage your volunteers.
Your people are most important. Listening to them and making sure they are aware of your plans moving forward is vital to building trust and moving forward in an effective way.