This post is specifically focused on what should be considered to reopen a church meeting in a portable setting.
It’s a confusing time we live in now – especially if you are a leader in the church. Generally, leading is very real work. Specifically, leading during a time of pandemic is simply exhausting. Why? Because in the decision-making process, pertinent inputs need to be considered for every decision that is made. When there is a plethora of resources available, the front-end researching to decision making can be intimidating and exhausting. Exacerbating the critical nature of the decisions is the extra care your flock is needing, as well as ALL the opportunities opened to share the gospel in a new way.
In this chaotic environment, it is essential first to be able to methodically determine what are pertinent inputs and what are not. There are a growing number of inputs that are necessary to consider if you are attempting to reopen regular gatherings of any kind. A sampling of what is available is found HERE.
But specifically, we have created a robust check list for those churches that are meeting in rented facilities (schools, theaters, YMCA’s, etc). As you work through your list, be intentional to lead with the spirit, to bless all and not be aggressive to assert “your rights.” What you decide to do and how you do it will communicate who you are and what you are all about.
1. Confirm that you will have access to your portable church facility. Speak with venue leaders:
- Let them know you will be putting a reopening playbook together for all stakeholders.
- Ask them up front if they have any concerns they would like to be addressed.
- Confirm general parameters for use of the facility (dates, length of meetings, portions of facilities to be used).
- Assure them that you will review your finished playbook with them prior to dissemination.
2. Strongly consider what lasting impact your meetings will have on ALL stakeholders (members, attenders, volunteers, & landlords):
- Will you be reopening environments in keeping with your vision, mission, culture, and developing brand?
- Will your engagement in this venue inadvertently change the vision, mission, culture and developing brand?
- Have you considered any undue or unusual burden your plan will place on venue staff or other stakeholders?
- Are you considering any “phased gatherings” that will provide momentum for The Big Reopen?
3. Reevaluate your rented facility for new uses to accommodate safe distancing protocols: *start small
- Are there additional seating areas available for use that had not be used before? (If you met in a gym are there bleachers that could be utilized that were not used before? How about a track area above within a good sightline of the stage?
- Have you roped off areas of seating before that you can open back up?
- Are there additional rooms that can accommodate smaller groups?
- Use these rooms if the crowd coming back is smaller, then grow into larger rooms
- Or, use these rooms as on-site video venues to spread people throughout your venue
4. “Sell” the unique opportunity to be a “friend/true partner” to the venue. It is not your facility/space – Act like a guest! Make them thrilled that you are a part of their TEAM!
- Communicate with owners of the venue regularly and often as you are building your re-opening plan.
- Ask for and listen for what needs to be done that will make the landlord most comfortable. Once you initiate the reopening journey with them (earlier) they will continue thinking about the journey you are both on. They will likely have new suggestions each time you check in with them.
- They too are in the process of their own reopening – figure a way to SERVE THEM in their process.
- Eventually, provide them with an extensive and detailed plan. The more thorough you are the more comfortable they will be letting you back in. The plan should include but not be limited to:
- Plan of occupation (Dates, times, parts of building to be used).
- Outline of how volunteers will be/have been reoriented and retrained.
- Plans for pre- and post- gathering sanitization of surfaces before, during, and after (Red/Green Signals).
- How unused areas of facility will be cordoned off or opened for use.
- How attenders will enter and exit the venue (process) as well as your expectations for how all attendees will behave while on the premises. How will they be welcomed and directed?
- Will there be any hospitality services? If so, what will that look like?
- Health precautions that will be required by attenders and volunteers (sharing resources with your venue will go a long way to affirming a partnership):
- Masks to be required or provided or both
- Temperature checks
- Sanitizer stations
- Safe Distancing Spacing guidelines observed (in all areas)
- Consequences for unwanted behavior
- Provide links to your website announcing your plans
- Plan to make the site better while you are there – and when you leave make it better than the way you found it.
5. Volunteers are essential – because they will likely be your front line, over communicate with them…
- Learn who is going to return under the conditions you are establishing for reopening.
- Start with your plans to keep them safe.
- Using data, learn what is doable and sustainable for your first many services.
- Scale the reopening expectations in keeping with the size of your committed volunteer force – but keep a spirit of excellence.
- Be guided by number of available volunteers to create a “Won’t, Might, and Will” list for your opening months.
6. Just because meeting is permissible and legal does not mean your congregation is comfortable.
- Take the pulse of your congregation with a poll like this one. Ask questions like:
- Preferred method of communication (email, text, call, etc)
- Ask what campus they attend (if applicable)
- Ask about their attitude toward in-person worship
- Ask about what precautions need to be observed to make them feel comfortable with returning to your setting
- Ask what attendance levels they would feel comfortable with
- Ask about their feeling about specific ministries reopening (children, hospitality, wayfinding support, etc.)
- Ask if they will be returning if you will be opening up on ‘xx week’ in the near future (from recent stories, expect a smaller amount than those that said yes)
- And/Or participate with Barna’s Church Pulse Weekly to take the temperature of your congregation and how it compares to the rest of the nation.
- Be descriptive of what your meeting time will look like in your rented venue. Setting up expectations will go a long way to accomplishing your goals.
- Think the phasing-process like getting into a cold lake for a swim – little by little until each part of your body becomes comfortable. Before you know it – everyone will be swimming and enjoying the purpose for which you are reopening.
- Take the pulse of your congregation with a poll like this one. Ask questions like:
7. Develop plan for those not comfortable with returning to a large group
- Plan out your longer-term streaming strategy.
- Put together neighborhood gathering spaces in appropriate group sizes.
- Consider multiple venues (Portable venue PLUS outdoor Drive-IN style PLUS Video in Groups off site).
- Do a larger space “church in the field” outdoor service to accommodate unlimited social distancing (now’s your excuse to get that portable LED wall :)).
8. Phase in occupation of space – From street to seat, what should happen and when should it begin to happen, what will be the protocols when it does happen?
- Load In/Load Out process review and training.
- Does way finding (signage) need to change – reevaluate entrance and exit points/processes.
- What aspects of hospitality need to be offered. What precautions need to be provided to volunteers and attenders.
- Create plan around procedures for (and procure) masks, temperature checks, gloves, sanitizer stations.
- What will children’s ministry environments look like? When will they open? Will they be phased in gradually?
- What other precautions will be taken?
- Attended door openers? Doors always open? Normal procedures?
9. Retrain your volunteers
- Train volunteers on how to implement PPE.
- Reorient them to the facility.
- Explain and clarify what processes will continue as before and which will be changed.
- Give them confidence and extreme appreciation..
10. Don’t assume your venue will let you back in
- Keep an eye out for other venues just in case.
- Look for smaller locations.
- Hotels, city centers, theaters, churches
- Here’s our Ultimate list of Venues (63 currently used spaces) to get you thinking.
Whatever you do – be determined to keep Jesus and the spirit of excellence at the forefront – not only your response to COVID 19. And if your church is already engaged in a playbook for reopening your portable facility, and you would like to share what you have assembled so far, feel free to post your documents and thoughts below.
As always, we are here to help. Connect with one of our team at 800-939-7722 or firstname.lastname@example.org