How is COVID-19 changing church safety?
The world has changed. New words have entered our vocabulary, and churches are now forced to change their procedures to address previously unimagined threats. Now that local governments are starting to allow churches to re-open (within established guidelines), here are just a few things churches need to consider in their safety and security plans:
1. How will your tithe / offering procedures change? Are you still going to pass an offering plate that everyone in the sanctuary touches? Are you going to have stationary giving locations into which people can deposit their tithe? Are you going to move to online-only giving? Remember, you need to still be concerned about theft (particularly during difficult economic times), but you also need to be concerned about germs and contamination.
2. How will your money counting procedures change? You still need to have at least 2 (or more) people counting your offering, but how will you do so and maintain social distancing and hygienic practices? How can you have 2 people in close proximity maintaining accountability of the counting procedures?
3. If you are going to re-open children's programming, how are you going to handle your check-in / check-out procedures? If you still use paper check-in, how do you sanitize a clipboard or writing surface that every parent touches? If you use electronic check-in, how do you sanitize your computer / tablet / kiosk after every parent touches it? How do you maintain social distancing with young children? Are your children's workers trained in identifying symptoms of COVID-19 and helping prevent its spread?
4. How do you enforce social distancing or mask-wearing in your worship space or adult education spaces? Are your ushers, volunteers, and staff prepared to confront persons not following your social distancing rules to enforce compliance? How far are you willing to go to enforce compliance? Are you prepared to deny someone entry to a church service if they refuse to comply? Or, are you seeking voluntary compliance only at the risk of spreading the contagion?
5. If you re-open outreach ministries, how are you going to sanitize common spaces such as kitchens, food pantries, and clothing distribution areas? Are you willing to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing and, if so, how stringently are you willing to enforce those rules? Are you prepared to turn away someone in need of help who refuses to comply with your restrictions or who is actively exhibiting signs of infection?
The COVID-19 crisis will forever change the way we "do" church. But, it should never interfere with us "being" the church. Seek guidance and consultation from a qualified church security expert who can help you walk through these difficult times. Church safety is a journey, not a destination.