Stage Two: Preparation
Current Mode of Operation for NYAC Churches: Three Stages to Reopening
Stage Two: Preparation
Below are requirements that churches must prepare for in order to resume in-person worship after receiving permission:
- Churches should continue to maintain an online worship service presence and connection through livestreaming, ZOOM meetings, video services, etc.
- Persons in the vulnerable category of 65 and older or those who live with persons who fit into that category, should be encouraged to remain home and take advantage of online worship experiences.
- Persons who have significant pre-existing conditions should also be encouraged to remain at home.
- Cloth masks will be worn by all participants while in church. The face coverings need not be surgical masks
or N-95 respirators; these critical supplies must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other
medical first responders.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unable to remove the mask without assistance (these persons should remain home at this time).
- Holy Communion through intinction or with the use of individual cups/bread will not be administered in person until the threat of transmission is minimized. Proximity to those administering and those receiving communion pose an increased risk. Pre-made, self-service communion cups (with bread inside the flap) may be used if made available upon entry. This, however, will cause an increased burden on the cleaning of the sanctuary and may not be possible if multiple services are being conducted requiring thorough cleaning in-between services. Online Communion will still be permitted until such time as we determine when we can re-assemble with no restrictions.
- Baptisms should be delayed until the restrictions are lifted to ensure safety of the families and the person being baptized.
- Use “no-touch” alternatives with:
- Passing the Peace;
- Collection of the offerings;
- Use of Ushers/Greeters (these positions should not be used at this time) and;
- Use of printed materials
- Choirs and the use of praise bands should be suspended until further notice. The use of soloists is allowed, but only with proper social distancing.
- Congregational singing should not be conducted until further notice.
- Seating should be restricted to every other pew. Alternate pews should be roped off to ensure socialdistancing.
- Families who live in the same household should sit together; this includes youth and children.
- Children’s moments may still be a part of worship. However, children should remain with their families while the children’s message is being delivered. No handouts will be permitted.
- Microphones should not be passed or shared during the service for any reason, for the sharing of joys and concerns, announcements, etc.
- Elimination of a receiving line to greet persons exiting the sanctuary.
- Great care, planning, and intentionality should be exercised for the creation of shorter services with no liturgical music and spoken hymns while remaining masked.
- Altar calls and the “laying on of hands” are not allowed as they present a challenge to proper social distancing. Alternatives for providing pastoral care “in the moment” will need to be carefully discerned.
- Drive-in and outdoor worship experiences are permitted as long as proper social distancing is established and maintained at all times. No one should leave their vehicles for any reason before, during, or after drive-in worship services.
- If your sanctuary cannot accommodate the gathered congregation using these strict guidelines, consideration will need to be made for multiple, staggered worship services to be conducted. Plans will need to be made for sanitation of the sanctuary between services, and a mechanism will need to be created for who should attend a given service at the appointed time.
Requirements for Small Groups, Sunday School, Bible Study, etc.
- Continue to offer and encourage participation in online groups to maintain ministry to the most vulnerable population and provide ongoing opportunity for those who still feel uncomfortable with in-person gatherings.
- Establish and maintain the same principles as stated above for every small group gathering.
- In-person meetings should be restricted to a five-person limit.
Requirements for Weddings and Funerals
- In a limited reopening, weddings and funerals could be conducted once again in our facilities utilizing the social distancing and precautionary measures outlined in this document.
- Receiving lines and greeting of family members are prohibited. “No touch” alternatives will need to be clearly explained and utilized.
Requirements for Youth/Children’s Ministries
- There should be no organized sports, camps, or other activities that do not honor social distancing guidelines.
- Youth should remain with their families before, during, and after worship services.
- Playgrounds and other outside spaces should be closed to children and youth during this limited reopening.
- Youth ministry coordinators/leaders should use technology as much as possible to encourage online gatherings.
- Any in-person activities should take great care to not violate social distancing guidelines. In addition, a thorough cleaning of the space must occur once the activity has ended.
- Additional areas which should be considered:
- Care for the mental health/anxiety of our youth should be considered in planning for opportunities for youth to interact within social distanced parameters.
- Many youth have missed milestone events–proms, graduations, and end of the year awards ceremonies. The church’s recognition of these milestone events is important.
For other creative ideas and support, please contact our Conference Youth Coordinator, Jenna Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Requirements for Other Activities
- Vacation Bible Schools should be suspended for the summer.
- Mission trips which involve travel should also be cancelled. Working locally with essential ministry missions, food pantries, homeless shelters, and other ministries that need volunteers is encouraged with proper sanitation and social distancing.
- Any fund-raising or social activities that involves food preparation and distribution should be cancelled. This would especially include fund-raising dinners, covered-dish dinners, or food distribution through buffets. We have documented illustrations that volunteerism in these activities has created breeding grounds for the transmission of the virus.
Requirements for Church Office Usage
- Regular office hours can be resumed with the following considerations:
- Churches with a small staff can re-assemble using social distancing and safety measures, such masks and regular handwashing.
- Churches with larger teams of staff should consider staggered work hours to limit the number of people in the building at one time. Also, office space should be sanitized and thoroughly cleaned daily. Shared office spaces must be throroughly cleaned between shifts.
Requirements for those Renting and/or Utilizing our Facilities
- Renters and others using our facilities would be permitted to resume their activities so long as they comply with the same restrictions, guidelines, and cleaning/sanitation measures outlined in this document.
- Negligence or non-compliance with these measures opens the door for the potential spread of the virus and to potential liability issues with insurance carriers. Non-compliance should be immediately addressed and rectified.
Specific Guidance for Child Care Programs
The CDC is clear about the reality and the precautions related to the reopening of child care programs:
- Reopening child care programs helps parents and guardians return to work.
- In communities with significant mitigation problems, child care programs should remain closed, but specific programs may choose to remain open to serve children of essential workers.
The following are steps to be undertaken before any child care program is reopened:
- Communicate with local and state authorities to determine current mitigation levels.
- Take extra precautions to protect staff, children, and family members who are at a higher risk of vulnerability.
- Ensure that any other groups that use church facilities also follow strict guidelines for cleaning and safety protocols outlined in this document.
- Specific and intentional sanitation measures include: Hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes among children and staff; face masks should be worn at all times among all staff; and ample supplies of soap, hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol, and tissues must be established and maintained.
- Encourage sick staff to stay home and encourage parents to keep sick children at home.
The following are steps that need to be undertaken after the child-care program is reopened:
- Screen children upon arrival. Establish a routine of daily health checks on arrival, such as temperature screening for both staff and children.
- Clean, sanitize, and disinfect railings, frequently touchesurfaces (door handles, toys, sink handles, drinking fountains, etc.) multiple times each day. Create and ensure adequate ventilation of the space.
- Ensure that classes include the same group of children each day and that the same child care providers remain with the same group. Restrict mixing between groups.
- Cancel all field trips.
- Restrict non-essential visitors, volunteers, and activities (including parental visits except for drop-off and pick-up).
- Maintain social distancing in all seating and bedding.
- Stagger arrival and drop-off times.
- If feeding occurs, serve meals in the classrooms instead of a group dining area and limit the use of shared serving utensils. Use of pre-packaged boxes or bags is recommended.
- Keep each child’s belongings separated and in individually labeled storage containers.
- Minimize sharing of high touch materials (art supplies, equipment, electronic devices, toys, books, games, and other learning aids).
- Avoid immediate contact such as shaking or holding hands, hugging, or kissing.
- Make sure that all staff are trained in the procedures and precautions outlined in this document.