Church Reopening Guidelines

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In collaboration with congregations all over the Greater Houston area, reopening guidelines have been created to describe best practices and provide resources for when your church is ready to resume in-person services. The guidelines are organized by topic. Links to additional resources are also available on this page.

 

Select a topic below to access the guidelines​.

More guidelines coming soon: home groups, children and youth. 

FEATURED EXTERNAL RESOURCES

Multiple Denominations Available

GuideStone Financial Services

Humanitarian Disaster Institute

Humanitarian Disaster Institute

Group of Clergy and Scientists

A full list of additional resources can be found HERE.

 

SANITATION GUIDELINES
 

 

General

  • Follow all CDC & state guidelines proper cleaning and disinfecting practices.

  • Regularly clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, handrails, tables, chairs, and restrooms with an EPA-approved disinfectant, following product specifications. 

  • Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap, and water, or similar disinfectant readily available.

  • Place readily visible signage to remind everyone of the best hygiene practices.

  • Communicate with vendors of procedures and expectations that vendors attest all workers are healthy, practice physical distancing, and hygiene while on campus.

  • Discourage visitors during the workweek; if visitors do stop by or an alternative is not available, then employees will practice physical distancing, including maintaining a distance of 6 feet or wearing a face mask and practicing diligent hygiene.

  • Limit the number of entrances/exits used for building access.

  • Avoid the use of items that are not easily sanitized or are touched by multiple people.

  • All touched surface areas at the main entrance, commons area, and restrooms to be cleaned and disinfected before, between, and after events and services, including main entrance such as doors, door handles, handrails, tables, chairs, and hallways. 

  • Disinfect doors, handles, railings, and anything that is touched frequently (before the service, during the service after most people have entered, and after the service).

  • Clean the surfaces of the restroom frequently. Churches will need to disinfectant restrooms before, during, and after services, including cleaning toilets to minimize any fecal-oral transmission.

  • All areas to have air cleaned by disinfecting air ducts and ventilation system by fogging safe-to-touch fogging spray

 

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doors, railings, pews, and chairs between each service.

  • Remove hymnals, pens and offering envelopes, and limit or eliminate any handouts. Avoid the use of items that are not easily sanitized.

  • Avoid sharing any equipment used in worship. Properly clean and disinfect anything touched by or close to worship leaders including microphones, audio, and video equipment, instruments, pulpits, etc.

  • Disinfect all chairs, pews, floors, and surfaces with an EPA-approved disinfectant, following product specifications.

  • Allow sufficient time for disinfecting products to work, per product specifications, before reentering the worship space.

  • Consider using disinfectant systems. These are some options for suppliers: 

Worship Space

Main Entrance, Common Areas & Restrooms

 

CAMPUS GUIDELINES
 

 

Churches may find entryways, hallways, and bathrooms to present the greatest challenge for practicing social distancing when attempting to conduct on-campus services. Because church buildings come in all shapes and sizes, there will be no one-size-fits-all solution that works for every church.

 
Staff & Volunteers

  • Staff & Volunteers should always wear a mask, practice social distancing, and have temperature checks. Staff & volunteers are the most susceptible to contact and spread of COVID-19.

Parking Lots

  • Provide large signs that provide basic instructions. These instructions can welcome people back to campus and encourage social distancing practices as they walk up to the building.

  • Consider blocking off parking spaces and utilizing parking lot volunteers to encourage social distancing before attendees enter the building.
     

  • Consider checking the temperature of attendees before they enter your church. If an attendee has a fever, ask them to watch at home or contact their physician.

  • Make sure there is signage for guiding in and out of the church building.

  • Greeters should be at all entry points to welcome, encourage social distancing, wearing masks and answer questions for attendees. Greeters should remain more than six feet from attendees and not shake hands or hug.

  • Provide masks and hand sanitizer at each entrance. Greeters can give a pump or spray of sanitizer for each person upon entering and exiting the building.

  • Consider using separate doorways and entrances and exits into building and worship space. Keeping attendees moving in the same direction limits reduce face to face interaction and maintain social distance.

  • Disinfect doors, handles, railings, and anything that is touched frequently (before the service, during the service after most people have entered and after the service).

  • Churches with narrow hallways might consider designating certain hallways as one-way. Clear signage and frequent communication of these new routes would be needed.

  • Churches with wide hallways might consider using dividers to reduce face to face interaction and maintain social distance.

  • Block off usage of water fountains. 

  • Ensure safety supplies are readily available throughout your church, such as tissues, waste receptacles, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Disinfect doors, handles, railings and anything that is touched frequently (before the service, during the service after most people have entered, and after the service).
     

  • Limit the number of occupants in each bathroom. For many smaller restrooms, the answer will be one person or family at a time. Consider posting an usher at the entrance of each bathroom to help people know when it is occupied.

  • Clean bathroom surfaces frequently. Churches will need to disinfect restrooms before, during, and after services, including cleaning toilets, to minimize any fecal-oral transmission.

  • Provide disinfectant wipes for people to wipe down surfaces before and after use.

Entrances

Hallways

Bathrooms

 

IN-SERVICE GUIDELINES
 

Each worship venue will be different (chairs, pews, theater seating) and will have unique challenges for practicing social distancing and disinfecting between services. There will be no one-size fits all solution that works for every church.

 

Worship Service Planning

  • Determine the number and locations of services (large and well-ventilated spaces) to ensure proper social distancing and following all CDC & state guidelines.

  • Set a maximum occupancy per worship service. Consider following the occupancy guidelines for restaurants and bars. If exceeding the maximum occupancy is a possibility, consider pre-registration options or adding multiple overflow spaces for worship spaces.

  • Ensure the length between services allows for proper cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces.

  • Some form of social distancing could be necessary for an extended period of time or may be reinstated in the future.  Make plans and invest in the resources needed to ensure the worship experience works for staff, volunteers, and attendees for more than this season.

  • Set up worship space to effectively follow all CDC & state guidelines proper spacing for social distancing. Current recommendations are spacing individuals or family units one or two spaces and skipping every other row.

  • Designate certain doorways for entrance and exit.

  • Provide volunteers to open the doors or prop doors open. 

  • Have ushers’ direct attendees to their seats or have them in sections across worship space to ensure proper social distancing

  • Control exiting process to ensure social distancing by directing attendees to exit by row and keep six feet between individuals or family units.

  • Encourage attendees to move directly to cars without socializing.

  • Speaking loudly and singing and creates an increased risk of exposure. Reduce the number of speakers, worship leaders, choir members, and instrumentalists to ensure proper spacing and limit the sharing of spaces or equipment.

  • Congregational singing. Singing, far more than talking, aerosolizes respiratory droplets and increases the risk of exposure to those nearby. Churches are considering no congregational singing, encouraging those who sing to wear a mask or increasing spacing between attendees to address this issue. Here is an article for more information.

  • Avoid elements during or after the service with close physical interactions amongst attendees like approaching the altar or sharing of objects. 

  • Temporarily remove anything that cannot be properly sanitized between services (pens, paper, envelopes, hymnals, prayer books, etc.).

  • Utilize electronic media (screens or phones) to provide in-service direction. If hand-out is needed, limit to a single page document.

  • If communion is to be performed, the preparation team and servers should wear fresh gloves and masks. Use individual cups; hand individual wafer to congregants; or use individually packaged communion elements. Allow for more time to provide distancing if the congregation forms a line to receive the elements. 

  • More information is needed on the safety level of baptism, especially immersion. Consider encouraging congregants to wait for baptism or record video of baptism and play in services. Here’s an article on the conversation on the safety level of baptisms. 

  • Staff & volunteers should have their temperature checked and always wear a mask (if not leading), practice social distancing, and clean regularly. Unfortunately, they are the most susceptible to contract and transmit COVID-19.

  • Assess the status of current volunteers: who is at risk, who is willing to serve. Perhaps conduct a survey determining the willingness of less at-risk volunteers to step into these roles. 

  • Provide online training with new guidelines. 

  • Attendee safety should be their priority. Consider custom branded masks. Provide wipes/disinfectants for volunteers to keep surfaces clean near them in addition to a full sanitation plan.

Entrance, Seating, and Exits

In-Service Leadership & Elements

Staff & Volunteers

 

VOLUNTEER GUIDELINES

 

  • Staff & volunteers should always wear a mask, practice social distancing, and have temperature checks. Unfortunately, they are the most susceptible to contact and spread of COVID-19.

  • Training volunteers in advance and multiple times is critical to ensuring a safe environment for them and attendees. At least one week in advance, provide volunteers written guidelines, host a conference call to stress safety guidelines, thoroughly review each area of service, and allow volunteers to ask questions. Have volunteers meet at the facility a few days prior, to experience the environment, and discuss processes for each service area. Consider having one set of volunteers role-play as service attendees to allow volunteers to see and understand what social distancing looks like on your campus.

  • Name a safety leader for each service to ensure someone is ensuring all guidelines for social distancing and disinfecting are being followed.

  • Consider utilizing staff and key leadership for the primary volunteers for the first couple of weeks. In general, they will understand the risks, be much faster to train, be more empowered to enforce guidelines, take ownership of disinfecting, and work out the kinks quicker.

  • Avoid having all staff and key volunteers in the same service. Consider dividing staff and volunteers into two teams and rotate them between services or through the weekend. If a COVID-19 transmission happens in a service, especially if it is staff or a volunteer, it’s recommended to quarantine the staff and volunteers who served in that service for two weeks


     

  • Weekend Worship & Guest Services (Facebook Group)

  • Church Executive Administration & Operations (Facebook Group)

Resources

 

COMMUNICATIONS GUIDELINES

Staged Reopening Approach

Resources & Examples

Before Services

Facility Signage

 

OFFICE GUIDELINES

Consider the following questions and ideas in developing a general strategy to safely reopen church offices and bring staff back on campus. 

  1. Follow CDC (and other government agency) guidelines whenever possible.

  2. What expectations should the staff have of their employer in regard to creating and maintaining a reasonably “safe” and healthy work environment?

  3. What expectations should the employer have of their staff in regard to supporting the employer’s efforts to maintain a reasonably “safe” and healthy work environment?

  4. Will the employer want to define items #2 and #3 in a document to be formally provided to (and acknowledged by) each employee before they return to work?

  5. What sanitation/hygiene materials should the employer plan to provide?  Materials such as:

    • Disposable masks & gloves

    • Hand sanitizer in common areas & desktops

    • Sanitizing wipes in common areas & desktops

    • Thermometers

  6. What hygiene and safety guidelines will staff, visitors, and congregants be required to follow?

  7. What specific planning actions should the employer undertake to ensure a reasonably safe work environment? Actions such as:

    • Determining the proper density of staff office areas considering your particular office environment

    • Decide if the church will allow free access to buildings by the general public, or by appointment only

    • Should protective shields or other measures be taken at reception desks, welcome counters, etc.

    • Decide if staff schedules are to be formalized and published

    • Sign-in/Sign-out system​

Resources

DENOMINATIONAL RESOURCES

 

Texas Annual Conference UMC

  • Reopening

Presbyterian Church USA

  • Returning to Public Worship

  • Beginning Conversations for Re-entry

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas

  • In-person Worship Guidelines

  • Regathering

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

General Reopening

What to Consider Before Reopening

Children's Ministry

THANK YOU, CHURCHES!

We want to thank the following churches and groups that have helped this effort.

• Bayou City Fellowship 

• Bethany Baptist Church 

• Chapelwood UMC

• Champion Forest Baptist Church 

• Christ Church Cathedral 

• Ecclesia Church 

• Faithbridge Church

• First Metropolitan Church

• First Presbyterian Church, Houston

• Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church

• Grace Fellowship, Katy

• Houston’s First Baptist Church

• Houston Northwest Church 

• Inspire Church 

• Kingsland Baptist Church 

• Second Baptist Church Houston 

• South Main Baptist Church, Houston 

• Sugarland Baptist Church

• St. Luke’s UMC 

• St. Martin Episcopal Church 

• St. Paul's UMC 

• Tallowood Baptist 

• The Woodlands UMC 

• West Houston Chinese Church 

• WoodsEdge Community Church 

• Wheeler Baptist Church 

• Texas Annual Conference of UMC

• The Episcopal Diocese of Texas 

• The Presbytery of New Covenant

• Union Baptist Association 

  • LinkedIn - White Circle
  • Facebook - White Circle

CONTACT A COALITION

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