In June 2020, all regions of Illinois moved into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening after months of being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the new guidelines, churches may now allow up to 50 persons to physically gather for worship services following months of stay-at-home orders that limited the services to online, television, and radio broadcasts.
In Chicago, the number of persons allowed in places of worship is limited to 25% of the room capacity or 50 persons, whichever is fewer.
While this is encouraging news for churches throughout Illinois, there’s still a long way to go before things can go back to the way they were, pre-pandemic. Churches are doing their part in keeping their congregations safe from the virus by adhering to the guidelines set out by the state and the CDC.
Here are some of the best practices adopted by many churches in Chicago and the rest of Illinois.
- Required reservations
To avoid a crowd from gathering while waiting to be allowed entry, some churches are asking interested worship service participants to make a reservation, typically online or by other methods. Only those who have made prior reservations are guaranteed entry into the sanctuary.
- Reconfiguration of seating and standing areas
Churches are making sure congregants from different households maintain a 6 feet distance between each other. One way of doing this is limiting seating to alternate rows. Seating may also be assigned before the service.
- Social distancing outside of the service
Many churches have kept close to all facilities and areas where attendees usually congregate, such as meeting rooms or kitchenettes. Those that have opened these areas are encouraged to install barriers between tables or between individuals from different households.
- Screening for COVID-19 symptoms
Before allowing entry into the sanctuary, congregants are screened via a temperature check. Church staff are also trained to watch for symptoms of COVID-19, and ensure everyone is wearing face coverings.
Only staff members who belong to less vulnerable groups are designated to interact with congregants. Church staff is also required to wear face masks, and those who exhibit symptoms of the illness are asked to stay home.
- Limiting singing and recitation
Singing worship songs and reciting prayers have taken a backseat in many churches for now. Singing and talking release droplets into the air, which increases the chance of transmitting viruses. In their place, a solo singer is designated to sing in a separate area, or recorded music is played. Silent recitation is also practiced.
Churches who cannot avoid singing and recitation are encouraged to observe significant social distancing, or install plexiglass barriers between congregants from different households.
- Strict cleaning and disinfecting
All high traffic areas are thoroughly cleaned daily, and surfaces that are frequently touched, such as door knobs, seats, pews, collection plates, and others, are disinfected before and after a service. Shared items like prayer books and prayer rugs must also be disinfected between services.
Hand sanitizers are provided at several areas around the church, including entrances, lobbies, elevator landings, meeting rooms, and so on. As much as possible, natural ventilation is used instead of air conditioning.
- Collections and donations
No doubt, one of the biggest struggles faced by churches in light of the pandemic is financing. Since churches rely mostly on collections and donations during worship services for funding, the limitations on worship services have dealt a big blow to their finances.
If you’re facing the same predicament, here are some solutions to consider:
- Digital payments
Many churches have turned to online solutions to allow their members to continue donating even without attending services in person. Just as worship services are broadcasted online, congregants are also given the opportunity to continue giving to their church through digital means.
PayPal offers a convenient option. A number of your church members likely have an existing PayPal account, and the platform offers a low service fee for charitable organizations.
Another option is BillPay, a payment service offered by many banks. If congregants include the church in their list of regular payees, the bank will generate an electronic check on behalf of their client and send it to the church via USPS.
- In-person collection
For in-person services, make the collection process safer by positioning baskets or collection plates in convenient places around the church instead of passing the plate from one person to another. Counters should also observe sanitation and disinfecting practices.
- Sending reminders
Consider sending out reminders to your congregation about the need to give to the church, perhaps through emails or newsletters, or before or after online services. However, keep in mind that there are congregants who may also be facing financial difficulties because of the crisis, and it’s important to convey the church’s sensitivity on this matter.
- Digital payments
Get more helpful tips and information, and learn more about church real estate with Church Building Consultants Realty. Get in touch with the team today at 630.344.9449 or send an email to Dan(at)ChurchBuildingRealty(dotted)com