ReOpening Churches: Executive Operations & Facility Management After COVID-19

As we transition from thinking about COVID-19 strategies to post-COVID-19, how can we start preparing operations and facility management after such an unprecedented change in the way we gather and worship?

Now is the time to determine what values and processes will remain consistent, what innovative strategies you’ve uncovered in the past weeks that need to be further integrated into your church, and what needs to be completely restructured to experience God to the fullest capacity when your church doors open again. I spoke with a panel of church leaders to discuss how they’re preparing to reopen their facilities.

Panelists

  • Lani Wilbanks – Business Administrator, The Foundry (Washington DC)
  • Matt Grabill – Executive Pastor, South Bend City Church (South Bend, IN)
  • David Van Pelt – Administrative Pastor, New Hope Community Church (CA)
  • Eric Allred – Executive Pastor, The Chapel (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
  • Tammy McQuarters – Business Manager, Transformation Church (Tulsa, OK)
  • Brad Flurry – Executive Pastor of Ministries, Kingsland Baptist Church (Katy, TX)
  • Sutton Turner – Chief Operating Officer, Vanderbloemen

6 Processes for Reopening the Church

  1. Praying and using wisdom. While creating a plan to reopen, churches are prioritizing the safety of staff, volunteers, and church members. Although it was a quick transition to having church virtually, leaders are in a position to truly take ownership of the process and schedule of reopening without feeling the pressure of moving too quickly. Take your time planning the safest process for your congregation’s circumstances.
  2. Evaluating how to maintain the online community while transitioning back to on-campus services. Many churches are thriving with their online worship experiences. It’s going to be important to find ways to maintain this progress upon making the transition back into buildings. Try to connect with as many online members as possible with the goal of inviting them to in-person services when you reopen.
  3. Addressing the logistics. It’s expected for smaller sized churches to be able to gather sooner than churches with larger congregations. Larger churches may not be able to accommodate their church members and visitors while also maintaining social distancing requirements which may prolong the timeline of their ability to gather again. However, some churches are offering multiple services or drive through options to address this.
  4. Structuring the reopening of your church in phases. Here are a few of the gathering phases that churches are considering:
    • Phase I – Staff and Leadership Teams begin to meet.
    • Phase II – Begin limited-sized community groups during the week
    • Phase III – Implement a safe children’s ministry plan
    • Phase IV –  Outdoor worship experiences with the option for church members to stay in their cars
    • Phase V – Gathering as an entire congregation with designated entrance and exit points. To ensure everyone is aware of the new updates and changes, one church has decided to email out video instructions that help their members know exactly where to go.
  5. Following the federal state’s guidelines. When it comes to worship centers, it’s evident that maintaining social distancing standards will be necessary in order to begin the gathering as a congregation again.
  6. Continuing to provide worship opportunities. Consistently providing opportunities for members to gather and worship in the future will give them the option to choose whether or not they feel comfortable enough to gather. Ensure the opportunity is there for those who are eager.

Including Community in the Reopening Process

  • Some churches have found it helpful to survey their church community in order to assess the tiers of readiness in regards to gathering together for worship services.
  • Other have used this time to continuously reach out to their church members to gauge emotions and needs. This has helped give church leaders an idea of where their community stands now and what it may look like in the future for them to transition back into the church building.
  • Taking time to collaborate with surrounding churches in the community helps assess the possibilities of what the structure and timeline can look like. Forming a united front with other churches also provides a new kind of community that people are needing.

The Future of Staff and Volunteers After COVID-19

  • As of now, many churches do not plan on implementing COVID-19 testing protocols for staff and volunteers unless the state deems it necessary. There’s consensus  that Church Executives are committed to being good stewards of the local government by following local guidelines and regulations.
  • To make certain that building spaces are clean and safe, many churches are planning to increase the frequency of building cleanings. Once church plans to upscale disinfecting methods by implementing cleanings after every service which will require shorter worship services.
  • Although many executives are looking forward to transitioning their teams back into the building, they are being mindful and supportive of their staff and volunteers who may be afraid to return.

4 Practical Safety Precautions for Churches After COVID-19

  1. New giving alternatives. During COVID-19, many churches have implemented online giving systems. As executives plan to reopen churches, many are looking into having designated offering stations on campus rather than passing around offering plates or buckets.
  2. Virtual bulletins. Churches typically hand out bulletins to members for church services, however, many churches are planning to continue having virtual bulletins. This will decrease the number of person-to-person contact church members experience.
  3. Pre-packaged communion. This is a common concern for many churches, and today’s panelists agreed upon looking into pre-packaged communion and possible self-serve stations. However, some are finding it challenging to find these resources, so other alternatives will need to be created.
  4. Keeping hands clean by utilizing new kick-stops. One church mentioned installing door kick-stops for bathrooms so members can open doors with their feet instead of pushing the doors open with hands.

Communication Processes and Responsibilities After COVID-19

Communication is key as we move forward and reopen churches. Executives are dedicated to making sure that their community and visitor are connected during this transition. The number one communication tool that churches are using is eNewsletters which can include announcements, updates, changes, and even song lyrics. Clear and concise communication helps the church community understand what the transitional process of online services to gathering again looks like.

During COVID-19, executives have found it necessary to shift the responsibilities of their staff members to ensure new efforts are carried out effectively. As churches reopen, this is something that many staff members will continue to experience. There is an obvious need for those who excel in the areas of communication, development, and technology, and the need for these traits are not expected to decrease once churches can reopen again.

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Sutton Turner is the chief operating officer of Vanderbloemen, which serves teams with a greater purpose by aligning their people solutions for growth: hiring, compensation, succession and culture. Through its retained executive search and consulting services, Vanderbloemen serves churches, schools, nonprofits, family offices, and Christian businesses in all parts of the United States and internationally.

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