919 Scherm Road
Owensboro KY 42301
Phone: (270) 684-3349
Office hours: Monday/Tuesday/Thursday: 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Wednesday: 8:00 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday: Closed

COVID-19 Re-Entry Plan Phase III

posted on September 21


PHASE III [THINKING FORWARD]-
SUSTAINING SAFE FACILITIES AND HEALTH OF CONGREGATIONAL MEMBERS

 

Phase III guidelines are presented here for Kentucky Annual Conference Churches and their re-entry teams to discern if their facility is ready to enter into Phase III or remain in Phase II. It is important that your church’s re-entry team evaluate the current context of your facilities, your congregation’s demographics, as well as the current infection rate of your county. Your re-entry team can access current infection rates per county at the following website. 
https://govstatus.egov.com/kycovid19 
Scroll to the middle of the page and find the map entitled “COVID-19 Current Incidence Rate in Kentucky.” In the map’s legend, you will find color codes that identify the incidence rate per 100,000 persons. The map is one tool/metric of many that can help your church’s re-entry team discern the wisdom of entering into Phase III. It is important that your re-entry team utilize other contextual information in your church and community to discern if the church is ready to enter into Phase III. Ultimately, Phase III is about maintaining safe worship and discipleship environments. Prevention strategies are your church’s best defense in reducing the spread of Coronavirus. 
As a re-entry team, please be mindful that it may be necessary for your church to go from Phase III back to Phase II if conditions change in your county or your local church. It is also important for your church to be compliant with CDC, state, and local guidelines.

Here are guidelines that you can implement when the church re-entry team discerns that the time is right to move into Phase III. 
Baptisms:
Infant Baptism: The pastor should not hold the baby during the baptism. The parents should only hold the baby during the sacrament. Sprinkling or pouring is the preferred method for baptism. Please be mindful of keeping distance between the pastor and the infant/family during the liturgy. The parents may present the newly baptized baby to the congregation from the chancel; however, they are discouraged from walking the baby throughout the sanctuary. All participants should have masks on, with the exception of the infant. Only immediate family should be with the infant at the chancel. Grandparents, God-parents, and other family members should remain seated or can be socially distanced by greater than six feet across the chancel area if your sanctuary has the space to do so.  
 
Youth & Adult Baptism: Pastors should maintain social distance from the person to be baptized. All persons should wear masks throughout the liturgy. No immersions should be practiced while the church is in Phase III and the pandemic is still active – even when practiced outside and with masks. The reason that immersions are not recommended is that this mode of baptism requires the parishioner and pastor to be in physical contact and closer than six feet to one another. Sprinkling or pouring is the preferred method for baptism. Please be mindful of keeping distance between the pastor and those to be baptized during the liturgy. Only immediate family should be with the person to be baptized at the chancel. If multiple persons not of the same family are to be baptized, consider performing the baptisms of separate Sundays. If two persons want to be baptized on the same Sunday, only welcome one person and their family into the chancel at one time.
 
Meals: Meals served off of the church’s campus are still preferred during Phase III. However, if your church chooses to host meals on-campus, the following guidelines are suggested:

  1. Have one person serve the meals to every person. The server should be sanitized and masked.
  2. Individually wrapped items are best.
  3. Buffet lines are not permitted.
  4. It is recommended that food be commercially prepared, or prepared by only one person at the church who uses proper CDC and health department guidelines for food preparation. It is important to minimize the handling and preparing of food by multiple persons.
  5. Potlucks are not permitted.
  6. Adapt the dining environment for social distancing. Utilize 50% capacity (or current local guidelines for capacity) for the dining area. Seat one family per table. Distance tables at least six feet from one another. While masks can be removed for eating, persons should place their mask back on if they get up to go to restroom, get more food, etc.

 
Nurseries: Volunteers or staff need to wear masks and PPE while tending the church nursery. Please consult this link for information on how to determine how many infants or toddlers can be present in your church’s nursery. Page two of this link provides information about social distancing for childcare programs and will inform your church about state requirements for social distancing in childcare situations. Further guidance can also be found at this link. Temperature checks should be performed on all staff, volunteers, parents, and infants. Socially distance (6 feet or more) the children and cribs. Utilize state and local health department guidelines for daycares regarding capacity, volunteers, and size of the room. Kentucky Childcare Regulations and Guidelines
 
Older adults: Please be aware of your health conditions and your personal risk. Consult with your physician about your risk tolerance. Risk factors include but are not limited to diabetes, heart disease, overweight, COPD, etc. For older adults, it is important to remember that worship is different than volunteering with children’s ministry. Risk of exposure is higher when volunteering or interacting with others outside of your immediate family.
 
Singing: Soloists and music that enables spiritual reflection is always preferred in Phase III. Your church’s re-entry team must remember that singing is a high-risk activity. Re-entry teams should carefully evaluate your church’s capacity to sing hymns, as well as the environment that hymns or praise songs are sung. (outside vs. inside) Parishioners should keep masks on throughout the service. Whispering the words, humming the melody, or quietly singing the hymn below normal speech volumes may be a way to implement congregational worship music in Phase III.

Children’s ministry:
Follow preschool and daycare standards given by the Commonwealth of Kentucky (links above). Assess the space that you have within the church building and think creatively about useful space throughout the facility. It is preferred to do children’s activities in larger rooms like a gym or fellowship hall rather than smaller classrooms. Be mindful of the age of your volunteers to ensure that older adults are not unnecessarily exposed. Children should not share school or craft supplies. Encourage families to prepare and bring snacks from home or utilize individually wrapped snacks. Children’s ministers should think about ways that they can resource parents to become the spiritual teacher in their home during the pandemic. Remember to maintain contact with children and parents through phone calls and video calls so as to maintain those relationships.
 
Middle School Ministry: Middle school (grades 6th through 8th) may meet together with appropriate social distancing of six feet, frequent washing or sanitizing of hands, and mask usage. As with children’s ministry, think of ways to adapt the environment or activities so that the environment/activity encourages social distancing. Middle schoolers often meet with high schoolers for youth group and this is allowed. If your church’s youth group is larger than 10 youth, consider breaking up the larger group into smaller groups less than 10 for Bible study or discussions. Remember to utilize larger rooms than you would normally use with youth (gym, outside, cafeteria, fellowship hall, etc.)
 
High School Ministry: Continue the use of standard precautions and guidelines with high schoolers. (masks, hand sanitizing/washing, social distancing) Consider use of larger rooms for youth activities and utilize outdoor spaces if possible. Consider breaking larger youth groups into smaller groups, less than 10, for discussions, Bible Studies, etc.
 

Recommendations from KAC Children & Family Ministry Team
as of 9.17.2020
 
Here are guidelines that you can implement when the church re-entry team discerns that the time is right to move into Phase III. 


 
Food in children’s ministry

  1. Have one person serve the meals to every person. The server should be sanitized and masked and wearing gloves that are disposed of afterward. 
  2. Individually wrapped items are best for children who are able to open them independently. Otherwise, any snacks should be distributed as carefully and distantly as possible. 
  3. Buffet lines are not permitted. Children should be served at their seats. 
  4. It is recommended that food be commercially prepared, or prepared by only one person at the church who uses proper CDC and health department guidelines for food preparation. It is important to minimize the handling and preparing of food by multiple persons.
  5. Potlucks and snacks from home for the whole group, such as birthday cupcakes, are not permitted.
  6. Adapt the dining environment for social distancing. Utilize 50% capacity (or current local guidelines for capacity) for the dining area. Seat one family per table. Distance tables at least six feet from one another. While masks can be removed for eating, persons should place their mask back on if they get up to go to restroom, get more food, move about the room, etc.  

 
Volunteers: Please be aware of your health conditions and your personal risk. Consult with your physician about your risk tolerance. Risk factors include but are not limited to diabetes, heart disease, overweight, COPD, etc. For older adults, it is important to remember that worship is different than volunteering with children’s ministry. Risk of exposure is higher when volunteering or interacting with others outside of your immediate family. 
 
Singing: Your church’s re-entry team must remember that singing is a high-risk activity. Re-entry teams should carefully evaluate your church’s capacity to sing hymns, as well as the environment that hymns or praise songs are sung. (outside vs. inside) Participants should keep masks on at all times. If there is concern about the higher risk of singing, alternatives include: 

  • humming the melody 
  • quietly singing music
  • individual, unshared instruments
  • sign language
  • dancing
  • ribbons/scarves/streamers (separate used from unused) 
  • shakers

Children who want to sing along should not be shushed. 
 
Children’s ministry
Follow preschool and daycare standards given by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Assess the space that you have within the church building and think creatively about useful space throughout the facility. It is recommended to minimize exposure between households as much as possible. Depending on the number of children in your church, this could mean:

  • spreading them out in a socially distant way within a large room like gym or fellowship hall
    • distanced chairs
    • hula hoops taped to the floor
    • tape circles/boxes on the floor
    • tables/desks spread out 
  • combining a limited number of children and volunteers in small group rooms, keeping siblings together whenever possible. Consider the size of your room when determining what your room capacity should be. A room should be able to accommodate 6 feet of distance between each person, whether they maintain that physical distancing or not. (They will not.)

 
Other recommendations for children’s ministry

  • Children age 5 and up should wear masks at all times. 
  • Take regular breaks for handwashing. 
  • Do not use water fountains. 
  • Children should not share school or craft supplies. This means that activity centers that children rotate through are not recommended. 
  • If possible, avoid snack time, especially during ministries that last an hour or less. If snacks are served, distance children six feet apart and follow food service guidelines above. 
  • Children should not pass objects from one to another during games or circle time. 
  • If possible, provide individual children with supply packets that remain at church and are not shared. 
  • Pre-package craft supplies
  • Use safe outdoor spaces with children as long as weather allows
  • Wash or sanitize all hands before and after each transition between rooms or outdoor spaces. 

 
Children’s ministers and staff are recommended to have 3 versions or adaptations of lesson plans or activities that would meet these three possibilities:
 

  1. How will we operate our event or do our lesson in complete lock down?
  2. How will we operate our event or do our lesson in a hybrid model?
  3. How will we operate our event or do our lesson when completely open? 

 
Staff need to be able to do any of these three realities and adjust lesson plans at a moment’s notice in case things change. Follow local school and health department recommendations with regards to number of children in a classroom, social distancing, masks, etc. 
 
Family discipleship
Children’s ministers should think about ways that they can resource parents to become the spiritual teacher in their home during the pandemic. Remember to maintain contact with children and parents through phone calls and video calls so as to maintain those relationships. 
 
 
Further Children’s Ministry Resources and Ideas from 
Dr. LeAnne Hadley
 
A hybrid model is one way to do children’s ministry during this time. For example, children’s ministers could utilize three successive weeks of Zoom calls followed by one socially distanced event at the church. At the socially distanced event, modify the environment so that it is easy for children to maintain social distancing without feeling punished. For example, think about ways to create barriers (tables, chairs, etc.) between volunteers/ministers and the children so that they are able to maintain a minimum of six feet distance. Children love to hug volunteers and ministers! Barriers are a non-invasive way of ensuring social distancing for children. Physical barriers and adaptation of the environment are also better than reminding a child consistently to maintain social distancing. Such adaptation also allows the lesson to proceed with less interruption. 
 
Be aware of children’s attention span. Keep Zoom call lessons with children and their parents to about 10-15 minutes. It is recommended to have smaller groups of children on the Zoom call (5-6 children) rather than a large group of children on the Zoom call all at one time. Smaller groups will allow children the opportunity to participate. 
 
Some children’s ministry professionals prefer to send materials, lessons and crafts home for families, either through the mail or by personal delivery or electronically. Some find that these resources are utilized, and some are not. Listen to the families within your church to determine effectiveness of at-home resources. Phone calls and FaceTime/Zoom prayer times with parents and children are always an option for maintaining important relationships and comforting children. 
 
Children’s ministers should remember that children are in crisis now as well. They are experiencing change, stressors, and a loss of control. Respond to their behaviors with grace, understanding that they are feeling a lack of control in general and need a safe place and safe people with whom they can share, pray, and be in community with. 
 
Ensure that there is a feedback loop with parents to find out what is working well and what is not working well with children’s ministries. Overcommunication is key during COVID. 
 
Children’s ministers should make sure to engage the senior pastor. Make sure that the ministerial staff are present and on-site so they can engage with children and families and maintain those important relationships. 
 
Monthly Children’s Minister Gathering
Children’s ministers can join Dr. LeAnne Hadley every month for a gathering of children’s ministers throughout the United States. The gathering is a time for support, sharing of ideas, 
 
Children’s ministers can email LeAnne and ask to be added to a reminder list. She will invite the children’s minister to a monthly Zoom call for children’s ministers across the USA. They will get support and share ministry ideas in the call. Contact Dr. Hadley to be added to the list. 
Email: leannehadley@me.com