Frequently Asked Questions
What do the stages of reopening look like, and how will we know we’re ready for the next stage?
The stages of reopening will look different for each church and community as the spread of COVID-19 is continually monitored and predictions are updated. Governor Abbott’s Office recommends following various safety protocols, including maintaining social distancing and sanitizing frequently-touched areas regularly. A full list of his recommendations can be found here.
Does the state have guidelines for opening church buildings that include specifics such as cleaning or taking temps of parishioners?
Yes, Governor Abbott’s Office has released a Minimum Standards Health Protocol for churches and places of worship. These standards include regularly disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, ensuring worshippers are spaced six feet apart from people they did not arrive with and asking employees with any symptoms to stay home. The full document is available here.
How do we encourage people to actually follow social distancing guidelines and wearing masks when we resume gathering?
To ensure proper social distancing, the Governor’s Office suggests families sit two chairs apart and leave every other row empty. Roping off these rows and empty chairs (or six feet on a pew) can prevent people from violating the rules. The Governor’s Office also suggests increased signage around the building, such as on doorways, worship screens and the ends of rows, reminding people to cover their faces and maintain their distance.
How many people are allowed to attend services when we first reopen? When can we reach full capacity?
Though the Constitution says places of worship cannot be closed by the government, Governor Abbott has asked churches to carefully consider restricting gatherings. He suggests those who did not arrive at church together sit six feet apart, which will naturally limit the number of people who can fit inside the church. Also consider recommending high-risk congregants, including those with pre-existing conditions and above the age of 65, remain home and attend church online. To read the full guidelines for houses of worship as presented by the Attorney General’s Office, updated on April 27, click here.
What is the best way for churches to do both a virtual and physical meeting at the same time?
A combination of virtual and physical meetings will likely serve congregations well for the coming months. As you consider the needs of your more vulnerable members, continuing to provide online services and meetings could be helpful as they may not return to physical meetings for many weeks. Also, be sure to consider the new individuals you have reached through online formats and find ways to connect with them and continue virtual relationships.
How do we ensure this experience doesn't get wasted by "going back to normal?”
The underlying presupposition is that churches will not suddenly be "going back to normal." Rather, a new normal in our post-COVID-19 culture exists. Doors have been opened to online worship and small groups, and just because in-person worship is allowed, hopefully, it is not going to end these online options. Many churches have tapped into a new way of connecting with their community/guests through online worship. They should capitalize on these opportunities, not eliminate them.
Is it best to slowly get back to "normal" Sunday service or start back with worship service only then phase in Sunday School classes?
The answer is likely to vary significantly across the state and from church to church, due to:
Varying rates of infection geographically
Varying space limitations/configurations of facilities
Age, health, and risk tolerance of preschool/children's teachers/leaders
Differences in access to dependable high-speed internet required for satisfactory online experiences
Demographic differences as older populations may not be as comfortable with online worship/groups, but are also at higher risk for health issues. Parents may be slow to bring children back to group areas.
Church leaders should survey members of all ages/stages before announcing a plan for relaunching. Some members might need to be encouraged to wait longer than others to return to group settings. The challenge for small groups/Sunday School classes is that physical distancing makes most classrooms/living rooms way too small to hold a group of any size.
How are we to approach Youth Ministry and when?
Each church will need to prayerfully make decisions with their students, leaders and community in mind. Remember that what adults do in moderation, teenagers often do in excess. Guidelines pertaining to distancing and safety need to be closely followed, rather than carelessly dismissed, by all leadership. Include students and parents, as well as youth workers, in the planning, as well as the execution, of the relaunch. To read an article by Youth Discipleship Specialist Jane Wilson with considerations for youth ministers and church leaders, click here.
What does childcare look like when we first open back up?
As you consider the best way to reopen, begin with worship. At a later date, add Bible Study for youth, children, then preschool. Plan on a controlled, “soft” opening for the Children and Preschool areas. This will ensure all the wrinkles are ironed out before opening these areas to everyone. Click here to read an article by Diane Lane, Childhood Discipleship specialist, and several children’s ministers.
What might Vacation Bible Study look like this summer?
Vacation Bible Study will look different as each church continues to respond in a manner best suited to their community. Diane Lane, Childhood Discipleship specialist, explains that there was no one “right” way to do VBS. Furthermore, she encourages leaders to look for innovative ideas or use this as a chance to try out non-traditional VBS methods. To read Lane’s tips and suggestions for a successful 2020 VBS, click here.
Virus-related updates and ministry-specific resources for churches and ministry partners.
Important note about the content on this page
The information provided on this site is intended to help our Texas Baptist churches and ministry partners, any information provided is for informational and educational purposes only. The recommendations or suggestions included do not constitute legal or medical advice and cannot ensure a favorable result. Additionally, the information contained on this site should not be deemed inclusive of all potential options or methods nor exclusive of other options or methods of reopening a church facility. While the information contained on this site has been published with all due care and skill, the BGCT does not warrant or represent that the Information is free from errors or omissions. By utilizing this site, you agree that the BGCT and its employees and agents shall not be liable for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on the Information, whether caused by reason of any error, negligent act, omission or misrepresentation in the information or otherwise.