02.09.22 | Wellness and Missions
Leaders, identified and equipped by the task force, must take responsibility for enforcing necessary policies to create a safe space for people who come into our church buildings to worship. (BWC Guidelines for Re-entering Well, p. 4)
While it may sound a bit dramatic, the cost of not observing precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may literally be life or death. Churches that ignore mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and physical distancing are endangering the health and wellbeing of unvaccinated individuals and putting those with compromised immune systems in danger. Some countries have recorded a high percentage of COVID-19 cases that are traceable to faith community gatherings.
In this ongoing pandemic phase, it is still essential to understand the importance of following health and safety protocols:
- Stay home if you or someone you are in contact with feels sick or has a temperature (to prevent the spread of the virus);
- Maintain six feet apart from others not in your immediate family or pod (to prevent the airborne spread of the virus among those who are symptom free);
- Wear a face mask at all times when away from home or not in your pod (to protect yourself and others);
- Do not touch your face (to prevent the virus from entering your body); and
- Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and use hand-sanitizer to clean hands after using the restroom or after touching a surface (to kill the virus).
Until CDC guidelines are revised.
Pastors and church leaders should model protocols at all times and speak often about the guidelines with intentions of positively influencing participant behaviors. They should also help the entire gathering understand that we are our sibling’s keeper and demonstrate this by helping one another follow all health guidelines.
The Re-Entering Well Task Force should identify and train a team of “wellbeing guides” who will ensure that physical distancing and other prevention measures are observed during gatherings. Please note that pastors will not be able to focus on this in addition to their other responsibilities on Sunday mornings and gatherings where they are responsible for teaching or leading.
Ushers and greeters should be trained and paired with wellbeing guides who are able to manage potential confrontations with people who do not adhere to the health safety guidelines.
- Select the right people for these tasks. The wellbeing guides must be:
- Willing to ensure adherence to policies outside and inside of the building;
- Able to comport themselves as a non-anxious presence;
- Calm and reassuring when interacting with participants, and aware that some people may have anxieties about being in public settings. These anxieties may present themselves in unexpected ways; and
- Reliable and willing to answer questions.
- Develop a training session to:
- Review this Tip Sheet
- Create clear talking points that enforce the fact that we are in this together as we seek to create a safe space for all. Role playing and scenario planning should be a significant part of the training. For example:
- If someone is approaching the church without a facemask say something like: “May I get you a mask? One of the ways we show our love and care for one another is requiring everyone to wear one.”
- If someone refuses to wear a mask one might say: “I understand that masks are uncomfortable but they are required for everyone’s safety. If you are uncomfortable wearing a mask, please join us virtually. Thanks for understanding.”
- If someone is getting closer than six feet: “One of the most difficult things for me is to remember not to get too close to people. We put the tape on the ground and in the seats as a visual reminder. Thanks for helping us keep that protocol in place.”
- Talk with your team about other scenarios and create scripts. Be sure to explore worst case scenarios.
- Schedule guides in pairs for mutual support, and communicate to the leadership team the strategic locations where wellbeing guides may be located during gatherings.
- Consider developing a mechanism whereby wellbeing guides can call for backup if participant resistance emerges or if the gathering is particularly large.
Wellbeing guides will play a key leadership role in helping a church do re-entry well. They will also provide leadership that ensures that blame and stigma related to the diagnosis of COVID-19 or decisions about vaccinations are avoided within the congregation. Knowing and sharing honest and factual information will enhance success in this role.
“Standing Too Close. Not Covering Coughs. If Someone Is Violating Physical Distancing Rules, What Do You Do?” https://time.com/5819816/coronavirus-social-distancing/ While this is an older article (even before we knew to call it physical distancing instead of social distancing) it provides some helpful examples of what you can do.