COVID-19 Guidance for Churches
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to require churches to pivot and make difficult decisions to keep people safe, the Minnesota Conference is committed to offering recommendations that take into account the Minnesota Department of Health guidance for faith communities, as well as current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. We are mindful that Minnesota churches are extremely diverse in terms of size, congregational makeup, and vaccination status, and the COVID-19 situation is different in each community; thus a one-size fits all approach to the pandemic doesn’t work. The suggestions below are intended to help church leaders make healthy pastoral decisions, not to act as a fixed set of guidelines that will account for every circumstance.
Current risk level in Minnesota: Low.
We recently came down from the omicron surge. Right now, 74.5 percent of Minnesotans ages 5 and up have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which provides protection from hospitalization and death, but breakthrough infections remain a concern.
Our recommendations for all churches:
- Encourage vaccination for everyone who is eligible.
- Require indoor masking for all, preferably with a high-quality (not cloth) mask.
- Provide online options for anyone not comfortable meeting in-person.
- When transmission in your community is high, provide for appropriate social distancing.
- Be cautious about eating together, and provide socially distanced options.
- Put retreats or mission trips on hold.
- Require that adults engaged in children/youth ministry be fully vaccinated.
When the infection rate is high, mitigation measures are our best tool to keep people safe. Here are some mitigation measures you can use for worship and life events when the infection rate is a concern:
- Thoroughly clean surfaces and common areas between services.
- Deliver the children’s message from a distance (asking the children to remain in their pews) so that they can maintain safe distancing, particularly since not all children have yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
- Use no-touch alternatives for greetings and passing of the peace. Consider a friendly wave, a slight bow of the head, or crossing your arms over your heart.
- Use no-touch alternatives for communion, if you choose to offer it at this time. For example, have each person pick up a set of pre-packaged elements as they enter and remain socially distanced as they take communion in their seats, or have a masked and gloved steward place individual cups and bread in people’s hands as they exit the sanctuary at the end of the service.
- Collect the offering without person-to-person contact. Consider having one or more baskets around the sanctuary that people could simply place their offering into during worship or on the way out.
- Minimize the number of items that need to be touched or distributed. Consider using screens or bulletins (one-time use only) rather than Bibles, hymnals, or other worship books to avoid having multiple people touch surfaces.
- Consider alternatives to congregational singing in the church building, since it is considered a high-risk activity. For example, have only a choir sing or ask people to hum, rather than sing, along to music. If you do have congregational singing, mitigate the risk by requiring everyone to mask.
- A small number of music leaders who are singing do not need to be masked while performing, but they should be adequately spaced out from each other and the congregation.
- At the end of service, direct people row by row to leave the building to maintain physical distancing. Create opportunities for fellowship time online instead of before or after worship. For everyone’s safety, encourage people to leave the building as soon as worship concludes rather than mingling.
- Consider eliminating or limiting volunteer-based nursery care given that social distancing guidelines likely couldn’t be followed in a nursery with young children and that young children haven’t yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
- Consider limiting guests at weddings and funerals to ensure proper social distancing.
- Modify baptisms so they include no skin-to-skin contact. Consider having parents hold babies and small children as the pastor performs the rite.