As churches slowly begin to reopen, the natural next thought is: When do we resume our GenZ ministries? Although we want to move forward as quickly as possible, it is best to remember the old adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.” There are some churches in “friendly states” who have begun very modified GenZ ministries. In these cases the churches have completely reorganized their schedules and facilities to accommodate an hour long Wednesday night children’s meeting (in the main auditorium) and a youth program (in a large youth room or fellowship hall). The adults not involved with the GenZ programs attend their Sunday morning groups during this time. Not every church has the facilities for this option, so proceed with caution.
Listed below are key guidance plans for reopening churches and restarting youth activities. Take time to read through each carefully. As your state issues guidance regarding education, children’s and youth activities, read them to gain an understanding of their interpretation of the CDC guidance. Your state’s guidance will be what you will want to follow.
- White House Phase 1-3 reopening plan (youth and children’s activities may resume in Phase 2)
- May 12th – Georgia guidelines for day cares and summer camps begins page 21 (provided to see a state’s interpretation of CDC guidance)
- May 14th – The CDC issued a detailed 60-page document for reopening schools, child-care facilities, and other industries; youth and education guidance is found on pages 40-48.
- May 23rd – CDC guidance for reopening churches
As expected from government documents, the guidance is convoluted. There is no specific guidance for church youth programs, therefore, church leaders are left to make their own decisions. We have provided a few tips as you make your plans in reopening and restarting various ministries of your church.
We are navigating through uncharted waters. What we do now will set a precedent for the future. At the same time, our actions during this time is establishing a testimony in our community for a future opportunity to reach out.
Ensure that your church is in complete compliance in every area of your Constitution and By Laws. Failure to be puts the church at grave risk in any potential litigation. (This is true for any time, not just in these times.) If your church is not in compliance with your own rules and guidelines, wait on restarting your ministries for a time. (For further guidance or any questions, please contact the Christian Law Association (CLA).)
Above and Beyond
We understand the urgency to get back to normal. Many churches are still simply trying to navigate reopening for Sunday morning in-person services. Go slow and be cautious in your decision to restart your youth programs. Know your area, the status of active cases, the community feeling on reopening, etc. Work with other churches in your community on reopening policies and guidelines.
As a testimony to your members as well as to the community, plan to go above and beyond in every area. If you are not able to minimally follow the guidelines your state suggests for reopening, you should wait to restart your GenZ ministries until you can.
Redeem the Time
Remember why you are restarting your GenZ ministry. Nearly every pastor and ministry leader we have spoken to through this crisis has had a moment (or two) of reflection on what worship and ministry truly is. Many are planning changes as things “get back to normal.”
Now is a good time to re-focus your GenZ ministry. With reduced time for weekly ministry, major on the majors in the time you do have. Scripture memory and Bible teaching should be the main part of your time back with the youth. Fun things may be included, but if the fun time is longer than the Bible teaching and scripture memory, something is out of focus.
Continue with or begin digital avenues of ministry with your youth to enhance Bible teaching, communication, and time together throughout the week. The Gen Z generation thrives on digital; find ways to incorporate it into your ministry.
Leaders need to write a detailed reopening plan for the GenZ ministry. Include policies and procedures, safety and cleaning protocols, etc. This will help communicate your plans to staff, volunteers, parents, and members. Present the plan to your local public health department; they will be able to assist in ensuring you have a safe plan. You will also have written documentation to show to any authorities who might question your actions. Remember, whatever protocols you write down, you must follow them.
Staff and Volunteers
Before you decide to restart the GenZ ministry you will need to assess whether or not you will have enough staff or volunteers. Although churches are not required to follow student/teacher ratios, we all know that there needs to be at least two per group. With the extensive cleaning and sanitation guidelines, you may need to add one or two others simply to keep up with those requirements. There are also social distancing measures to consider. If you plan to meet in smaller groups to accommodate these guidelines you may need additional help to maintain the two leader per group safety protocols.
Speak with your staff and volunteers to ensure they will be comfortable jumping back into the GenZ ministry. Some regular volunteers may be in the vulnerable category which may exempt them for an extended time from serving in this area.
One of the big requirements is that of signage. Reminders of social distancing, how to properly wear a face mask, and sanitation policies are strongly suggested. These links are from the CDC with all the printables you should need for information, reminders, and directions.
- Coughing and Sneezing Etiquette
- Hand washing information includes posters, stickers, fact sheets, and videos
- Printable Posters for Staying Home When Sick and Slow the Spread of Germs Place these posters in nursery and children, and youth spaces, entryways, kitchens, and office areas.
The type of youth ministry you restart will largely depend on your facilities. In the Georgia guidance for day care and day camp the limitation is a maximum of 20 individuals per “single location” (classroom) with 6 feet social distancing as much as possible. For many churches this number of people in a single classroom will be difficult due to room square footage.
The classrooms in these photos are from a church with a small Christian school. Even in a room of this size having 20 individuals properly social distancing will prove difficult.
Note the tables in the photos. The kindergarten tables are roughly 6 feet in length. With the guidance from the CDC and the state of Georgia it would be impossible for these tables to be of much use in the classroom. Additional guidance for schools or day cares suggests students all face the same direction; therefore, children would not be able to sit across from one another. The regular school desks (background photo 1) would be a better option for a table surface for writing or coloring as they could be angled and spaced to aid in social distancing.
Presently, masks are recommended for everyone over the age of 2. Encourage staff and members to wear masks at all times if it is medically feasible for them to do so.
Remind those attending to monitor their temperatures. You may want to invest in touchless, infrared thermometers (especially in the youth areas) to help identify someone with a fever should they become ill while at church. No one with a temperature of 100.4 or exhibiting any symptoms of illness should attend services; family members should remain at home as well as a precaution. Set aside an area for quarantine in the facility should someone become ill while at services and are unable to leave right away.
Provide hand sanitizer throughout the premises. Keep restroom supplies well-stocked. Wipes should be available near high traffic touch points. Assign individuals to wipe down surfaces regularly. In the children’s areas ensure that shared objects are cleaned between each child’s use or set aside to be cleaned later.
Should someone attend services then later become diagnosed positive for Covid-19 have a plan in place for alerting those who attended. Be prepared to suspend in-person services for at least the 14 day quarantine period. Follow all guidelines for deep cleaning the facilities.
A big part of church fellowship is food. IF you should decide to have an activity or fellowship involving food, follow CDC and state guidelines for restaurants to ensure you are fellowshipping in a safe manner.
The testimony of your church in the community is paramount; be mindful of this in your planning. Use the time you will have together to be intentional in true ministry. Know who it is your are ministering to and determine if you are being effective; ministry that is not effective is simply busyness. As pastors and ministry leaders we are tasked with the spiritual well being, growth, and safety of the flock. In these unprecedented times we are also tasked with keeping the flock as physically safe as we can. Planning with thoughtfulness and in great detail will go far in protecting the church and your ministry now and in the future.