For churches who have decided that it is time to have in-person worship services again, one of the most important questions to ask next is whether they should also have in-person children’s programs.
The risks are many. There will be varying degrees of support from different stakeholders. Possible injury and harm may result in liabilities and claims. Increased media attention may be difficult to deal with. All staff and volunteers must learn new protocols to handle these risks. And of course, there is the worry of possibly being a hotspot for COVID-19 to spread.
But if your local health officials have deemed it safe, if you have discussed your situation with your insurance company, and if you believe you can do it properly and safely, then having in-person children’s programs would make it easier for families to attend service.
While planning for these programs, consider these issues:
Create cohorts to limit mingling and mixing of people
Divide your children into appropriate class sizes according to your local health guidelines and the limitations of your church building. Each class should stay contained in its own space without interactions with other classes. You may want to create classes around family groups instead of age. Otherwise, some families may end up being exposed to different cohorts because they have children of different ages belonging to different grades.
Recruit and train extra volunteers now
According to Plan to Protect, there are modified staff ratios during COVID-19.
Two screened workers are needed for each scenario:
- 6 infants (0-17 months)
- 10 toddlers
- 10 elementary-aged students
- 10 junior high students
- 10 senior high students
- 6 children with disabilities
These new ratios are important because some children find it a challenge to remain physically distanced from one another. Having more workers will help alleviate this challenge. However, these new ratios also mean an increased need for volunteers. It is also recommended that you keep volunteer rotations to a minimum. That means, keep the same volunteers with the same cohort and schedule them to serve consecutive weeks at a time.
Waivers and Declaration of Compliance
Ask families to sign a waiver to show they understand and agree to the possible risks of in-person gatherings. It is also a good idea to spell out clearly what your church’s expectations are of attendees. This might include masks, temperature checks, staying two metres apart at all times, and frequent hand washing.
Our Return to Service tool allows you to include forms such as waivers in your registration process. This ensures that every person who enters your doors have the information they need to do it safely. Contact us for help to include these forms in your church’s Return to Service tool. This tool will also keep a detailed attendance record of who was at which event so that future contact tracing can be done easily.
Your local health authorities will have guidelines for your community to follow. Translating them to your church’s particular situation is vital. Generally speaking, however, there are common practices that include a way to physically distance people, to sanitize surfaces and hands, and to improve air ventilation. Our June blog post has ideas on how to do some of these things for the children’s ministry.
Being a church leader is challenging at the best of times; being a church leader now may feel beyond overwhelming. But we trust in a God who guides us to make wise decisions so that we may care for His people. May we continue to rest in His faithfulness and to rely on one another as we prepare ourselves for new changes this fall.
As always, please adapt the information in this post to make sure it adheres to your local, provincial, and national health guidelines. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and reflects the opinion of the author. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on as professional advice. You should consult appropriate professionals for your specific situation.