What a crazy couple of months this has been!
We went from celebrating Christmas to scrambling to do virtual services leading up to and including Easter Sunday.
These unprecedented times have caused church leaders to rethink every aspect of how church is done.
We are now into May, and some states are slowing opening their economy.
Restaurants and retail shops are beginning to open with limited capacity and with strict social distancing guidelines with the hope that infection rates will continue to decline.
I personally am waiting for the salons to reopen!
But what does this mean for the annual church picnic, vacation bible school, or youth retreat?
By now, most churches have these events on their calendar and are rethinking dates and the best approach for hosting these favored events.
8 Things To Consider For Summer Events
1. Consider Changing The Dates
The experts are telling us that the deeper we get into summer, the more likely we will see this virus infection rates slow.
If your dates for summer events are scheduled in early June, consider backing them up to late July or even early August.
That will give your planning team time to assess its vulnerabilities and make plans to provide a safe environment for attendees.
2. The New Normal
Life as we knew it has changed.
We have gone from a relaxed group of people who enjoyed fellowship with each other to a culture that fears close interactions are potentially life-threatening events.
Things have changed, and some predict we may never completely return to shaking hands in church or hugging a fellow worshiper.
Kids’ ministry has always had some level of awareness of disease spread, but this pandemic has taken that reality to a whole new level.
Protecting kids from disease spread has never been more important, and churches are taking steps to ensure safety for those children that they serve.
Churches have always cared about cleanliness and cleaning processes.
However, amidst a pandemic, sanitation and cleaning procedures need to be enhanced to protect against the spread of the virus.
If your church hopes to continue with its plan to host summer events, sanitation procedures will be important to participants.
Think about how you will communicate steps you are taking to ensure a safe environment for parents and volunteers who help with the events.
4. Social Distancing Guidelines
Social distancing guidelines have become the new norm when out in public.
You will need to create guidelines specific for summer events and think through what that means for participants.
For instance, vacation bible school may include kid crafts or bible study.
Develop a plan for the facility and use the guidelines as you set up tables, study areas, or outdoor activities.
Make it a game for the kids and reward kids for adhering to guidelines.
5. Volunteer Training
Volunteers are the lifeblood of a church and are the hands and feet that make great events happen.
Train this valuable group of people so they can help to ensure safety for all.
Create a training session that focuses on sanitation, social distancing, and clever ways to encourage event participants to adhere to guidelines.
For instance, if your annual youth retreat incorporates outside activities, train volunteers on best practices for ensuring kids stay a safe distance from each other.
And then reward those kids who follow guidelines.
6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
At times like this, you can never communicate too often.
Spend time with planning teams and think through those questions that parents might have.
Talk to members to find out what is on their mind and then communicate.
Communicate what you know, communicate what the teams are considering, and communicate the process the planning teams are using to address concerns.
For instance, let parents know that your events will follow state guidelines for social distancing and sanitation.
7. Parent Involvement
Parents will undoubtedly have concerns about sending their kids to any type of camp or event this summer.
Use this reality and solicit help and ideas from parents.
Simply asking the question, “what are your concerns, and do you have any suggestions that we can use to enhance our safety practices for this event…?”
Give parents the opportunity to provide feedback, offer suggestions, and help develop a process to ensure safety for the kids.
Incorporate parent ideas into planning efforts, communicate those things that have been suggested, and those steps the planning teams are taking to ensure parent concerns are being addressed.
There is (understandably) considerable concern about the liability that churches have for gatherings.
Washington is working to address these concerns by seeking to shield businesses from liability during the pandemic.
It’s too early to know for sure how this will shake out, so your best defense is to seek counsel from a legal expert or your liability insurance carrier.
They will be able to give you guidance and help you ensure you are taking every necessary step to protect the church.
Summer is a favored time of year for all of us.
Kids look forward to the annual summer camps and events that churches offer.
Work with your planning teams to think through the details, ensure safe social distancing practices, and allow parents to participate in the planning process.
These steps may allow your church to pull off some great summer events for the kids and reassure concerned parents and members that your church is doing everything possible to keep everyone safe during this pandemic.