Jerry Sparks, CIC, CRM
Senior Vice President, AGFinancial
A global pandemic has given birth to change. Every church has felt it, and every pastor has spent countless hours determining the best way to do ministry. The good news is that God is still on the throne, He wasn’t surprised by COVID-19, and He is still making a way.
It’s been inspiring to watch as churches innovate and find new ways to spread the gospel, reach their communities, and continue in their God-given mission. In this article, I’ll share many new trends seen in churches across the country and the related risk management opportunities that should be addressed.
Review your Insurance Policy
Regardless of a pandemic, it is always a good idea to review your church’s insurance policy and ensure you have proper coverages. As your ministry grows, your insurance needs may grow as well.
With a global pandemic that involves a new disease, it’s important to review your policy and understand specific coverage. For instance, does your General Liability have a Virus/ Communicable Disease exclusion? BEWARE- Many insurance policies have this exclusion and if the church is sued by someone alleging contracting COVID-19, no insurance would apply.
Government Guidelines and the Church
In this time of ever-changing COVID-19 policies and ordinances, the topic of how much a church should abide by local governance has become highly debatable. However, I’d like to offer two simple perspectives for your consideration.
First, it is a biblical principle to act responsibly under the authority of government. Paul offers wisdom and encouragement on this topic in Romans 13.
Second, your insurance coverage may be adversely affected if you do not abide by the policies provided by your local governing authorities. Did you know the majority of church general liability policies have language that excludes coverage for a willful violation of a penal statute or ordinance committed by or with the knowledge of the insured? Your church could be at risk of losing coverage and defense coverage if there is such a willful violation.
Ensure Safe Gatherings
People rely on church leadership to create a safe environment in which to worship, hear the Word, and connect with others. There are several steps every church should consider taking before, during, and after services to mitigate the risk of spreading a virus, such as the following:
- Only hold services and gatherings in accordance with local government parameters.
- Let people know to stay at home if they feel sick or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Also, all vulnerable individuals should be encouraged to stay at home.
- Increase the cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, like doors, handles, light switches, water fountains, tables, sinks, check-in stations, touch screens, children’s toys, microphones, etc.
- For a list of disinfectants recommended by the EPA, click here.
- Make hand sanitizer stations available throughout the church property.
- Encourage everyone to practice good hygiene: Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces, avoid touching your face, and sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
- Encourage staff, volunteers, and attendees to implement social distancing, have families seated 6 feet apart, and use every other row.
- Encourage staff, volunteers, and attendees to wear a face covering, like a mask, balaclava, or bandana, and have signs at entrances encouraging those entering to wear a mask.
- Encourage everyone to wave “hi” instead of using handshakes, fist bumps, or hugs.
- Discontinue passing offering buckets or plates and encourage giving all tithes online or at a stationary giving kiosk located at the church.
- If offering communion, use individually-wrapped elements.
- If providing coffee, have a volunteer (wearing mask and gloves) fill the disposable cups and place on the counter for congregants to take.
- Disinfect the seats in the sanctuary before and after services; make sure to allow plenty of time between services to accommodate this.
- We encourage you to review the CDC’s Guide on Reopening Houses of Worship to learn best practices on safely reopening your church.
Infectious Disease Plan
If you don’t already have an infectious disease plan established for your church, now is the time to create one. This plan will help your leadership know exactly what to do if and when an infectious disease spreads in your church.
Here are some considerations in developing your church’s Infectious Disease Plan:
- Refer to the latest information provided by the CDC.
- Create a section for church staff, which could include details on travel restrictions, not coming to work if feeling ill, working from home, and social distancing guidelines for the workplace.
- List the steps necessary to ensure a safe gathering at your church – sanitation practices, communication to congregants to do their part, expectations for children and workers in the children’s area, etc.
- Include information on Children’s Ministry, establishing clarity on what is expected of children and parents and what events would necessitate that area to temporarily close.
- Create clear communication to congregants that explains the precautions they are expected to take (e.g., social distancing, face coverings, awareness of symptoms) and who to talk to if there are questions.
Temporary Day Care Guidelines
Due to the dangers and spread rate of COVID-19, most schools across the country have adapted their class structure. Some have moved entirely to virtual learning with kids at home, while others have pivoted to a hybrid approach. This has caused schedule dilemmas with many parents trying to balance jobs while needing to also be home for their kid(s).
Many churches and ministries have jumped in to be a helpful resource to parents in need, offering child care services and a place for students to do virtual learning.
While this is a great way to bless parents and impact the community, there are several considerations that must be made to provide a safe environment and avoid potential issues.
- As with any scenario involving children at church, implement the two-adult rule; no child should ever be left alone with one adult.
- Do thorough background checks on volunteers helping with childcare.
- Ensure students have a clean, safe space in which to do their work.
- Adult staff or volunteers should be available to assist the students.
- Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Remember to supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
- Always cover coughs and sneezes.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask.
- Masks should NOT be put on babies and children under age two because of the danger of suffocation.
- Require sick children and staff to stay home.
- Communicate to parents the importance of keeping children home when they are sick.
- Establish procedures to ensure children and staff who come to the child care area sick or become sick while at your facility are sent home as soon as possible.
- Sick staff members should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.
- Be ready to follow CDC guidance on how to disinfect your building or facility if someone is sick.
We recommend you refer to CDC’s information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in childcare settings and adapt as needed for your setting.
To ensure your church has the proper insurance coverage needed or for more information regarding risk management, contact us today at 866.662.8210 or firstname.lastname@example.org