By Dr. Reba Haley

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, several states have closed down and set up a stay-at-home request to avoid spreading the coronavirus. More than one million coronavirus cases and thousands of deaths have occurred in the U.S. Presently, states are preparing to reopen, and now is the perfect time to implement guidelines that will ensure people can worship God in a safe environment.

These precautions are intended to prevent coronavirus outbreaks in churches and protect the well-being and health of congregations and places of worship. Every church has a friendly open door policy. In the 21st century, churches have had to put precautions in place to protect congregates.

The following suggestions are intended to prevent the spread of coronavirus within churches and to help ministers deal with the problems posed by COVID-19.

Local Regulations: In order to protect the health and safety of congregations, ministers are advised to follow the guidelines of the health and medical authorities.

Hand Hygiene: At the beginning and end of church service, all leaders, members and visitors are encouraged to use hand sanitizer.

Physical Distance: Ushers and greeters can sit relatives together who attend church together. Visitors and members must be placed at a safe distance to safeguard them from contracting COVID-19.

Church Interaction: It is recommended that congregates reduce touching and maintain a healthy distance when they enter and exit. Immediately after the end of services, attendees are encouraged to limit contact, i.e., embracing, shaking of hands and greeting one another.

Offering: It is recommended that deacons or those in charge of finances wear gloves when handling cash and that congregates place the offerings and the tithes in the collection plate without touching the plate or basket.

Stay-at-Home: It is suggested that older adults and those with severe underlying medical conditions, such as chest pains, coughs or a fever, not attend church but continue to watch the service online.

Community Groups: Dr. Reba Haley advocates providing monthly support and care groups to help individuals cope with mental illness, divorce, trauma, addiction, death, dying and domestic violence.

Support and care groups offer support, encouragement and hope in Christ that can help people cope with the social and economic impact of the coronavirus. The recommendations given will help ministers adapt and cope with the ‘new normal’ brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Haley graduated from St. Thomas Christian University and Theological Seminary with a PhD in Christian counseling and a master’s degree in psychology. She graduated from Grand Canyon University with a master’s degree in addiction counseling and the University of North Carolina Charlotte with an undergraduate degree in psychology.

She is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, master-certified addiction professional and addiction specialist. Dr. Haley is a public speaker, former educator, corporate trainer and pastor of Hope Alive Christian Center in Riverview. She is also an independent writer and author of training manuals and books, including The Covenant Connection: Your Best Marriage Now and Dress for Success: Put on the Whole Armour of God.

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