Guidelines and Considerations for In-Person Worship

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and our Conference Cabinet consulted with experts in public health and the medical field on how churches might prepare to offer in-person worship again. From those consultations, they offer the following guidelines which will mitigate, though not eliminate, risks. 

Note that one of the most useful steps is to gather a Health Advisory Committee to consider this guidance alongside your church's specific context. 

  • PEOPLE: The discipline of the pastor and congregation to be vigilant about adhering to the guidelines and how they will be implemented, plus the ability of church leadership to manage the group effectively.
  • PLACE: The size and configuration of your worship space.
  • THINGS: The availability of needed supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer. 

Know that the risk of rapid contamination once people are in the space is great. When your church resumes in-person worship, people must:

  • Maintain 6 feet of social distancing, not just once people are inside, but from the time they leave their cars, as they enter the worship space, and as they exit the space and return to their vehicles. 
  • Have no physical contact (hugging, shaking hands, etc.).
  • Wear face masks (personal or provided by the church).
  • Be vigilant about hand and face hygiene while in the space. 
  • Sanitize their hands each time after touching/using anything in the worship space. 
  • The risk of offering a nursery is high. Consider asking families to worship together at this time.
  • The risk for choirs is high and the current best advice is not to have a choir sing at in-person, inside worship. 


  • Form a Health and Welfare Committee to help shape and then guide this process in your congregation. Recommended members include a medical professional, plus representatives from Trustees and Hospitality/Greeters. This team should also be informed by your local health department.
  • Remind congregants not to touch their face and to use their hand sanitizer after touching any surface. Reminders should include verbal instruction, digital communication, and posted signage. 
  • Ask congregants to bring masks from home, and provide masks for those who do not have their own. Provide personal hand sanitizer for those who do not have their own. 
  • Remove pew hymnals and Bibles, instead rely upon projected slides and verbal instruction, and in the case of Bibles, encouraging people to bring their own copies from home as an alternative.

Before the congregation returns to your church campus note that:

  • Your facility should be cleaned/sanitized before and after gathering for each worship service. 
  • Your church campus must be prepared so that people can adequately comply with social distancing from the time they enter the property until they leave. 
  • Signage should offer clear directives to attendees regarding how to behave on campus to uphold protocols. Mark designated entrances, exits and building traffic patterns, mark sanitizer stations, remind people to practice social distancing, hand washing, and not to touch their faces. 
  • Offerings should be collected in bins at the entrances of the space so that people can place their offerings as they enter or leave. Those who count or handle the offering following the service must be reminded to wash hands immediately after they’re finished, and to not touch their faces while handling money. 
  • Social distancing must also be kept regarding restrooms. Ensure 6 feet of social distancing while entering, using, and leaving the restroom along with vigilant hand-hygiene. 


  • Consider using every other or every third pew. 
  • Consider exiting by rows instead of all at once, while maintaining the required 6 feet of social distancing.
  • Consider limiting restrooms to one person at a time. Larger bathrooms could accommodate more than one person, but the recommendation would be to, for example, force the spacing by “closing” every other urinal or stall
  • In posted signage, digital communication, and verbal instruction, use positive, encouraging language that reflects hospitality, while maintaining a commitment to loving our neighbor and doing no harm.

Before your congregation gathers, ensure you have an adequate and sustainable amount of required supplies including masks and hand sanitizer and:

  • Obtain adequate amounts of cleaning and sanitization products. Check cleaners for EPA and FDA label as being effective against coronaviruses. Alcohol-based surface cleaners are adequate to kill this virus. 
  • Obtain an adequate number of masks to offer a mask to anyone who does not arrive wearing their own. Work toward ensuring enough cloth masks are on hand can begin now.
  • Consider offering hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting the space. Have sanitizer stations available at all points of entrance and egress AND near any anticipated points of contact with surfaces within the space.
  • This is an opportunity to leverage technology. Consider providing digital material for services ahead of time.
  • Microphones, keyboards, handheld electronic devices, and other surfaces may be difficult to clean or disinfect because they could be damaged if they became wet. A cleanable cover/skin (e.g., keyboard skin) could be used on the item to allow for cleaning while protecting the item. Always check to see if the manufacturer has instructions for cleaning.
  • In the case of microphones, they could be used as long as they are disinfected, and, they are not touched by anyone or passed from person to person.

Note that this "new normal" will continue for the foreseeable future until there is a breakthrough regarding a vaccine. UPDATE: We rejoice in the widespread availability of vaccine! The guidance shared here continues to stand as best practice as our communities work to get vaccinated. Churches should continue to offer online worship and discipleship, and be prepared for resuming online-only worship should there be a resurgence of COVID-19 in our state or in your community.