As summer time approaches for churches in the US, there are mixed emotions of happiness, sadness, and everything in between. Churches reopening for worship is a big news story as many states are working towards reopening. Some of the options states have given are allowing church buildings to be filled to a certain capacity, open parking lot sermons, and other creative solutions.
One comment we’ve heard from many churches, is that they’ve had more people attending virtually than they have physically. This can happen even if the church has the room in the building for people to attend services, although you may have the problem where a building can’t house everyone thus people are required to stay home. Also it could be many families, the elderly, and health compromised individuals aren’t ready to come out of their house until things settle down. And that is perfectly alright. Everyone needs to adjust in their own and safe way.
But how can the church help in these times? The first way is communication!
Communicating To Your Church Members And Visitors
The number one thing you can do, is ensure you are communicating to your members and visitors. You should be sending emails or text messages to anyone on your list with pertinent information about the church during these times. The one thing you don’t want to hear from people is, “we didn’t know ‘when’ it was okay to come back and worship.”
Emailing your church members and visitors
Emailing church members should be a weekly task. Some churches email once a week, others do multiple emails per week. This is where the church needs to have a ‘feel’ for their congregants. According to CoShedule the best time of day to send is 10 AM. The best days of the week to send are Tuesdays, followed by Thursdays, and then Wednesdays.
This is not to say that you can’t send the emails at other times and still get a good response. Open rates will depend on your audience.
What should the email say about reopening the church?
When sending out emails for services and other events, the first item to make completely clear is your organization’s methods and procedures when the family walks through the door. Here are some questions to get church leaders thinking about procedures.
- Are there sanitation dispensers at the doors where everyone is required to wash hands before entering?
- Or other ways of disinfecting?
- Are masks required (or not) in certain areas, campus wide, etc?
- Is child care provided?
- If child care is, what are the exact procedures for checking kids in?
- What about kiosk giving stations?
- Should they be wiped down after each use?
- How often are bathrooms and common areas wiped down?
- Will refreshments be served or are they temporarily suspended?
- How will communion happen?
- Will the full worship team be on stage or not?
- How will seating be handled?
- Will ushers bring people in family by family or do families seat themselves keeping a certain amount of space between each other?
All of these questions and others, should be addressed from the church leadership when reopening the church. The procedures should be clearly defined in an initial email sent to your church members and visitors for their reference. Then, in future emails, there could be a link to your website with all the policies posted.
Note: The one item to keep in mind is when a policy changes, clearly put that change by itself in an email and send it to your email list. Additionally, update your web site with the new information.
How to send email en mass
So what does the church use for sending out emails? If you are like many churches that use IconCMO, it’s as easy as making a group with all your individual records and sending an email directly from IconCMO or using our Constant Contact integration.
How To Text Message The Church?
While IconCMO has had the ability to send text messages for many years, we’ve recently released an updated version earlier this year. The new version allows the church to quickly use an existing group or create a new one and send a mass text to all the members of that group. All you need is their phone number in the system, marked as a cell phone to allow text messages.
Some things to keep in mind. Text messaging should be short and sweet, as they say. This is not the place to outline pages of rules for people to follow when they come. For those scenarios, you can put the rules on your website and send a link via text message for people to click on and view the rules.
Group text messaging shouldn’t be used for conversation between the church and its members via the reply mechanism. Why? Because everyone sees the replies from everyone else. Can you imagine sending text message to just 100 people, and say 50 of them reply to you. All 100 people get 50 text messages lighting up their phones. Not a good idea. Text messages should be used for information only — and short messages are best!
What About Shut-Ins and Higher Risk Individuals Staying Home?
Because COVID-19 is particularly hard on the elderly, many of them are opting to stay home for an extended time period after churches open. Keep in mind that some of these families do not have cell phones with text or email. This makes communicating to them in a connected world much harder.
If some people do not have email or cell phones, the church should keep track of these individuals in their software. For example in IconCMO we can tell you who in a group does not have an email or cell phone and create labels for you. The labels then can be used to send letters via snail mail, at the very least.
One important note on snail mail. The people that use snail mail should be thought of first. Because snail mail is much slower than email and text messaging, the church must plan to send the letters well in advance. The worst thing to happen is this group of people getting the letter a day after an event or sermon. Or arriving at an event not knowing the logistics.
It’s very important to not forget about these individuals. They need a communication channel as well. Maybe the church has a small list of these people, so they have a dedicated pastor or deacon that is following up with them individually each week. Whatever the case, the important thing is to include this group of people in as much of the church’s activities as possible. When people are ignored, intentionally or unintentionally, they move on and it could be hard to get them back.