J. Pekala & Associates, Inc. · 117 Allentown Rd, Souderton, PA 18964 · 1-888-829-6505

How to Re-Open Your Ministry in the Wake of COVID-19

As guidance continues to evolve regarding COVID-19 guidelines, it is important to be prepared for when your ministry will begin to reopen. Below are three steps to help you navigate the process of re-opening of your ministry. 


Step 1- How You Will Start to Reopen 

         · Inform your congregation that it is time to return to church 

Starting XX Date XX, XX Church XX will resume in-person services at 10:30 a.m. With this in mind, things will look differently as you enter on Sunday. We ask for everyone to park in the Main Parking lot by the Narthex doors and enter only through these doors. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer will be available upon entry. If you have any questions, please contact the office @ xxx-xxx-xxx. Please review the guidelines below. 

  • Discuss which activities will begin to meet in person, which may include midweek meetings or weekend services.


  • Consider providing both in-person and online opportunities for the foreseeable future. Encourage vulnerable individuals, including the elderly and those with severe underlying medical conditions such as respiratory issues, to continue the online experience and not join physically. Also, remind attendees that they should not attend while exhibiting any symptoms of illness. 


  • Think about how your church will handle summer camp programs, weddings, funerals and other special events. While it is important to celebrate as a congregation, keep in mind that these gatherings can provide opportunities for disease transmission. 


  • Prepare your facility to be reoccupied. Make sure utilities are fully functioning and building systems are ready. Inspect the property to assure no damage has occurred in your absence.


  • Develop a plan to meet social distancing requirements. In some cases, this may mean either removing or marking seats as closed in order to significantly reduce capacity. It may also mean wider aisles and controlling entrances and exits. 

Step 2- When You Will Start to Reopen 


           · Church Service During Social Distancing 


Review guidelines from governmental agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state office of emergency management and the local health department. We anticipate that the legal guidance for reopening will come from state and local officials. Opening in violation of governmental order or without following guidance from authorities exposes your organization to potential liability. 


  • Gather feedback from your members on their willingness and interest in attending in-person services. Consider polling your congregation to obtain input on how and what activities reconvene in person. Many may hesitate to rejoin crowds for worship initially. 


  • Everyone must enter through the Narthex door; all other doors will be locked. 


  • Alternating pews are blocked off 


  • A mask must be worn while in the sanctuary, or you will be seated in the Narthex. An usher will direct you to a seat, you will probably not be sitting where you normally would. Be thankful that you can be in the sanctuary, Amen! 


  • As you sit in your pew please maintain 6-foot spacing from others. The exception is for families who live together. 


  • If you have a prayer request, please write it down before you come to church. There will be a basket where you can place your prayer request. 


  • We will have music, but there will NOT be singing at this time. 


  • The nursery will NOT be available. 


  • There will be NO Sunday School during church. 


  • The offering plate will NOT be passed. The offering plate will be in the back of the sanctuary, so that you may place your offering in it as you enter or leave. 


  • At the end of the service, please do not leave your pew until an usher dismisses you, so you maintain social distancing. 


  • As you leave, please do not stop to talk with others in the building. You may talk outside the building, maintaining social distancing, or call others when you get home 


  • Limit services to last no longer then 30 – 45 minutes 


  • The restrooms will be for emergency use only. 


  • The water fountain is NOT to be used. 


          · Safety Measures Your organization should Adopt 


  • Consider what personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks and gloves, might be appropriate for your organization. Provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in other key places. 


  • Consider plans to conduct health screening for staff, volunteers, visitors and vendors entering the facility. There may be a need to conduct screenings for individuals attending services as well. 


  • Determine how you will handle certain service elements that typically involve physical contact like communion, greeting and offering. Consider contactless options, such as sharing bulletins and hymns via email and collecting offerings online. 


  • Revisit plans and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting facilities. All surfaces should be cleaned using disinfectants on a regular basis, including between services. Pay special attention to frequently touched surfaces like door handles, pews and railings. 


  • As you begin to meet in person again, keep in mind all of the security issues that were present previously. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning encouraging religious organizations to be especially vigilant as they reopen. With the additional stressors over recent weeks and months, there is likelihood that those predisposed to violence could become more active. For more information regarding security issues, including our alliance with Strategies International, please see our armed intruder resources. 


           · Who You Will Entrust with New Responsibilities? 


  • With expanded procedures and processes, you may experience a need for additional staff or volunteers to assist. Be sure to identify any new roles and fill them accordingly. 


  • We recommend forming a Reopening Team made up of your organization’s employee and volunteer leaders to discuss operational details. As you assemble this team, consider including the leaders of worship ministry, music ministry, adult/youth/child ministry, outreach and welcoming committees, ushers and security.


Step 3- How Does the Insurance Company Handle Covid- 19 Claims 


            · How does my policy respond to a Coronavirus (COVID-19) claim? 


There is not a single, one-size fits all answer to coverage questions. At JPA we know that our customers have questions about what will be covered claims related to COVID-19. That said, for property related questions your organization can call our agency and we will find the answer for you. However, because we are getting a high volume of questions, you may want to look at the property section of your policy, particularly the “direct physical loss” terminology that applies to Business Income coverage as well as any cause of loss exclusions that apply. 


  • We understand that every situation is unique. If you feel that your organization has sustained a property or a general liability or even a workers’ compensation claim due to the coronavirus, you are encouraged to file a claim report. 


  • Our carrier’s claims team will assign a claims adjuster who will contact your organization to review the details of the claim and decide if it is a covered claim or not based on the specific facts of the case and policy language. Almost all JPA’s carriers have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year claims service. The following is the claims information for several of our top companies:


    • AmTrust Insurance Claims Department
      • Phone Number: 877-669-9140
      • Email: Amtrustclaims@grm-inc.com 


    • GuideOne Insurance Claims Department
      • Phone Number: 888-748-4326
      • Email: CLU@guideone.com 


    • Philadelphia Insurance Claims Department
      • Phone Number: 800-765-9749 #3
      • Email: claimsreport@phly.com 


    • Utica National Insurance Claims Department
      • Phone Number: 800-216-1420
      • Email: claimsnewreport@uticanational.com 


If you are a JPA customer, but your policy is not with the above carrier’s, please contact our agency and we will put you in touch with a claims person from your company. 

As for questions your leaders may have regarding your organization’s operations such as whether to suspend worship services or cancel events, those are ultimately decisions that they should made by your leadership using their best judgement and discretion. We cannot answer questions about what may or may not be covered in hypothetical situations. 

While many areas are still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis, some communities are beginning to discuss returning to some new form of normal. While the specific details of reopening your religious organization will be dependent on federal, state and local guidelines, there are some things you can begin to do. 

As organizations re-open, we advise that you follow local governmental guidelines on timing, attendance capacity and other social distancing and disinfection requirements. Depending on the insurance company “Willful disregard” of these regulations could lead to cancellation but is highly unlikely that would happen.