Return To The Sanctuary

Third District Expectations for Local Churches



Must continue encouraging all congregants to become fully vaccinated, and to establish and communicate responsible expected behaviors to those who gather for worship. 

Until the congregation has reached at least an 80% level of fully vaccinated persons, the following practices are recommended so that worship services are both safe and inclusive for all regardless of vaccination status.

During the reentry phase period, beginning July 4 through Sept 1, 2021 (or until vaccination levels increase) it is recommended that gatherings be limited to 1 hour worship type services ONLY (including small funerals, weddings, etc.), and that church meetings, studies, quarterly conferences, and any large gatherings that exceed the social distancing requirements of 30% capacity of the facility be handled virtually.

No physical contact (hugging, kissing, shaking hands or close face-to face social gathering in small groups) will be permitted inside of the church facilities regardless of vaccination status. Congregants must be encouraged to leave the building promptly after worship.

Prepared sit-down meals and fellowship dinners should not be served at inside gatherings. Boxed or food pantry items can still be used for take-out.

Communion servings should be pre-packaged and distributed where congregants are seated rather than altar gatherings. Likewise, altar gatherings for prayer are discouraged. 

Baptism options should include sprinkling and pouring. No common pools should be used for submersion of multiple candidates for baptism.

Water fountains for common drinking should be disconnected or disabled, and bottled water made available.

Rest room facilities should be cleaned after usage, with disinfectants and hand sanitizers always made available. Hand washing practices are required. Someone should monitor usage of restrooms.

Routine facility cleanliness and sanitizing of areas where people gather is critically important to support the health and well-being of all.

Small children should remain with parents or caretakers and not permitted to roam about during gatherings.

Churches that have nursery or youth ministries should only permit fully vaccinated adults with masks to supervise activities and care for children.

Pulpit and Lectern Areas

Pulpit area participants should all be fully vaccinated, and lectern areas should be cleaned after each use. Microphones should be cleaned between users. It is encouraged for larger staffs to have several microphones that can be rotated between cleanings.

Music and Choral Groups

Only fully vaccinated singers, musicians or choirs should be permitted to assemble for in-person group music selections. When possible, it is further recommended that fewer persons assemble in a socially distanced configuration (praise teams, dancers, singers). Microphones must be cleaned between users. It is encouraged for larger groups to have several microphones that can be rotated between cleanings. Musical instruments should also be wiped and cleaned between musicians.


Fully Vaccinated

Those persons that are fully vaccinated, and have presented proof of such, are no longer required to wear a mask when entering church facilities if they prefer not to do so. They may also be seated as they wish and will not be required to socially distance from others who are also fully vaccinated.

Not Fully Vaccinated

According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If they don’t meet these requirements, regardless of age, they are NOT fully vaccinated. Congregants in your churches who are not fully vaccinated should therefore take precautions to avoid the spread of Covid-19 by wearing face masks appropriately before entry into church facilities; and should be provided socially distanced seating arrangements until they are fully vaccinated.

Those experiencing any kind of respiratory or other illnesses or fevers (regardless of vaccination status) should remain at home and are welcome to join worship services virtually throughout their illness.

Other Recommendations:

1. Provide disposable face masks for persons who are not fully vaccinated (or others who prefer to still wear face masks while inside.) Ask that used face masks be taken with these persons when they leave.

2. Avoid distribution of paper bulletins and programs, and the use of pew hymnals or Bibles, pens, fans, tissues, and handouts. Prepare for electronic distribution via email/website, or facility screen monitors if possible.

3. Station collection boxes for congregants to place their tithes and contributions into, and/or establish on-line or mail-in giving processes.

4. Make hand sanitizers and tissues and pens available in personal packets (tissues/sanitizers/pens/envelopes). Assure that congregants take these items with them when they exit the facility.

5. Establish an attendance sign and check in process for families (to maintain knowledge of who attends). These records should be maintained in a rolling log in case of viral outbreaks and the need for contact tracing. Someone should be assigned to maintain these records.

6. Churches that have health professionals in their congregations should enlist their help in advisory, training, and record keeping capacities.

7. Church ushers and greeters should be trained to direct seating and monitor behaviors.

8. Trustees and custodial staff should be trained to assure appropriate cleanliness of facilities, restrooms, high touch, and common gathering areas. Used items should be disposed of as soon as possible after gatherings.