Many churches have started, or likely will soon be, returning to some form of in-person services.
Something we’ve been wrestling with, that perhaps resonates with you is this: How do we provide a hospitable and inviting experience without shaking hands, being close to each other, hugs, trays of cookies, etc. Can it be done?
I’ve been learning a lot from our director of hospitality, who has a ton of experience in the field.
She describes hospitality this way,
“Making people feel at home in your presence.”
I love that definition of hospitality!
I think this is a helpful description of what sort of hospitality people want and need as we reopen under COVID guidelines and restrictions.
In this season, to feel at home in our presence, more than anything, means to feel safe.
Here are some thoughts on how to provide an “at home” feel as we reopen.
I’m the type of person who wants to know what I’m getting into.
I don’t like surprises.
One time my wife threw me a surprise birthday party and it didn’t go well.
Trust me; it definitely wasn’t her fault.
Please don’t ask her about it.
Whether you have a surprise phobia like me or not, clear expectations are important.
Especially in a season like this, clearly communicating expectations will determine whether people want to or should attend in person.
For example, if you’re deciding to open with very few restrictions, those in your congregation who are more at risk for COVID deserve to know.
If you are only offering birth through 5 years old in your children’s ministry, please don’t make me find that out in the moment!
A few churches I’ve seen do this well have sent out clearly-worded emails describing how things will operate and what people can expect.
I’ve also seen churches produce helpful videos that visually show how seating has been adapted, what entrances will be used, foot traffic flow, and how children’s ministry will work.
Communicating expectations is a critical component of good hospitality as we reopen.
If your region is like mine, people are in very different spaces emotionally regarding the virus.
Some people feel “over it,” and they aren’t concerned with masks, social distancing, or any other preventative measures.
Others are being extra cautious, perhaps because they or someone they know is more at risk.
Whatever the case, we have people in very different emotional spaces attending church in the same building, and good hospitality means accommodating everyone.
As we move toward reopening in-person worship services, we are considering separate worship spaces and entrances for people with and without masks.
One worship environment would be sort of like, “we’re trusting you to be wise.”
The other is more like, “this group of people would prefer that everyone in the room be as cautious as possible.”
Lastly, it’s important to accommodate and communicate directly with your online audience.
As we step back into in-person services, many of our people will choose to stay home and watch online.
It’s important to remember that group and show them good hospitality as well.
Until recently, I considered an RSVP system for a church service to be bad hospitality.
It just felt weird to me to have to RSVP to show up for church.
And, what about guests who show up not knowing they needed an RSVP?
Does it help them feel welcome?
Well, in this season of COVID, I realize I was wrong.
An RSVP system can be hospitable, and it’s still possible to accommodate extra capacity for guests.
If you utilize a system like reopen.church, people can see how full a particular service is, which may help them feel more comfortable knowing that a service is only, say 60% full.
An RSVP system, whether it’s online, call in, or email, can help people feel comfortable.
Super Visible Sanitizing
So, in case you forgot, we’re living through a pandemic.
Because of this, a lack of sanitation is a huge red flag for attendees.
So, if we want to offer great hospitality as we open our services, sanitation overkill is smart.
I would suggest hiring extra cleaning staff or volunteers, and place hand sanitizing stations around your building in visible places.
Make sure to wipe down surfaces regularly, even if they don’t look dirty.
Also, make sure your children’s ministry is following the proper guidelines as well.
If nothing else, by constantly cleaning, people will see you doing it, helping to create an atmosphere of care.
All of this will put people at ease, “Ah. They are concerned with what I’m concerned about.”
Even if you’re in the “over it” category, caring for others’ needs is a beautiful expression of grace and love.
Which, after all, is the foundation of our faith and the basis for our community.
I hope these tips have been helpful as we begin to reopen our churches. If you have other great suggestions on how to show hospitality as we reopen our church doors, we’d love to hear them. Share them in the comments below. God bless and thanks for reading.