The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we all think about public spaces. Church buildings are no exception. Church designs must now incorporate ways to make attendees feel safe. We previously addressed touchless design elements. Here are some other ways you can make your church building safer.
Church Building Signage
One of the best ways to communicate safely with both attendees and guests is with clear and abundant signage. When people are trying to keep six feet of distance between others, it’s harder to have conversations about where to find the restroom or which direction takes you to the children’s wing. Wayfinding signs, both outside and inside your church building will make it easier, even when social distancing requirements are no longer a big concern.
Automatic Bottle Fillers
We’re all used to finding drinking fountains outside restrooms and in other convenient locations of a church building. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made surfaces many people touch risky and most churches have shut off their drinking fountains. We’ve also recently seen a rise in reusable water bottles for environmental (and safety) reasons. Therefore, we suggest that church leaders might want to install automatic bottle fillers in place of, or alongside, drinking fountains. That way you can provide a public water source with a low risk of cross-contamination.
Church Design Options for Social Distancing
One big question, of course, is how to bring people together for worship or Christian education under social distancing protocols. If your church design includes pews, you’ll want to rope off certain rows and mark six-feet distances between seats. If you have chairs, you can space them appropriately, individually and in small groups, so that people who aren’t family can stay six feet apart from each other and still worship and learn together.
Of course, this means downsizing the number of people who can safely fit into those spaces. Smaller classrooms may not be feasible, so you may need to move classes and meetings into larger spaces. Some churches are only allowing a certain percentage of people into a room—say, 25% or 33% of what the space originally held—and spacing the chairs accordingly. Of course, this means that if you used to have 100 people in a space, there can only be 25 or 33 people present now.
Another option considered by some church leaders is asking local authorities to come in and determine how many people can safely gather. Here the concern is that once you give that power away to the authorities, it’s hard to know when they will give it back to you again. So, it may be better to come up with your own plan.
Remember, of course, that in at least some seasons, outdoor spaces are also an option, especially for fellowship gatherings. Now might be an excellent time to spruce up your patio with some landscaping and attractive seating areas that can allow people to connect more comfortably outside in nice weather.
In our next article, we will highlight some concepts on ways to use your church building for ministry that have become popular during COVID-19. Meanwhile, you can learn the latest church design and building tips by signing up for our next free i3 webinars.