By David Frederick
With vaccine administrations ramping up and religious organizations preparing for how they will be able to safely celebrate their spring holidays with the community, now is the right time to make sure your building is properly addressing social distancing requirements to ensure the health and safety of those who come to worship.
Take Inventory of Your Current Environment
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and organizations turned to temporary solutions to meet their needs. Whether it was desktop printed signs on doors or tape markings on the floor, these products were not meant to withstand weather, abrasion, or increased cleaning.
While there is hope that a semblance of normalcy will return in the coming months, some churches may still think in-house produced social distancing signs are adequate. But investing in more durable and impactful visual communication tools should be a vital part of your overall reopening or continued worship plans.
That’s why working with an experienced signage or graphics firm can help you identify the right types and quantities of signs needed to create a healthy worship space. You’ll want to look at include the number of entrances and exits to the building, the rooms and facilities that will be used by worshipers, and local or state guidelines that will affect capacity.
Start at the Beginning
Ensuring worshippers are following proper social distancing and safety guidelines begins at your front door. Making sure they know of proper protocols before they enter will go a long way in keeping everyone safe. Remember that some people won’t have been in your building for more than 12 months, so they need to be aware of what rules are now in place.
A-frame signs (also known as sidewalk signs) and retractable banner stands are perfect solutions to place at or near the entrance to your building. These can display important admittance policies in an easy-to-see way. Not only are they portable but can have their messaging easily updated as situations change – which also means they can be repurposed after the pandemic passes.
Durable vinyl graphics on windows and doors will let those coming to worship know which doors to use for entry to prevent cross-traffic with those leaving. These signs can also inform everyone of face covering requirements.
Looking Down to Keep Moving Ahead
By now, almost all stores have social distancing graphics on the floor to let you know where to stand or if aisles are restricted to one-way traffic. The same principles apply to worship spaces, especially to help attendees from falling into old habits.
Vinyl floor graphics will allow you to let people know how they should proceed once they have entered your space. For instance, indicating that the middle aisle should be used for entering worship, and side aisles for exiting will allow congregants to keep proper distancing from one another.
Your graphics partner can provide vinyl floor graphics that are slip-resistant and able to withstand foot traffic whether placed on carpet, tile or concrete (and removed with no damage or residue).
Decals can also be applied to chairs or pews to indicate seating that is cordoned off to keep adequate distancing of people not from the same household.
Continue to Let Voices Be Heard
In worship spaces where sufficient distance from clergy, readers or others standing before the congregation is not possible, plastic panels can be placed on pulpits or made to be freestanding to allow for messages to be delivered without the need for a mask.
Most churches have prohibited congregational singing as a way to prevent airborne particles in the sanctuary. But this doesn’t mean that music can’t still be a vital part of the worship experience. These plastic panels can also be placed around singers and musicians so that their talents can still be shared in a safe manner.
Look Beyond Worship Spaces
Social distancing also needs to be enforced in areas that won’t be part of the worship service. Elevators, large rooms and areas that people are used to gathering in before or after services need to be properly marked for reduced capacity or identified if they are off-limits.
In addition to having hand sanitization stations that are properly identified and located throughout the building, make sure your restrooms have proper signage that remind people of proper hygiene practices.
Your office staff will also continue to need protection, which is why adding plastic protection screens for desks will allow for safer in-person interactions – especially if space does not permit proper distancing.
If your church also has an attached preschool or other functions that members of the general public are able to access, make sure you have signage in place to identify the parts of the building in which they are allowed.
Don’t Overlook Outdoor Services
With warmer weather on the horizon, many churches will begin to restart their outdoor worship activities to offer opportunities for those community members to participate who are not yet ready to re-enter indoor spaces. You can also anticipate more non-members joining your congregation, so having proper signage in place in your parking lot will help to keep things running smoothly.
Corrugated plastic yard signs are a cost-effective way to direct traffic, notify attendees how they can listen from their cars, and to also guide people to outdoor areas where they can sit but still be socially distanced.
Let the Community Know You Are There for Them
With the return to indoor worship, we’ve seen churches that have either reduced the number of services offered or changed times for existing services. It’s important to communicate this information to members, visitors, and your surrounding community.
Updating your existing message boards or placing easy-to-read banners along the roadside will keep passersby updated on the latest changes.
Another great idea is the use of feather flags at the entrance to your parking lot with welcoming and uplifting messages to greet everyone as they come onsite and instill the sense of community that has been missing for too long.
There is still a lot of uncertainty, and situations may warrant new ideas and innovations. Know that your local signage and visual communications providers are a great resource for keeping your community of faith safe and will deliver the solutions you’ll need for all those who walk through your doors.
David Frederick is the marketing brand manager for Image360, a signage and graphics franchise that is part of Alliance Franchise Brands and has locations throughout the United States and Canada, www.image360.com.