COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for churches. Between holding more services, navigating online worship, and keeping up with enhanced cleaning procedures, the workload has increased for everyone.
As we prayerfully begin rounding this next corner in the pandemic, there are some health-focused facility updates that you can make to keep your congregation’s wellness a priority. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that instantly eases the burden, there are several options that maximize the efficiency of your existing space or create new spaces with safety in mind.
Not every church has millions of dollars to invest in a large-scale construction project, but there are thoughtful and creative ways to update your facility regardless of your budget. By implementing just a few of these changes, you can reach more people at one time while keeping things safe.
Use Touchless Technology
Many churches have increased their cleaning procedures, constantly wiping down and disinfecting high-touch areas. While every little bit helps, it certainly strains your busy cleaning or maintenance staff, and it simply isn’t possible to clean every surface after each person touches it. A better option may be to eliminate these high-touch areas altogether.
Automatic doors and motion-sensing lighting are a relatively quick and inexpensive fix to eliminate two frequently touched surfaces. You can also update the fixtures in bathrooms with automatic faucets, flushers, soap dispensers, and paper towel or drying stations.
Reimagining Your Current Space – Or Adding New Space
Multipurpose rooms have been a trend in worship space design for decades. By creating one large room designed to accommodate several activities, churches can optimize their budget and space by creating an area that serves multiple functions.
Because multipurpose rooms often have a larger footprint than a traditional worship space, that means more people can gather in one room.
In most cases, multipurpose rooms can be erected more quickly than other spaces. They can also cost less than traditional worship space. That said, the cost will increase dependent upon the room’s size and the finishes you choose, so you’ll want to evaluate your space, current and long-term needs, and budget before making any decisions.
If your budget is tight, you may be able to repurpose your existing space to turn several smaller rooms into one larger space without having to pay for a new addition.
While creating areas we can gather in safely during the pandemic is essential, things won’t be like this forever. The COVID-related changes you make now should add lasting benefit to your congregation, and a multipurpose room can do that.
Once COVID ends, you’ll be left with a larger worship space that can serve your growing congregation and prevent overcrowding as your attendance increases. Additionally, you’ll have a room that can be utilized for many activities, be that worshiping, fundraising events, youth activities, and more.
Clearing the Air
Proper ventilation is an important factor in keeping spaces safe during COVID-19. Constantly replenishing old air with fresh air reduces the chances contaminated air will be breathed in.
If possible, consider opening windows in rooms where people are gathered. For some, this is the easiest way to introduce fresh air into a room.
If your HVAC system has the capacity to do so, increase the percentage of air it draws from outside to replace the stale air more quickly. You can also try increasing the total airflow supplied to rooms while they’re being occupied. Don’t forget to regularly clean air filters, as well.
While it’s easy to overlook, having it regularly maintained and checked out by an HVAC professional is always important – but especially so during COVID.
Optimizing Outdoor Worship
There are many benefits to taking worship outdoors as nicer weather once again approaches.
To make it more comfortable, you can install a permanent or semi-permanent structure in which your congregation can meet.
Purchasing a temporary plastic tent with open sides provides shelter from rain and sun. So long as flooding and winds aren’t a concern, this can stay up from week to week, saving your staff the trouble of tearing down and setting it back up each Sunday.
Another option is creating a permanent structure, like a pavilion. With a sturdy roof and flooring, you won’t have to worry about severe weather.
A third option is to build a field house. Like a pavilion but with walls to keep out the cold air, this option will expand your church’s worship space year-round. Adding walls means you’ll essentially be gathering inside, so you’ll need to consider regulations on indoor gatherings. However, with less need for the traditional comforts of a worship hall, this structure can be erected more quickly and for less money.
The cost of optimizing your outdoor worship space will range from small to moderate, depending on which option you pursue. From relatively inexpensive temporary tents to permanent pavilions and field houses, there are options available for all budgets and needs.
It is important to keep in mind that as restrictions are eased, these spaces can still serve purposes for various church activities. They can be utilized as a multipurpose space to host fundraising events, a space to gather for fellowship, and even to reach out to the community. While seeking to solve short-term problems, your church can still maintain an eye on long-term solutions that make sense for your vision.
Short-Term and Long-Term Solutions
The past year has placed a huge burden on church leadership and staff as they are forced to adjust to new rules and regulations to keep their congregation safe. While adding more services can help with social distancing, there’s only so much time in a week. When it comes down to it, churches need more open space to hold larger, but safer, services.
By reimagining and repurposing the space you do have, or by exploring less expensive construction options, there are ways to increase the number of people you’re able to serve at once, regardless of budget.
This information is courtesy of Horst Construction, which offers construction management, general contracting, design-build, pre-construction and master planning services to churches, www.horstconstruction.com.