resources on reopening for churches & schools
When Can Congregations Gather Again for Worship?
A message from District President Gibson
The question of when congregations can gather again for worship is important and frequently asked. We are all anxious to restart and frustrated that it is taking so long. Many are hoping that District/Synod will simply provide the magic bullet that grants permission to reopen churches even without the support of local authorities.
With three states and three governors in the PSD, there are three unique plans underway to reopen the states. The Arizona governor’s ruling allowed (from the beginning) for more activity by churches than either Nevada or California. Some counties and cities in California, Nevada, and Arizona, which have lower COVID impact will simply open more quickly. The urban areas will take longer. We all understand the challenge.
The answer is simple and consistent with what we have said from the beginning:
What do YOUR local civil authorities say you can or cannot do? Please follow it. A follow up question that also should be asked is what your insurance carrier will support.
Our position (LCMS and PSD) is that this is not an Acts 5:29 issue (“We must obey God rather than man.”). It is a 4th Commandment and Romans 13 reality to honor and obey those who are in authority over us. It positions us to take a Philippians 2:1-4 attitude by which the church puts the needs of others first, serving the greater community by delaying worship gatherings to ensure health and safety, rather than to push our agenda to gather for worship before it is safe.
Please know that you are in my prayers as your congregation makes decisions for your context.
President Mike Gibson
See below for a compilation of resources to help you think through and prepare
for reopening churches and schools when safe and feasible.
This PDF document includes a compilation of many of the resources provided below, and additional information. Includes AZ, NV and CA guidance for reopening, checklists, sample congregational surveys, sample plans and communications, and more. Navigate to the various resources using the clickable table of content links in the left portion of the document.
Vanderbloemen Facebook Live videos:
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) resources:
Church Law & Tax resources:
Concordia Plans Resources:
Facility reopening guidance:
Sample reopening plans, surveys, communications, etc:
Reopening web page with video describing plan from Summit Community Church - Buckeye, AZ
Legal and HR Aspects of Reopening:
NOTE: Church insurance carriers recommend that a church has their own written plan on how they will reopen and the steps they will take to ensure health and safety – and then follow it. Failure to follow an articulated plan (serves as an agreement between parties) could leave churches open to lawsuits.
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ARIZONA CONGREGATIONS: Currently there is conflicting information that has been published in the two documents above. The "Guidance for Places of Worship" document at the link above does not specify the maximum number that are allowed to gather in worship, while the "Executive Order 2020-36" stipulates a maximum of 10 people (see page 3, item 5h). We are endeavoring to get clarified guidance from the governor of Arizona.
Note; This is a California resource but does provide best practices which would be beneficial in Arizona and Nevada
Reopening information from Concordia International School Shanghai:
It includes videos, photos, and detailed descriptions of actions they are currently taking to reopen with students on campus.
Information from Concordia University Irvine:
Includes the details of the CUI COVID response and this link - http://www.cui.edu/together includes health and wellness communications to our community.
Resources for Reopening ECE and Child Care
Concordia Plans Resources:
Considerations regarding July 17 CA Gov. Newsom announcement regarding school reopening
California Governor Newsom held a press conference on Friday, July 17 on the reopening of schools in the state. While disappointment is natural with some of what he communicated, the mandates and guidance should not derail you from your plans or more importantly from your mission. Keep your plans in place for now. As you know, this is a very fluid time. Here are some things to consider:
The Governor’s announcement is for all schools, public and private. Dr. Ron Reynolds, Executive Director of CAPSO has been in contact with the Governor’s Chief Deputy, Ben Chida, and confirmed that this includes ALL schools. However, there are some potential cracks in the door for private schools. One of those is that the local health agencies (your county Department of Health) may take a look at your reopening plan and state that you are good to go – to reopen on campus, online, and/or a hybrid. Your local health agency may supersede the Governor’s announcement.
Gov. Newson also included some mandates which are for all schools, public and private. Mandates, though, are fewer than what they could have been (a bit of good news).
Mandates include wearing masks when your school reopens for all students 3rd grade and above. Masks required of all staff. Social distancing required. Sanitizing required. (Read the link below for further requirements) However, most, if not all of you have already put this in place in your own reopening plans! Your work is mostly still done on that front.
Plan to reopen as soon as your county has been off the “watchlist” for 14 consecutive days. This could be as early as September in some counties. Or earlier!
Reassure your parents/families that you have put their children’s health and safety as the #1 priority, and as soon as you can reopen safely, you will. Continue to communicate with parents/families. Keep them in the loop on your reopening plans consistently. Don’t make hasty decisions right now.
Finally, and most importantly, continue to be in prayer constantly!
Documentation on the above can be found at the link appearing below:
Joshua 1:9… Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.