Plan for Resuming In-Person Worship, 5-27-20

Forest Lake United Methodist Church
Plan for Resuming In-Person Worship
May 27, 2020

Guiding Principles

This plan represents our best current knowledge and strategy. It is NOT a final document. We will revise it as the situation evolves.

At the core of Methodism is John Wesley’s First General Rule, Do No Harm.

Forest Lake’s plan for resuming in-person worship reflects that core principal to a high degree and at every level.

In order to do no harm to our members, our guests, our community, or ourselves, we pledge to follow these guidelines and observe all precautions designed to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Forest Lake will be diligent in observing precautions and best practices until a vaccine and/or a reliable treatment/cure is found.

We understand that progression through the six phases listed below does not indicate increased safety.

We will gradually increasing our worship numbers to allow us time to develop and deploy precautions with excellence.

In Phases Five and Six, we anticipate executing our precautions at a very high level due to what we learn in the earlier phases.

Because of the reality of asymptomatic spread, we will behave as though everyone present, including ourselves has the virus.

Response to the Bishop’s Recommendations

Our Task Force for Resuming Worship and our young families agree in principle with the plans set forth by our bishop and cabinet. The following plan is based on their recommendations.

Prerequisites for Gathering

14-day decline in new cases in Tuscaloosa County

Use a combination of daily new case counts and 14-day rolling average and percent positive data.

Tracking should account for number of tests as well.

Because of how mobile we are, consideration should be given to the numbers in neighboring counties, particularly Jefferson County.

Appoint a task force to track the numbers and make recommendations on the timeline for gathering.

Adequate cleaning supplies on hand.

Instruct Lisa to purchase 

Hand Sanitizer

Clorox wipes (or comparable)

Lysol spray (or comparable)

Chair of the Board of Trustees will oversee this process.

Instruct our cleaning service to spend the vast majority of our budget on the areas used in worship.

Consult with them about their ability to properly sanitize for COVID-19.

Investigate the county’s ability to do contact tracing.

Phase One

Begins on June 7 OR when we’ve met the above criteria, whichever is later.

Allows gatherings of up to 10.

Due to the number of services required, the extra hours and exposure of staff, and the extra expense of cleaning, we will not gather for traditional worship in the church building during Phase One.

We will consider inviting 4-6 people to recordings of our worship services to give at-risk individuals the opportunity to safely be in the church building and have time with the senior pastor.

Online worship will continue.

If our members choose to gather in homes or outdoor settings, Forest Lake UMC strongly encourages them to observe all CDC precautions for their group size.

Phase Two

Begins after an additional two weeks of declining new cases.

Allows gatherings of up to 25 people.

Based on interest and our ability to provide a safe experience, we will consider small group worship experience during Phase Two.

Current feedback suggests that worship is this phase is not something our people desire.

We will continue to listen as the situation evolves.

Phase Three 

Begins after an additional two weeks of declining new cases.

Allows gatherings of up to 50 people.

Invite one Sunday school class each week to worship in the sanctuary.

Each week a different class is invited.

Everyone else will worship online.

Fill extra seats (up to 25) with people who are not active in Sunday school.

Allow classes to remain in the sanctuary for a Sunday school lesson following worship.

Offer a family friendly worship service in the Fellowship Hall for an additional 25 people. (A description of that service is below.)

Follow all precautions listed below.

Continue with the Phase Two approach of inviting Sunday School classes and offering Family Friendly services.

Continue to offer online worship.

Consider resuming Sunday School if proper precautions can be followed.

Follow precautions listed below.

Phase Four

Begins following an additional two weeks of declining new cases.

Allows gatherings of up to 100.


Offer two traditional services each week with sufficient time in between for sanitizing, or

Invite half the congregation each week while the other half continues online worship.

Based on a limited survey of at-risk people, we may not have more than 100 that are ready to gather by Phase Four

If Sunday School has not resumed, consider in this phase if precautions can be followed.

Continue to follow precautions listed below.

Phase Five

Begins after two weeks of continued decline in new cases.

Allows gatherings of up to 250.

Review precautions to reflect the recommendations of the CDC and other medical authorities..

If not already done, consider resuming Sunday School.

Phase Six

Begins after two weeks of continued decline in new cases.

Evaluate our progress through the phases.

Establish new “normal” for church activities.

Review this policy and develop a plan for the following months.

Precautions (Observe through at least Phase Four)

Everyone in the building should wear masks.

Senior Pastor and staff will wear masks to model best behavior.

People are encouraged to bring their own mask.

The church will have masks available for those without them.

Continue to explore the role of music and singing in the worship services.

Singing is one of the most likely activities to spread the virus.

We will implement instrumentals and solos to provide some of the musical elements of worship.

We will likely limit the amount of music to be sung by the congregation.

The congregation will wear masks during singing.

Observe Social Distancing

Worshippers in the sanctuary will be seated in every other pew.

Worshippers will sit in household groups at either end of the pew.

Social distancing will be maintained by staff and choir on the stage.

All “touch points” will be eliminated.

Hymnals and Pew Bibles will be removed.

No bulletins

Lyrics and liturgy will be projected onto a screen(s).

No passing of the offering plates. Plates or baskets will be placed in the Narthex to receive the offering as people come and go.

No passing of the peace.

If communion is served, sealed, prepackaged elements will be provided.

Consider making restrooms one-person only or closing some stalls.

Turn off water fountain.

Sanctuary doors will be propped open before and after the service.

Dismiss worshippers by row, beginning with the back rows, to reduce congestion in the exits. 

Attendance Registration

Encourage attendance registration without Worship Attendance Pads.

Facebook Check-in

Text name to pastor’s cell phone number

Take a picture(s) of congregation

In the event that one of our worshippers tests positive for COVID-19, we need to be prepared to do contact tracing. We need contact information.


Provide multiple hand sanitizer stations.

Posters are on order to encourage masks and hand sanitizing. 

Encourage hand sanitizer over hand washing because of congestion in restrooms.

Provide for cleaning of sanctuary, welcome center, and restrooms after each service.


Over-communicate the new expectations and the rationale for them.

You are demonstrating love for others when you follow these guidelines.

Educate ushers on the precautions.

Train and encourage ushers to actively promote the precautions with worshippers.

Be prepared to reduce the size of gatherings or revert to an earlier phase in the unlikely event that people will not follow precautions.

Modern Worship/Family Worship Option

Nursery and children’s church will not be provided until later in the process.

Offer an expression of worship that targets young families and includes interactive elements to engage young worshippers.

Hold this service in the Fellowship Hall, possibly with family groups around tables.

Observe all above precautions.

Proposed Order of Worship

Welcome and simple praise song

Scripture reading (someone under the age of 20)

Homily (Typically 5 minutes)

Modern/kid friendly Psalter (same meaning easier words, shortened when more than 10 lines, with an easy praise song line as the choral response)

Children’s homily (5 minutes; think Mr. Rogers segment with a visual aid and very short lesson)

Anthem/offeratory (invitation to stand for worship if they want, no pressure, no plates passed, online giving link suggested, offering box by the door)

Scripture read by kid

5 minute homily

Benediction (UMYF)

Families will still be welcome in the traditional service, with the same schedule and attendance limitations listed in the above phases.


If someone tests positive within 14 days of attending an event at FLUM:

Immediately suspend all on-campus activities.

Senior Pastor will contact the bishop and appropriate authorities.

Sanitize and re-open in no less than 14 days, subject to bishop’s recommendations. 

If the trend of new cases increases after moving into the phases, we will consider remaining in the current phase longer or reverting to an earlier phase.

Weekday Kids

Plans to reopen on June 15 following DHR and the Bishop’s guidelines including

Health checks at the door

Drop off and pick-up at the door (no parents in the building)

Set times for pick-up and drop off

Extensive sanitation

Consult with our cleaning service about the possibility of cleaning at least the Welcome Center and restrooms between the close of Weekday Kids on Friday and worship on Sunday.


Publicize this policy in all available methods.

Email full policy to the congregation.

Include an abbreviated version in the Messenger.

Mail the full policy to people who do not receive email.

Make it available on Facebook

Make it available on the web page.

Stress that our guiding principle is “Do No Harm.”

Develop this policy into a script that can be shared via video.

Ask long-term, trusted leaders to record the video to be shared with the congregation.