Restarting Church Gatherings

One year ago, churches were considering the logistics of re-opening campus ministry after a period of quarantine and stay-at-home directives. Over that year, churches have re-opened ministries at various times and in multiple stages. As this re-opening is “ongoing,” it is essential to recognize that some of the considerations from one year ago still apply today, yet many have modified them.

Our country is now solidly into the vaccination phase of dealing with COVID-19, which means that more and more people will be returning to church. When they return, we want them to have a safe experience. So, we have produced these updated recommendations to provide logistical and pastoral guidance for the congregations of the BCMD.

Updated Guide for In-Person Worship



We are now entering the “warmer months” of the year. This will make it possible for some churches to conduct outdoor worship. This may be the preferred route for some churches still, but now that more and more people are being vaccinated, meeting indoors in designated meeting spaces is becoming more and more the preferred practice. However, some churches will prefer meeting outside because it’s been shown this minimizes the potential spread of the virus and variants. Many people will also feel safer returning to an outdoor environment. If churches are meeting outdoors, they do need to have a backup “inclement weather” plan for those Sundays when meeting outdoors is not a possibility. A good plan would include when there is rain and when the temperature may prohibit an outdoor meeting.

Another consideration in this regard is the crowdedness of the sanctuary. Churches that have ample room to spread out may well choose to remain indoors. This helps to address logistical issues such as having to set up seating and sound. In addition, churches that are meeting indoors will not have to worry about inclement weather policies.

A major advantage of meeting outdoors is that it provides a greater measure of protection against the potential spread of the virus. Studies have shown that the virus spreads most easily in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation. This comes primarily through airborne droplets that are passed from person to person. As the CDC website says, “In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to infectious respiratory droplets.”1


Early in the pandemic, it was thought that the virus could live on surfaces and be passed on to other people through them touching the surface and subsequently bringing their hand to their face, thus allowing the virus to enter them. The CDC now states that, “The virus spreads less commonly when a person touches an object or surface that has the virus on it and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or, eyes.” So, while ‘deep cleaning’ is not as much of a concern as it was one year ago, cleanliness remains an issue. Churches should continue to clean regularly, but normal cleaning routines should suffice to provide a clean and safe environment for congregants.

In addition to facility cleanliness, personal sanitation remains a need. Churches should ensure that bathrooms have adequate soap for handwashing, and hand sanitizer should be spaced adequately throughout the facility for people to access and use.


Some congregations have given congregants the option to remove their mask once they arrive at their seat. Others no longer have any mask recommendations. The state of Maryland now says that individuals who have received the full dose of the vaccine are no longer required to wear a mask. If churches no longer require masking for those who are vaccinated, they will want to consider having a separate area designated for those who have not yet been vaccinated where they can wear masks and remain distanced. Mask removal should not be an issue for churches that meet outdoors, as the outdoor environment and distancing capability allows respiratory droplets to disperse much more easily, thus providing much more security against the spread of the virus.

The same logic should apply to groups that are meeting indoors (Bible study groups, youth groups, etc.). Due to the closer proximity, some churches have continued to hold their groups virtually or outdoors. Some are meeting indoors, but require masks. Others have returned to meeting the same way they did pre-Covid. This is a decision each church will have to make according to what their leadership feels is best and safest for their situation.


Pastors and church leaders should understand that people have differing “comfort levels” about returning to church. Some have largely been in their house for the past year, hardly even going to the grocery store. Others go out to eat, go shopping, and gather with friends, but somehow seem to think that coming to church is unsafe. Clearly, these are quite diverse perspectives and shepherding both can be a challenge.

Church leaders should not shy away from emphasizing that the Scripture warns us about “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Hebrews 10:25a). Yet, at the same time, they should be sensitive to the unique needs of individuals. Folks with various comorbid conditions have legitimate concerns about being in environments where a virus like COVID-19 can spread, even if they have been vaccinated. Churches should continue to make accommodation for such congregants in whatever ways possible (broadcasting services digitally, etc.).

At the same time, many have been patiently waiting for the reinstitution of various church ministries. As more and more people receive their vaccine, more and more people will also be comfortable with returning to ‘normal church life,’ by singing in the choir, serving in the nursery, attending youth group, etc. Church leaders need to prayerfully and strategically plan to reinstitute ministries that help to develop disciples of Jesus.


If the past year has taught us anything, it is that followers of Jesus have very diverse perspectives about COVID-19. Some seem to believe it is the greatest health threat this world has ever faced. Others believe it is a scam, a ploy to garner control of the masses. Most Christians are somewhere in between such extremes.

The church is the body of Christ. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Corinthians 12:14-18).

Church leaders need to understand that fellow followers of Jesus will view this differently. Therefore, it’s important that no one perspective is promoted as “the right perspective.” Demonizing people who see COVID-19 differently than we do is telling the foot that because it’s not a hand, it’s not part of the body. Our unity is in the gospel of Jesus, not our perspective about COVID-19.

Over the past year, some churches have experienced the loss of congregants who have left for churches that don’t require mask wearing because they didn’t want to wear one or feel it was necessary, yet their church required it. Likewise, some churches have lost individuals because their church didn’t require mask wearing, and so they chose to begin attending one that did. COVID-19 shouldn’t be a divisive issue. However, it requires sensitive and caring leadership on the part of pastors, elders, and other church leaders to keep it from becoming such.

Download helpful documents that will assist your church in restarting groups.

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The recommendations on this page serve only as legal orders limiting gatherings in your area are relaxed or lifted. Each autonomous church should gather their own legal and medical advice since this site is not intended to offer such advice.