Covid-19 guidelines for ministry
As COVID-19 restrictions ease around the globe, we have set up this page to help disability ministries resume face-to-face meetings safely. Always refer to your local state and government guidelines for official reopening timings and protocols.
Tips and Recommendations
Work out with your team of leaders a set of consistent new safety rules, so members (and leaders) don't get confused. It's always easier to tell your members beforehand what the new expectations/rules are rather than correcting them afterwards. Consider sending a sheet with basic new rules before face-to-face meetings start again, or at least explain the new rules as soon as they arrive.
Always remember that adults with intellectual disabilities are adults, and at Jesus Club, we treat our members as peers. So, as much as possible, we should give them the same access to church and ministry programs as everyone else.
Be affirming and understanding
The past year has been an isolating and trying time for everyone. But it's likely to have been even more difficult for people with ID, who may already be experiencing social isolation daily and find it harder to understand the reason for the sudden changes. Help them feel at ease by being calm, affirming and clear on the new rules.
Use contactless forms of greeting
In ministry, we often rely on handshakes and pats on the back to show affection to our members. During the time of COVID, try waving, smiling and saying their names instead of hand-shaking or patting people on the back. You could even try the Japanese/Indian greeting of putting your hands together and slightly bowing.
Keep a safe distance
A 1.5m social distance helps stop or slow down the spread of the virus. Maintain social distance by marking out the safe distance using dots on the floor. Reduce the number of chairs and tables and space them out at 1.5m intervals. And create a one-way flow for foot traffic and keep seating in rows and facing one direction only.
Encourage safe behaviour with positive language
Direct members to appropriate behaviours by phrasing the requests using positive language. e.g. Say "Stand apart" rather than "Not too close together" and "Let's wave!" rather than "Don't shake my hands".
Use masks and sanitiser
Many activities we do at church such as singing, laughing and loud talking can lead to increased release of respiratory droplets which increase the risk of transmission. Consider the use of face masks if your members are comfortable with wearing one and explore alternative ways of singing and reading, such as watching music videos and projecting Bible passages on screen.
Have plenty of sanitizer available and encourage members to use it at various intervals during the program and particularly after going to the bathroom and before eating refreshments.
Keep meetings short
The duration of interaction is another likely factor of spread so you might consider making your meetings shorter.
Meet in a well-ventilated space
A high number of infections occur indoors where there is limited airflow. Consider using larger rooms with higher ceilings and open available windows and doors. Allow time to vent the space between use and meet outside whenever possible. In the winter months, it's likely to be too cold for this option but consider moving outdoors during summer.
Provide safe physical assistance.
Some people with disabilities need physical assistance when walking upstairs or getting up from their chair. Where possible, encourage them to use supports like handrails; and if members require physical assistance, link your arm in theirs to avoid skin-to-skin contact rather than holding their hands.
Serve individual portions of food
Current Research indicates that transmission from the act of food sharing is very low. However, congregating over food can reduce social distance and increase the risk of transmission. Give out individually packaged food (such as snap-lock bags of food) and drink, or encourage members to bring their water bottles. And err on the side of caution by using disposable cups and plates.