Welcome to Rotation.org's discussion and recommendations regarding Sunday School during the 2020 Coronavirus epidemic.
As of April 2020, most Sunday Schools and churches are closed down and the discussion has shifted to resourcing kids and families at home. But when we open back up, we'll still need to be vigilant. Experts tell us that we'll be dealing with this virus at least all year. Thus, much of the following advice remains timely.
And frankly, we should have been vigilant before all this -- considering how deadly the "common flu" can be to our older members and members with underlying conditions. This crisis has taught all of us a lesson. Moving forward, a return to past practices is UNACCEPTABLE.
<>< Neil MacQueen, Rotation.org Lead Writer
Kicking off the discussion in THIS topic is a list of recommendations to help reduce the spread of illness in Sunday School and congregations. Your thoughtful replies and related questions are welcome. This topic is part of our expanded Online and At-Home Sunday School Forum.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 - NLT
Note: This article is provisional and will be updated in response to the on-going pandemic, what we're learning, and the rules and practices being recommended by medical professionals and state authorities. Rules and guidelines are constantly changing, and vary from place to place and between denominations. (Please always start your planning by looking at your local regulations.)
Sunday School after the Coronavirus
March 12, 2020
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Printable PDF of this article
Anywhere children and adults gather together can become a "vector" for the spread of illness, including the coronavirus. Churches and Sunday Schools are no exception. Especially considering the number of older and "at risk" parishioners who share our facilities and come in direct contact with our children, moving forward, Sunday Schools and churches need to become more intentional and pro-active to protect the health of members, visitors and staff. When we finally get this crisis behind us, we need to apply its lessons to the future.
Many of the following recommendations are not only important to implement during the coronavirus pandemic, they should become part of your "safe church" policy and practice. Heeding the following advice is not only the right thing to do, it will earn respect, spread good practices, keep more people healthy, and teach important lessons.
Prop open doors where possible so that people don't have to touch handles and knobs.
Place hand-sanitizer volunteers at your entrances to catch people coming AND going.
Begin classes by passing the sanitizer and supervising how well children use it. If you're having trouble finding sanitizer, search the web for many good alternatives (soap and water works!).
Put some space between students in the classroom and during activities. For example, add an extra table, sit in a larger circle, form lines at an arm's length.
Remove points of unnecessary physical contact in general and in worship services (such as "passing the peace"), Sunday School, and other types of activities (such as fellowship games and shared-supply art projects). This applies to greeting each other at doors and in fellowship. Use creative alternatives to handshakes, hugs, and the sharing of supplies.
Review and promote policies regarding "sick child" and "sick adult." Discuss your "threshold" for canceling a gathering and have a plan for getting the word out.
Review or create safe workplace policies that protect and promote the health of pastors, staff, and janitors.
Post "how to cough" posters to remind kids and educate adults! (The kids will be used to it, but the practice will be new to many adults.) Link to large "Cover Your Cough" poster.
Remind teachers to be on the look-out for ill children and adults.
Sanitize physical "points of contact" in the classroom and building after use (toys, linens, sinks, handles, toilets, door jambs, doorknobs, tabletops, chairs, etc).
Practice safe food handling by having gloved volunteers pouring drinks and distributing snacks.
Have volunteers on stand-by to fill in for teachers and leaders who do not come.
Check on friends and fellow parishioners, especially those who are older and alone. (Children can make "get well" cards to be distributed.)
Suggest "at-home" activities, movies, and games to parents and children to help pass the time and reduce stress.
Suggest ways parents and teachers can talk to children about the Coronavirus. (There are a number of good parenting websites with this information.) Relieve fears.
Check-in with working parents about their child-care needs, and on the financial and supply needs of those who become ill.
Respect people's choices and their fears. Look for opportunities to relieve their stress.
Remember that EVERY YEAR has a "flu season," and that even "the regular flu" can be dangerous to older adults and at-risk persons.
Use this time as an opportunity to teach people about caring for others, and encourage on-going attention to the needs of at-risk persons.
Don't be afraid to cancel or postpone. Nobody's salvation depends on a class or event. Practice and demonstrate the spiritual gift of discretion and patience.
Be an example to others of hope, care, and patience.
And finally... Have a plan to deliver at-home Sunday School. Even after the "stay at home" orders have been lifted, how do you plan on reaching those who cannot (or will be reticent to) return? The current crisis should be the "mother of invention." What will we have learned? What do we need to get better at?
If you have something to add to this list, please post your reply.
Permission granted to share as needed.