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This topic is part of's larger "Return, Rebuild, Renew" Sunday School forum. (1)Safer Sunday Schools

You are welcome to add your thoughtful ideas, experiences, and science-based recommendations.

"Safe" Sunday School used to mean physical and emotional safety, but since the COVID pandemic, "safe" has also come to include keeping kids, teachers, families, and the general congregation safe from illness. Some of the following advice was first posted during the early days and then the height of the 2020 COVID pandemic. Some things have been updated as our experience and understanding have evolved.

One of the things many parents and church members will be looking for after the pandemic are signs that the church values their health and well-being and has taken steps to improve that experience.

Consider the following content as a starting point and consult your denominational and local health experts.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Recommendations for Safer Sunday Schools
Now & After the Pandemic

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The COVID pandemic has taught us that anywhere children and adults gather can become a "vector" for the spread of illness. And it's not just about the kids and teachers, "Safe Sunday School" is important because of the older folks and those with health issues with whom we share our buildings on Sunday morning.

The pandemic has also taught many of our members to stay away from church when they feel the situation is unhealthy or they themselves feel unhealthy. Moving forward from the pandemic, many members will be paying closer attention to our safety practices and their own, and we will need to reach out to those who choose not to attend for health reasons.

Sadly, there will also be those who resist our efforts to create a safer Sunday School. Where kids are concerned, however, there is no room for ignorance, only wisdom.


Many of the following recommendations are/were lessons learned during the COVID pandemic and should become part of our future "safe church" policies and practices. Heeding the following advice is not only the right thing to do, it will earn respect, spread good practices, keep more people healthy, and allow us to continue our important work.

They have been suggested by healthcare professionals, the CDC, various children's ministry experts, and the members and leaders of, Consider them a starting point for discussion and implementation in your church.

Establish a "sick child" policy and educate parents.

Remind teachers to be on the lookout for ill children and adults, and have a plan to deal with such. Have a supply of disposable masks for students and teachers who have symptoms.

Have a healthy airflow and exchange where possible.

Encourage the use of hand sanitizers, especially during flu season.

Keep some space between students in the classroom and during activities especially during flu season. For example, add an extra table, sit in a larger circle, form lines at an arm's length. Remind kids of healthy spacing habits they learned during the pandemic.

Remove, reduce, or adapt practices and points of physical contact in lessons and activities. This includes games, supply sharing, and worship service practices such as "passing the peace," or passing an offering tray.

Review and improve church cleaning practices and schedules, particularly anything people put their hands on.

Place signs in bathrooms and hallways about washing hands and covering coughs.

Review, clean, and make necessary modifications to air handling systems. "Fresh is best." This should also include a "sick building or room" review particularly where mold or mildew might be a problem.

Pay special attention to "super spreader" activities, such as singing, and be extra-vigilant about letting "sick" kids (coughing, sniffling) participate without wearing a mask and washing hands.

Practice safe food handling in the classroom and elsewhere. Train volunteers in safe food handling and distribution.

Train volunteers and nursery workers in safety policies, hygiene, and emergency practices. Make sure they have hand-sanitizing supplies and use them.

Review and update your volunteer background checks and student-contact policies. Include "signs and warnings" in volunteer and staff training.

Review unmonitored or unsafe areas in the building. Lock unused space. Review policies and practices regarding monitoring who is where in the building.

Review or create safe workplace policies and practices that protect and promote the health of pastors and staff.

Be an example to others of hope, care, safety, and patience.

And finally...  Have a plan to deliver at-home Sunday School and worship to those who cannot attend in-person, and reach out to children with illnesses and chronic issues. Compassion is more than a get-well card.

If you have something to add to this list, please post your reply.

Permission granted to share as needed. Copyright Inc.

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Opening our eyes and noses to healthier and safer buildings

  • Addressing the well-being of kids and adults who have mold and dust allergies.
  • "Safe" spaces, scary rooms, bad lighting, etc. (yes, some spaces are scary to kids)

In the "new normal" after the pandemic is over, we're going to need to do a number of things differently not only do things right, but to win families back.

Dust, mold, and mildew in classrooms is no joke to those of us who suffer from those allergies.

Many years ago at a church where I had just started serving, I walked into a Sunday School room and my head started throb and my throat start to close. One of the classroom walls was glistening with seeping slimy groundwater. It was my first encounter with a "sick building" and how they can make our children and teachers feel sick. The teachers told me it was like that EVERY summer and fall (and none of them wanted to be in that room). Fortunately, the problem was easily fixed by rerouting the downspouts which were dumping rainwater next to that below-grade classroom but it made me take a much closer look at ALL our teaching spaces, a journey which not so coincidentally led to the creation of the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School.

Here's a picture of that room with the "Temple" mural painted over that once-slimy wall after the room was fixed. This room became known as the Bible Skills and Games Workshop.

At about that same time, I was diagnosed with dust allergies and a modest sensitivity to mildew. I didn't grow up with allergies, rather, they “turned on” years later and it began turning on my awareness of how even mildly 'sick' rooms can make a child or adult feel uneasy and irritated. It's hard to learn when your sinuses start to feel full and eyes start to itch. Worse, I believe people make subconscious decisions about places that makes them physically and psychologically uncomfortable. I know I didn't like going "downstairs" at our church, and when I brought it up to two trustees who ALSO had allergies, they saw to it that things got better because they personally understood the problem. (Installed AC with filters and adjusted the cleaning schedule).

And now during and after the COVID pandemic we have become more aware of that our facilities and group interactions which can be “vectors” for the spread of common and uncommon illnesses that can be dangerous -- especially to older members, and those with allergies and other health issues.  For decades, we've coughed and touched and fevered our way through schools, churches, workplaces, and restaurants without thinking about how our "tolerable" illnesses can threaten someone's grandparent or friend who has heart disease. I pray that those days of "blissful" ignorance are over -- that healthier practices and facilities are one of the silver linings of the Coronavirus pandemic. The "new normal" must include a "safer-normal."

"Scary" and "Unsafe" Places

Years ago in a former church, a dad approached me to say his child was "afraid" to walk down to her classroom at the end of a lower level hallway at church. It was "too dark!" she said. And indeed, it was. It was the first time I started looking at our facilities as our KIDS experience them. It was a simple lighting fix, but it started a whole list of "emotional fixes" to our facility to make sure our kids FELT welcome and safe.

A few years back at a church I temporarily served, I was in charge of setting up a new Sunday School in a new "office building" the church had purchased. The number of spare rooms, out of the way closets, and exits was a problem waiting to happen. We asked for the spare spaces to be locked and security cameras to be installed, but were told it would be too expensive.   (More expensive than a lawsuit? No. But the "retired guys" on the Building committee were from a different era and didn't seem too worried. What that committee needed was some moms!)

Crisis has a funny way of making us re-evaluate what's right, what's no longer helpful, and what's no longer necessary. Crisis also helps us see things we should have been taking care of, but for whatever reason, didn't. Going back to doing things "the old way" and not worrying about their effect on people is not leadership.

I truly believe that crisis is the mother of invention. Moving forward, what we in children's ministry and the church need to do is "re-invent" how we think about and manage "safety" in our buildings and the ways we interact with each other.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Teach Compassion and Reach Out to those with Health Problems

As it happens, we were learning the story of Jesus calming the sea during the COVID pandemic. On one Sunday, our pastor changed her already prepared sermon to preach on this text and spoke about love casting out fear.

We shared ways for families to show love that casts out fear to the world by:

  • Purchasing bags of food for an emergency food bank for kids in our area who depend on school breakfasts and lunches
  • Asking children at home make cards for people who are isolated in assisted living or elsewhere
  • Opening a room of books we have to stock Little Free Libraries to families who want to pick up reading material (because our libraries are closed), by offering to run errands for those at risk.

I'd love to learn how others are supporting families at home in these unprecedented times. This seems like a whole culture shift, and we need to share ideas for navigating these waters now and in the future.

July 2021

The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidance for schools Monday, recommending that all students over 2 years old, along with staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new AAP guidance comes less than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its own recommendations, calling for indoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated students ages 2 and up, as well as staff. (Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.) The CDC notes, however, that schools might find universal masking necessary in areas with low vaccination rates, increasing community transmission or a number of other factors.

Both sets of guidance focus on getting students back into classrooms.

Reported by NPR

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