Managing your church in the era of Covid
Published: Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Advice and support that will be of use to you.
**RULES AND GUIDANCE IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING. WE ENDEAVOUR TO UPDATE THE INFORMATION BELOW, BUT DUE TO RAPIDLY CHANGING SITUATIONS, SOME OF THE LINKS MAY NOT BE THE MOST RECENT. IN THE MEANTIME HERE ARE LINKS TO THE LATEST GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE FOR ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND**
Churches and chapels across the UK are navigating the process of being open safely as COVID-19 becomes the new norm, whilst others are having to close once more as local lockdown restrictions tighten.
This page is primarily for those who are still trying to be open, or reopen when suitable to do so.
Managing a safe reopening needs good planning and needs to take account of the needs and safety of clergy, any staff, volunteers, congregations and visitors - it will also need regular review. But reopening also provides an opportunity to re-engage with your community and new visitors.
Below is a range of advice and support that we hope will be of use to you. This includes some downloadable posters and notices that you are free to use wherever you think they may be helpful.
We also detail advice and support from government, church organisations, the heritage and tourism sectors. We include links to risk assessments, guidance on cleaning and much more.
Advice continues to change - please check this page regularly to be aware of any changes to guidelines and as we add more resources.
The current situation for churches and chapels
- Northern Ireland: churches and chapels are CLOSED from 7 January 2021
- England: churches are allowed to stay open, but latest guidance states "This is now one of the very few legal exemptions that allow larger numbers of people to gather. It is therefore crucial that places of worship and those attending comply with both law and the COVID-19 Secure guidance"
- Scotland: churches and chapels are CLOSED from 8 January 2021
- Wales: churches and chapels are currently open
Guidance - including on wearing of facemasks, numbers that can attend services as well as weddings and funerals, notices about NHS track and trace - continues to be different between countries and it is necessary to find the information that relates to you.
How to use this page
We have put all the advice and support of one page. First come resources that might be of practical use. We then provide ongoing advice and support. Do click on the links below to get to the key sections of the page.
Key things to consider include
- Cleaning your building, before opening and ongoing.
- Ensuring the appropriate distance (1m+ or 2 metres) can be maintained between persons entering the building.
- Access to hand washing facilities and/or hand sanitiser.
- Removing high touch items; such as hymn books, visitors book, pens, some prayer materials where they are likely to be used by more than one person, some or all seating, leaflets.
- Maintaining records to support test and trace (the government has issued this guidance)
- NHS track and trace and the display of QR posters (see this Church of England guidance) - churches are required by law to display an NHS Test and Trace poster if the church is open for any purpose outside of worship use e.g. visitors / community use.
We have developed a set of downloadable resources for you to use. They include posters, seat and hand washing / sanitising notices and prayer station notices. If we can, we will be happy to add to these and adapt them so as to make the posters relevent to a wider variety of buildings and circumstances. If you have a particular need or suggestion please contact us by email.
You can find our resources, which are all available for FREE download, in our Google Drive .
Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to receive updates and news of our training, events and new resources as they are arranged.
We are also planning a series of training sessions and online events. We will update this page with the dates and how to book a place as soon as they have been finalised, but they will include:
- Short Facebook live presentations.
- Training sessions on Zoom.
- Short training and information films.
Other useful resources
- The Baptist Church have template posters and stickers to help administer social distancing rules, other posters are available from the Church of England Print Hub here.
- You can buy PPE from Parish Buying.
- Risk assessments from each of the major denominations are available via links below.
- How to make your own face masks.
- Test and Trace - ParishBuying has a dedicated service to collect and manage data securely, available for a monthly fee; the Church of England has this advice; the Methodist church has this advice and template.
There are some things you will want or need to think about once you have decided to reopen.
Asking for donations
We know your income may have been severely reduced. You will be keen to encourage people to donate, make purchases or to join your Friends group but may be unsure how you can best raise money. Many shops have moved almost entirely to contactless payments, reducing the need to handle cash. What can you do?
Below is some advice about digital and online donations, as well as cash handling.
- Claim gift aid on small donations accrued during the lockdown - the HMRC has stated "Where it is the case, for example, of separate donations being given in a single envelope, then if the church/charity official is happy these are clearly separate ‘small donations’ (and clearly stated as such) then they will be eligible for GASDS, as is the case where separate envelopes are used”.
- Encourage donations using online platforms or text giving.
- Information about setting up a friends group.
- Digital giving from Parish Resources.
- Giving online from Parish Resources.
- UK Fundraising advice about cash and the coronavirus .
Other fundraising ideas
Other ideas for local fundraising from churches in the past have included safari dinners, open garden events and concerts. See some examples on our website. The new times we are living through is an opportunity to try out new ideas such as:
- An online quiz with entrants buying tickets to take part.
- Online cookery class.
- Virtual open garden; pay for a ticket and get a personal video tour using a platform such as Zoom from a mobile device, there could be votes for 'best in show' and small prizes from local businesses.
- Online flower festival, such as one organised by Chichester Cathedral.
- Online auction.
- Encourage sponsorship ideas; such as how long can you go without shaving your beard, or a cycle ride incorportating churches, or a potato growing competition (seriously - check it out)
- Rent church parking space. Read this article to find out more.
If you have any good ideas that have worked for your church, please do email us so that we can suggest them to others.
To see what other churches have been up to during Covid-19 have a look at our Church Heroes page.
Developing new activities, and continuing online activities
It's unlikely that congregations and groups will be able to gather inside churches in large numbers for some time still to come. You may want to explore staging outdoor services, drive in services, or continuing your activities online.
- Caring for God's Acre for advice on making the most of your churchyard, and see Church of England advice on using your churchyard for worship
- 'Everybody Welcome Online' tips for online services from Church Pastoral Aid Society.
- CTBI's list of resources also see their advice on using social media
- Crowdsourced directory of tools for churches during Covid-19.
Telling your story
You may find that interest in your church, churchyard, community and heritage has increased.
During lockdown we have all been exploring our local area more. Research shows that people are keen to continue to do this, to 'live like a tourist', visit local heritage sites and support local businesses and places that have kept them going during Covid-19.
During Covid-19 both tourism and churches have been seriously affected by the fact that people have been unable to go out and visit places of interest, which may have long term effects.
Before Covid-19 the big travel trends were 'experiences' and 'travel like a local'.
Now, we have all had to rediscover our local area. Many people are discovering they can 'live like a tourist' because they have wonderful heritage, open spaces and small businesses right on their doorstep. And, in the face of lockdown, these are the things and the people that have kept them going.
Now is your chance to welcome both existing and new visitors to your church.
Nine things to do now
- Check and update your online presence; your website, your social media, your google maps entry, your TripAdvisor reviews; ensure they all clearly list up to date information, location and contact details.
- Develop your online content; add photos and stories to your website.
- Research your church heritage and stories, try different ways of sharing them.
- Explore and practice using 3D photos, cinemagraphs, free virtual tour builders, video makers and other free tech.
- Learn from others; some churches and heritage attractions have done digital brilliantly during lockdown; seek them out and learn from them.
- Create and schedule regular engaging posts on social media, plan and produce a virtual tour, take photos and films once you can get into church.
- Share your social media stories and posts with us, via either the NCT channels or ExploreChurches channels.
- Watch our training films: tourism, taking great photos, create great films.
- Make sure your church is listed on our ExploreChurches website, and if it is that your page is up to date and tells a great story.
Most clergy, staff and volunteers have not been inside their church building for many weeks. When you open the door you may discover that you need to address issues that might have occured in the absence of regular visits, or simply decide that you want to take the opportunity to review plans and processes and deal with maintenance issues during the remaining summer months.
Maintenance resources have been developed by a number of organisations, here are a few suggestions:
- Find maintenance resources on our MaintenanceBooker website.
- Find maintenance plan templates on our website .
- We have a number of short videos designed to guide you through various aspects of building maintenance.
- SPAB's maintenance advice.
- Check out the Diocese of Monmouth's maintenance calendar.
Remember that we offer grants to help you with your maintenance work:
Based on the principle that prevention is better than cure, MaintenanceBooker can help churches and chapels avoid having to carry out major repairs to their buildings by making it easy to carry out regular maintenance. If booking a service through MaintenanceBooker, then you could also be eligible to apply for financial support through our Preventative Maintenance Micro Grant.
The income of places of worship has been severely impacted during the lockdown. Listed below are existing and new funds available to churches. For further enquiries please email our grants team who can also offer advice on fundraising.
Grants from the National Churches Trust
In light of challenging financial times, our grant programmes should be able to help churches get their buildings back in good repair again.
Foundation : 50% grants of £500 up to £5,000 on urgent and essential maintenance works : decisions made on a rolling basis.
- Gateway : grants of £3,000 up to £10,000 (not exceeding 50%) for maintenance and small repair projects costing up to £100,000 : 3 deadlines each year.
- Cornerstone : grants of £10,000 up to £50,000 for large scale repair projects costing over £100,000, also projects for the installation of kitchens and toilets to support community use : 3 deadlines each year.
Advice on other sources of funds
- You can view advice on our website on applying for grant funding.
- Historic England and the NLHF are overseeing the allocation of £36million as part of the Second Round of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage - applications are open until the 26 January 2021. Through this programme, you can apply to cover costs associated with shortfalls in income during the period April-June 2021, whilst you are working towards restarting normal operations or business. You can include maintenance costs but not capital repair projects. Further details are here, and the Church of England has also drafted additional guidance here relevant to all places of worship.
- Applications to the NLHF's usual programmes for grants from £3,000 to £100,000 are open again. They have also launched a new repayable finance scheme. Applications for larger awards should reopen in February. The allocations will focus on continuing to support organisations through the Covid-19 crisis.
- Historic England's £3million Heritage at Risk Fund has now closed.
- In Wales the 15 minute Heritage Grants programme has now closed.
- In Scotland the Historic Environment Recovery Fund has now closed.
- The first round of the £92 million Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage in partnership with the DCMS, NLHF and Historic England has now closed.
- In 2020 the NLCF distributed £2million on behalf of the DCMS to support small to medium sized organisations in England to continue to deliver services to people and communities affected by Covid-19. Their regular schemes are open and have returned to a more usual operation though projects addressing the crisis remain a priority. They can fund religious organisations if their project benefits the wider community and doesn’t include religious content.
- A new £9.5 million fund for community-led organisations impacted by Covid is being managed by Power to Change on behalf of the NLCF has now closed.
- The Aviva Community Fund has broadened its eligibility to support causes in addressing the impacts of the outbreak and can cover core running costs to help beneficiaries and communities. The current round of applications is open until the 26 January.
- The AllChurches Trust has launched a new grants programme called Hope Beyond which is open. It is aimed at enabling churches and Christian charities to meet changing need within their communities as the longer term impact of Covid-19 becomes clearer. Grants of up to £50,000 are available and the amount you receive will depend on the cost of your project and level of need in your community, ranging from 10% of project cost through to 80%.
- The Parish Resources list of sources of grants for places of worship remains useful, though it is not specific to the Coronavirus. They also have advice on fundraising for your church whilst your church is closed.
- Find your local community foundation to see how they might be able to support, funds relate to supporting the community.
- Landfill Communities Fund funds are distributed through Environmental Bodies (such as FCC Communities Foundation, Veolia Trust, Suez Communities Trust, Biffa, Viridor Credits, Cory Environmental etc.). Such bodies can support the repair and/or wider community use of historic places of worship. Check postcode eligibility on their own individual websites, or search funds available at ENTRUST.
- Super-markets and other stores often have fundng schemes, for example Tesco Bags for Life.
- Other links on GrantsOnline.
- For supporting social outreach activities, the Cinnamon Network has some micro-grants available to support projects registered by the network, and Just Finance are running free workshops to help communities manage money issues.
Wider fundraising advice
- Other ideas for local fundraising from churches have included safari dinners, open garden events and concerts, see our ideas for local fundraising .
- 25 top fundraising ideas from The Church Times.
- GiftedPhilanthropy have resources including pre-recorded webinars on major project planning.
- The Institute of Fundraising has some introductory information to advise on successful fundraising which includes links to videos.
- The Faith Based Regeneration Network has a range of useful advice.
- Ecclesiastical Insurance has a wide range of advice. They have also been running a series of webinars on fundraising, digital fundraising, impact reporting and ongoing communication. Sign up to their newsletter to stay in the loop.
- Parish Resources advice on Growing Income including gift aid and legacy information.
- Giving to Heritage was the Heritage Alliance’s training programme for fundraisers in the heritage sector, their webinars have been archived.
- Advice from Stewardship.
- The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has a list of funding opportunities relating to Covid
- Ecclesiastical has a fundraising hub which has lots of practical support and advice and fundraising webinars
There is government advice, each denomination has its own guidance and links to risk assessments, practical advice, heritage sector advice and tourism sector advice. Each has useful guidance to help you reopen with confidence and to answer your questions and concerns.
- England : government advice
- Northern Ireland : government advice
- Scotland : government advice
- Wales : government advice
Church organisations advice
- Church of England guidance on reopening including, opening, cleaning, hygiene, risk assessment templates and their Covid hub which includes downloadable posters
- Methodist Church has this advice
- Baptist Union has this advice
- Roman Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales has this advice
- Quakers have this advice
- United Reformed Church has advice
- Church of Ireland has this advice on returning to church
- Methodist Church in Ireland has this reopening church advice
- Presbyterian Church in Ireland has the following resource
- Irish Catholic Bishops Conference has this advice on reopening
- Church of Wales has this latest advice
- The Scottish Episcopal Church has this advice
- Church of Scotland’s has this advice
- Scotland’s Bishops Conference Covid resources
- Churches Together in Britain and Ireland link to other denominations' advice and resources
- The Arthur Rank Centre has a hub with advice for rural churches
- Historic Religious Building Alliance Covid hub
- Law and Religion UK Covid hub
- Ecclesiastical has specific Covid-19 advice
- Baptist Insurance has this advice
- Methodist Insurance has this advice
Heritage sector advice
Closure of buildings or their restricted use can increase the risk the growth of Legionella in water systems, as water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use. You should review and manage the legionella risks when you reinstate a water system. Be aware that the procedures you will need to follow to safely flush and restart your water system varies, depending on how your water systems were managed during closure. See government advice here and European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases advice on restarting water systems here (denominational links above also have information on this).
The Canadian Conservation Institute has provided some useful guidance for museums in relation to caring for heritage collections, which may also be relevant to churches. It includes a useful note about which disinfectants can be safely used within a heritage context. You can find the guidance on their website.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) recently published safety guidance to help museums as they reopen, while protecting the safety of both the public and their staff. You can find the guidance on ICOM’s website.
- SouthWest Museums have produced advice about safe volunteering during Covid-19, you can find it on their website.
- Historic England has advice on cleaning historic interiors.
- The Heritage Alliance is co-ordinating a Covid-19 funding hub relevant to the whole of the heritage sector, in addition to its usual Heritage Funding Directory.
- Historic England also has a list of heritage funders.
Tourism sector advice
- VisitBritain Covid-19 hub
Other church advice
- Cinnamon Network will be running a series of training sessions designed for those at churches entering the next phase of Covid-19 response - training includes diversity, volunteers, partnerships, funding, monitoring etc. Sessions are free of charge.
If you are notified of a confirmed case of Covid-19 you will need to take actions. Public Health England has produced actions cards, including one specifically for places of worship, to take. Identify - Report - Respond
Churches are strongly recommended, and in many cases legally required, to use the NHS Test and Trace App. See Church of England's guidance on this here.
Churches and Cathedrals are considering how they can be of service to the nation through use as vaccination centres. The Church of England has issued some guidance to consider here.
Churches and chapels that are able to hold services may be beginning to plan their Easter services. See this Church of England guidance for Lent, Holy Week and Easter here.