As schools across South Carolina continue to wrestle with appropriate levels of opening, many questions have emerged among churches and church leaders in the SC Annual Conference about when and how to re-launch in-person youth ministry gatherings and activities. As with ministry in normal times, there is always some risk involved in ministry, particularly youth ministry. As church leaders, our goal is to minimize risk to the best of our ability. Clearly, the easiest and safest way to minimize risk of someone contracting COVID-19 is to not have in person gatherings. That being said, there is a growing desire among youth and youth workers to gather together much as churches have desired to gather in person. In order for that to happen, we as youth leaders and church leadership must be diligent in creating as safe an environment as possible. To that end, this document offers recommendations for best practices for churches to consider in order to restart in an effective but, most importantly, safe way that protects, to the best of our ability, young people as well as adult leadership from contracting COVID-19. Before we delve into specific actions that should be adhered to, some general information need to remember:

  1. The decision to restart in-person youth ministry gatherings is a local church decision and should be made in consultation with church leadership including but not limited to the Sr. Pastor, Church Council, your COVID-19 restart team, and any other pertinent leadership within your context. Obviously, there may be areas of our conference that are deemed “hot spots” by DHEC or CDC that may increase the risks associated with gatherings and therefore would delay restarting youth ministry for local churches in those areas. Please make informed decisions based on current statistics and information that is readily
    available concerning positive cases, percentages, and hospitalizations as you consider restarting.
  2. Safe Sanctuary policies should be reviewed and volunteers should be reminded of these policies as plans are made for transitioning back to in-person programming. A shortage of volunteers is a possibility as high-risk adults will remain home. Some changes in policy may need to be considered in order to reduce the possibility of spreading infection.

Safety Recommendations

○ Youth programming should follow CDC guidelines for sanitation , safety, group
size, and social distancing.
○ Guidelines and procedures for deep cleaning and regular sanitizing of all spaces
used for youth ministries should be developed prior to in-person events and
programs re-starting.
○ Develop a plan for providing face coverings for youth and adults who arrive
without one.
○ Plan to have all participants apply hand sanitizer as they enter the space
○ All staff, volunteers, and youth should wear face coverings and maintain 6 feet
physical distance from all present whether gatherings are indoors or outdoors.
Those who live in the same household can be considered a “family unit” and can
be within 6 feet of one another but must wear a face covering at all times.
Consider marking 6 foot spaces on the floor with tape to help remind youth of
social distancing requirements.
○ When possible, youth gatherings should be held outdoors.
○ Since contracting COVID-19 involves both distance from infected persons and
duration of exposure it is recommended that you limit the length of gatherings to
as small a duration of time as possible. The longer gatherings extend the more
likely it is to spread COVID-19.
○ When possible refrain from using shared objects. If that is impossible, plan to
disinfect objects between uses.
○ Whether indoors or outdoors, a space of 36 square feet should be accounted for
per “family unit” in attendance to allow adequate space for physically distancing
as recommended by the CDC.
○ Youth trips, outings and missions should not involve communal travel.
○ Due to the nature of retreats or trips needing extended periods of time indoors,
shared sleeping spaces and shared bathrooms overnight retreats, trips or
missions are not recommended.

Best Practices for Restarting Youth Gatherings

  1. Registering or accounting for youth expected to attend in-person events and programs should be used in order to limit the number of youth and adults, with a maximum of 50
    people (or more if state regulations change).
  2. Attendance should be taken at all youth gatherings including youth and adults in
    attendance in case COVID-19 tracing needs to occur.
  3. Food should not be offered in a communal setting. It is recommended that youth bring
    their own food to gatherings or that boxed/bag lunches are served when food is
  4. Be aware that while youth appear to be less vulnerable than other age groups, some
    youth are vulnerable and some youth are in regular contact with someone who is
    vulnerable. It is vital to continue to provide ministry opportunities for those who are not
    able or are not comfortable attending in person.
  5. If a youth attending a gathering is found to have tested positive for COVID-19, please
    refrain from gathering in person for at LEAST 14 days and follow CDC guidelines for responding safely when someone is sick.