When should we reopen our JCM program?

Rev. Joel Gaertner June 23, 2020

As more states are lessening their COVID-19 restrictions, Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) program leaders and volunteers are asking for guidance on opening their local program. Below are our thoughts and recommendations.

Main ideas to consider:

1) What are your state guidelines and recommendations?
This should be the first principle to consider. It is important to heed their advice and remember the priority is the health and safety of your participants, volunteers, and family members. Also, consider what leaders are saying in your county and even local community. You want your program to be in line with local guidelines. This will gain you credibility and give confidence to those you serve. We recommend you follow the recommendations for church reopening; this can be found on the state department of health websites. Contact your local public health office to verify and walk through your reopen plan if you have questions or concerns.

Initial questions to answer.

  • Is there is restriction on number of people that can gather? Check what your state or local guidelines are.
  • Is there a requirement to wear a mask? If yes, will people supply their own or will it be provided by the program? Most gatherings are recommending or requiring individuals to supply their own or will have a small supply on-hand for those that may have forgot. This could be homemade masks for general use ones that can be purchased at a local store.
  • Should all volunteers, participants and attendees be screened prior to joining? We recommend a general screen of temperature checks and asking basic health/wellness questions. Download screening tool.
  • What is the cleaning/sanitization process before, during and after the program? Many gatherings are requiring washing hands immediately upon entry, staying 6 feet apart, disinfecting BEFORE and AFTER program, and having staff/volunteers do a deep clean afterwards. A bleach water solution is an easy fix if nothing else is available. Have hand sanitizer available at the door.

2) How does your volunteer network feel about returning?
This is another critical part of the equation. Remember “everyone is at a different place.” Some people are ready attend events while others are hesitant.

Once you know that you could reopen based on the guidance from local leaders, contact your volunteers and get a feel for what they are comfortable with. You may need to work with them to come up with a re-start plan. See above questions to answer as a starting point.

3) What are you hearing from parents, guardians and local IDD organizations?
It’s important to gain insights from parents, guardians and caregivers. One program pushed to reopen their program with a group home because their other programs had resumed. On the other hand, many programs have shared that their parents and caregivers prefer to wait until September to resume.

4) Is there another option outside of holding the program physically together?
A growing number of programs are using Zoom to bring their Worship at the Cross service or Bible Class to the people they serve in the comfort of their home or group home. For more information to set up live streaming services or to join an existing programs live stream, email Jesus Cares Ministries at jcm@tlha.org.

In addition to live streaming, we are excited to share a library of Worship at the Cross services from JCM and other ministry partners. View Worship on the Cross on-demand. These on-demand sessions could be shared with your group homes contacts and parents as an option for in-home worship.

We ask that you consider all the factors carefully. You may choose to reopen your program or wait. It will vary by state, county and even town.

The bottom line is the decision to reopen your JCM program is a location decision. We pray these thoughts and ideas for consideration will help you work through the decision.