The language of COVID-19 is here and probably won’t vanish when the last case ends. Social distancing, elbow-bumping, and cough-cringing are all going to live in our collective psyche for years to come. We’re going to have a generation affected by this.

A few days ago, I approached a neighbor who was washing his car. We awkwardly walked close, half-extended hands in greeting, before laughing and backing away. It’s difficult to express Christian love or even friendliness in light of COVID-19. Even after the crisis has ended, we’ll be different people.

That goes for our houses of worship, too. Here are seven tips how to prepare for the crisis’ end — and how to communicate differently when we (finally) invite people back to our pews:

1. Follow the CDC for restrictions.

Don’t move too quickly thinking you know more than what’s being talked about in the media. It’s a battle that’s not worth risking. Don’t dabble in politics unless it involves Biblical truths (that’s your lane).

2. Disinfect surfaces.

The campus is empty and viruses won’t live on surfaces much more than a few days. But clean so you can let people know. It’ll add to the confidence of returning. We’re in a hyper-sensitive time. Broadcast it on social media and on your website prior to welcoming people back. Tell them you’re anticipating their arrival!

3. Establish contact rules with Guest Services.

Prepare volunteers about keeping a healthy distance. Have ways to creatively love on people without touching (for a while). Communicate this in a fun way (if that’s your brand). Or, kindly tell people to respect each other’s space.

Handshake welcome times should get a pause for a while — maybe forever. Instead give ways to welcome without physical contact — in the long run, it’ll be more valuable to your church. “I don’t think we’ve met!” or “Remind me of your name” or “I’m glad you’re here today!” goes very far.

4. Treat everyone like a new guest.

Everyone will feel different when they arrive back. Plus, the community that met you online during quarantine will arrive too. Ensure everyone feels welcome. Perhaps welcome gifts for everyone! It’s one time when everyone needs to feel valued.

5. Stay online and embrace it.

Don’t forget your online service. Congratulations! You now have an online campus (maintain staff support and focus). Boost social posts and promote ads to increase audience. Who knows?! You may reach more online than you can in a service. That’s your goal!

6. Discover your thread.

All ministries took a pause. Be careful about restoring everything quickly. This may be the perfect time to identify what you do with excellence and create a brand around it (what you’ll be known for). Staying in a narrow lane. You don’t have to do it all!

7. Monitor your community’s headspace.

Through focus groups, get the pulse of the average congregation and community member and make sure you start there.

If they want to talk about what just happened, do it through your church’s lens. If they want to move past it, take them there. Make them the hero of your story and guide them to great things. Stop trying to be the hero!