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Jun 05
2007
CEN

Five Pillars of Church Safety Series: Pillar One - Prepare

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I grew up in the Akron, Ohio area.   Akron, among other things, is the home of the All-American Soap Box Derby.   Since my dad was a volunteer for many years, we went to the race.   I always marveled at the bright, shiny cars as they rolled down the long, sloping hill.   After passing the finish line, the drivers applied the brakes and eased to a stop.   Just in case, bales of straw were at the very end of the track.

I grew up in the Akron, Ohio area.   Akron, among other things, is the home of the All-American Soap Box Derby.   Since my dad was a volunteer for many years, we went to the race.   I always marveled at the bright, shiny cars as they rolled down the long, sloping hill.   After passing the finish line, the drivers applied the brakes and eased to a stop.   Just in case, bales of straw were at the very end of the track.

Imagine one of those drivers, after spending countless hours building, testing, and shining up their car, but forgetting to install the brakes. Though the race may have been exhilarating, no doubt many people at the bottom of the hill would be surprised when the car failed to stop.   Most surprised would be the driver.

The results of not planning at a Soap Box Derby Race may result in some bumps and bruises.   However, not preparing for the threats and emergencies that can show up in the church setting can result in loss of life, innocence, finances, reputation, and the ability to minister effectively.

The very first pillar in the Pillar of Safety Series is: Prepare.   In all there are five pillars you will want to consider as you seek to build a safe and secure foundation within your congregation.   “Recognizing the risks that can disrupt ministry and taking intentional steps to prepare for and practice ways that will eliminate or minimize those risks” is the credo of this first pillar.

Let’s look at the blocks to consider as we lay our foundation: The Culture of the Church and Risk Management

The term “risk management” is an insurance term.   Frankly, few in the life of the church like it.   Some are more comfortable calling it safety and security.   I prefer “ministry protection.”   Regardless, the key is to determine the culture and the appetite of the leadership and congregation as to what level they wish to engage in people, resource, facility, and ministry protection.

As recently as eight or ten years ago, few church leaders were thinking about such things.   But we’ve seen dramatic shifts in the way the courts, society, denominations, and many church leaders are thinking and acting.   No longer can the church hide behind some “religious immunity” when it comes to engaging in the safe practices and recognized standards of care that nearly all other organizations and businesses must follow.   The rising number and severity of judgments, lawsuits, claims, and increased premiums are causing people of faith to begin paying attention

With that in mind, every church leader and member that cares about the future vitality of their ministry will want to re-think their old notions and plan for a better future.

The Best Foundation

Most pastors and church business administrators have a pretty full plate.   So who is going to do this “safety and security thing?”   By far, the churches that are succeeding in this area are those that have assembled a team to address all the issues.   You can call the team whatever you wish, but by appointing a team to take on the broad tasks of keeping everyone safe and facilities and resources protected is something better left to a team.   It also provides for a greater chance at long-term consistency (for more information on team formation, see my special article on the subject).   The leadership (pastors and board) need to do more than just allow the team to be developed, they need to do everything they can to affirm the team and this new ministry in the eyes of the congregation.

Once you have the blessings of the leadership and the team in place, recognize that it will take some time to develop the perceived need and trust of the congregation.   Old habits die hard.   Go slow and always communicate.   Seek opinions and engage in discussion at every turn.   I have found that slowly they will come around.   The goal is to work safety, security and ministry protection into the fabric of the church.   It should eventually become a natural part of who you are.

 

 

The Ongoing Ministry

 

 

As I mentioned previously, the goal should be continuity.   You should find yourself five or ten years from now doing better than you are today.   Keep learning about new threats, trends, methods of protection, and work to partner with others.   Realize you will never quite “get there.”   And here’s the unique factor in doing safety, security, and risk management: You may never know what you prevented from happening!   It really is difficult to measure something that did not happen.

 

 

There may be less claims, or fewer accidents or injuries, but the goal is to get to that place where you can engage in vital ministry day-in and day-out with a confidence that you are doing it as safe as possible.   Preparing and developing a solid, comprehensive plan will have leaders saying, “We have done our best to make ministry safe and secure.   And even if something bad happens, not only will be ready for it, but we will responded according to plan.”   By getting to or striving to get to that place, the people and ministry that have been entrusted to your care will be far better off.

 

 

By preparing first, at the end of the journey, at the bottom of the hill, you won’t be caught saying, “I should have installed the brakes.”   You will feel better, people will be safer, ministry will be more protected, and surely God will be pleased.


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