Are you adequately safeguarding your church’s spiritual health, property and personnel? Consider each of these crucial areas individually.
Are you guarding your spiritual health?
Church leaders can stray theologically. They can stray morally. And they can just plain burn out. When it comes to the spiritual risks inherent in ministry, John Herman, EFCA director of Pastoral Care Ministries, has one piece of advice:
“Doing ministry in isolation is dangerous,” he explains. “Set up accountability in your church structure—annual reviews, prayer partners. And then do you have the willingness to go and confront? “And specifically to pastors I say: Get credentialed; you receive a peer review of your theology and of your life and ministry. And it gives others authority in your life.”
The need is huge for the pastor, above all, to be healthy. “Otherwise, your whole church is at risk,” John says. “In a large corporation, if one of its key leaders goes bad, there’s all kinds of redundancy of leadership. But a local church is like a small business: If the store manager goes bad, it has a huge impact.
“If you have an unhealthy pastor, in three to five years you’ll have an unhealthy church.”
Click here to learn more about pastoral health.
Is your building a safe place?
“If we neglect the building to give priority to the programs,” states Dick Dahl, EFCA director of human resources, “eventually that building and property will have dangerous areas, or people will simply stop coming because they don’t feel safe or comfortable. So the property affects the people.”
We need to ask: Where is our facility most vulnerable? What keeps this from being a safe place?
Consider starting with an invitation: Ask a friend from another church to walk through your building and identify areas in need of repair, accessibility issues, crisis-preparedness possibilities.
Crisis preparedness, in particular, can be an exercise in frightening what-ifs. But when it comes to being prepared for ministry opportunities, it can also be an exciting arena in which to dream: What are our current strengths and how could we use those in an increased measure in the event of crisis in our community?
In the end, Dick adds, many of the laws and best-practices for any area of risk are minimum-baseline standards for how people should treat one another. Christians should have an even higher standard.
Are you watching out for your church family?
“I won’t say you shouldn’t worry about your financial controls and building issues,” says Jot Turner, EFCA senior vice president of finance and operations. “But people are the reason we exist—to make disciples and to evangelize.
“Don’t do anything that’ll put your staff and church body at risk from a spiritual/emotional/physical point of view.”
Therefore, every inch of an effective risk-management plan involves people: protecting them, empowering them. So this area of risk covers everything from hiring/firing and financial controls, to insurance/disability issues and the screening of youth workers.
The list can be overwhelming. You don’t have to tackle it all at once, but you do need to be making progress. Gather a team about you to consider the risks on your horizon, perhaps the risks you recently averted.
“That’s how most policies are developed,” Jot says. “You can never plan for every contingency, but you come up with something to protect you from a foreseeable event, then hope you never need it.”