Now more than ever, church leaders must recognize the importance of risk management and controlling risk. The past few years have been interesting for churches regarding safety and risk management. Hot topics include church shootings, church security teams, transgender access to bathrooms, same-sex marriage, the Zika virus, sexual misconduct within the church, hurricanes, and floods.
Each year seems to bring something new. While we can’t build a wall around every single potential threat, an effective risk management plan should be proactive rather than reactive, focusing on risks before they become liabilities and taking the appropriate steps to mitigate those risks.
For example, we must know the risks that threaten our ministry so we can effectively control them. Here is just a sampling of some of these.
- Have a regular physical inspection that identifies preventable hazards such as combustibles near electrical or heating sources, walkway defects like uneven or cracked sidewalks, clogs in gutters or downspouts, plumbing defects in the baptistry area, obvious tripping hazards, etc.
- Child/Minor sexual abuse within the church gained the top step again for the reasons churches go to court. We must be more diligent at implementing safeguards that go well beyond just conducting background checks. Check your agent or insurance carrier for recommendations on this important topic.
- Crime and violence challenges are still rare occurrences within the church, but we live in a violent world, so it’s a good idea for church to have a plan in place to prevent and respond to violent incidents. Hiring uniformed policy officers remains the best alternative for any program, but just be sure to coordinate any planned responses with your insurance agent for advice on liability exposures or coverage concerns.
- Rapid advancements in technology present both an opportunity and a challenge for churches. Safety and security technology has never been so advanced, but the advancement of technology also presents threats in terms of privacy and the increasing amount of data that churches maintain on their members and guests. A strong data security system, along with consideration of cyber liability insurance coverage, is quickly becoming essential for churches.
Other things you can do include:
- Insurance coverage reviews – These should take place on a regular basis to evaluate any changes not only at your church but also changes in policy coverage’s and changing exposures or risks to the church.
- Seek resources and expertise from your Agent – Ideally agents should be well versed in churches and church exposures and as such, can be valuable assets in protecting churches, so don’t hesitate to reach out to yours for advice on your event plannings, policy and procedural development, training or other general resources.
An effective risk management program will continually focus on the various components of the church’s ministries and will identify and analyze the risk associated with each ministry. Some will inherently be more challenging than others, so we must continually ask ourselves if what we are doing (or not doing) is accomplishing the goals of the ministry and whether it is exposing others to potential harm. If any of the latter, what are the steps we must take to control or mitigate those risks?
We don’t always know what we will be presented with, but an intentional focus on risk management may repel the enemy’s determination to destroy and will allow your church to be the safe haven we all desire to be.