Richard Hammar, noted attorney and largely considered the expert in church…
It is as inevitable as the passing of time — change!
Most of us who grew up in church remember the singing of hymns — “Turn to page 95 and we’ll sing the first and last verses.”— oh, the memories of those days!
Many churches do not use hymnals any longer and the existence of songs with four to five verses is a thing of the past, so what will the next 10 years look like? The next 20? What major challenges should we anticipate? How will they impact the way we do ministry? How will we best protect ourselves in the future by what we do today?
These questions matter, not only to help us anticipate and aptly handle change, but also to help us more effectively reach our world for Christ. Clearly, we must force ourselves to look forward at the ever-changing landscape of risks and not settle for what we have done in the past as satisfactory and sufficient. We cannot be reactionary, but rather proactive in preventing risks and protecting ministry. We must prepare for the unexpected (can you say coronavirus) and look ahead to realize the true ramifications if proper precautions are not taken.
Here are a few of today’s concerns which could impact your church moving forward:
You should have an effective, written and updated Sexual Abuse Prevention Plan.
It may surprise you to learn that the majority of churches fail in this area. Most have some program, but few can tell you its content, where a written copy is located, or the last time it was reviewed or updated. This is the number one reason churches go to court and should garner your full attention and scrutiny.
Unlimited access to youth via cell phones is asking for trouble.
We are not discouraging the use of cellular devices by your youth pastor to communicate with his/her students but doing so without rules and guidelines is a major oversight. If you do not have a written policy for staff and volunteers that clearly defines the parameters for texting and other electronic communication with students, you should!
Embezzlement is a common occurrence in churches.
As much as we would like to believe otherwise, people do steal from the church, typically because of a lack of internal control. If you have the same person receiving your funds, making the deposits, and writing the checks without any or much oversight, you’re very much at risk or at the very least, open to criticism and distrust from your members. Review your procedures and consider embezzlement protection.
Churches being targeted by hackers is a growing threat.
Talk about new risks — none could be as challenging and intimidating as the need for cyber security. Susceptibility to social media litigation may put a church at risk. Churches should consider investing in cyber liability insurance which can save them money in the long run if they are ever attacked.
It is time to reconsider the use of 15-passenger vans.
No one likes to talk about this one, but with the National Traffic Safety Administration warning that 15-passenger vans are dangerous vehicles, the deck is stacked against you if there is an accident with serious injuries. I heard it said recently that we should “Let Our Adversity Be Our University”. The church that looks ahead and moves forward will be the one that grasps this ever-changing landscape and adapts to it, while maintaining focus on the true mission to which we are called.