Religious organization risk management: Eight essentials

By Higginbotham on November 22 , 2016

iStock_Church Choir


As a religious organization, you play a crucial role in supporting the spiritual needs of your congregation and the goodwill of the community. But like any organization, you also have your own practical needs that must be met if you’re going to continue your vital work and maintain your commitment to those you serve.

One of your biggest practical needs is an appropriate risk management strategy to protect your members, your staff and your property. After all, religious organizations are exposed to many of the same risks as any other organization, as well as many risks unique to your work. And with the rise of gun violence and other violent crimes that have spilled over into churches, your duty to protect your flock is more serious than ever. But today’s risks also put you in the increasingly difficult position of having to protect your organization from the world you’re supposed to be reaching out to.

Balancing spirituality and practicality

Many religious leaders think that if they take the necessary measures to protect their ministries from today’s risks, their churches will cease to be the warm and inviting places they’re meant to be, or they’re somehow being unfaithful in trusting the Creator to watch over them.

But you don’t have to construct a fortress and arm it with metal detectors, guard dogs and men in black suits and sunglasses. It’s possible to strike an appropriate balance. Here are eight tips to help protect your organization and your property from some of the biggest risks you face:

  1. Conduct background checks for all new hires to help avoid unexpected surprises down the road.
  1. Implement a secure check-in and pick-up system for children attending events at your facility, and have strict policies for selecting people to care for children and youth.
  1. Provide security training for key people in de-escalation techniques aimed at gently confronting suspicious or hostile people in a non-threatening manner.
  1. Have an emergency action plan to be prepared for all types of emergencies including medical issues, power outages, fires, severe weather or a violent criminal act. Make sure your plan includes emergency communications to share information and coordinate people during an emergency. Put together an emergency response kit that includes First Aid supplies, flashlights, emergency radios, blankets, food, water and other necessities.
  1. Set guidelines for use of your facility that include proper housekeeping and security measures.
  1. Thoroughly document everything related to your organization’s financial affairs, and have checks and balances in place for financial transactions.
  1. Perform routine inspections and maintenance of your facility and vehicles to make sure hazards are addressed in a timely manner.
  1. Train drivers of your multi-passenger vehicles to perform safety checks, to follow defensive driving standards and what to do if an accident happens. Be sure to check drivers’ motor vehicle records for red flags.

Don’t neglect financial protection

In this day and age, one incident could be financially devastating enough to jeopardize the future of your organization and your mission. In addition to general liability and property coverage, there are other coverages you should consider – depending on your organization’s specific activities and the specific risks you face – such as pastoral counseling liability, directors and officers liability or religious school liability.

Your best bet? Work with an insurance agent who has expertise in providing coverage for churches and religious organizations. At Higginbotham Insurance, we have that expertise, as well as specialized insurance for churches. We can put together a comprehensive insurance program that will protect your organization and your vital mission from today’s modern risks.

Tags: Risk Management


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