National Church Administration Day helps congregations deal with dangers of ministryLatest News Friday, October 15th, 2010
By Greg Warner
DALLAS — In the days of the Old Testament, it was the role of the prophet to warn the people of God about impending dangers. In the Christian church of today, that role often falls to the church administrator, whose job it is to foresee threats that would put a congregation at risk – risk of liability, injury, abuse or theft.
But without proper training, administrative leaders can “wade into deep water unknowingly,” said Cheryl Valdebenito of Tampa, FL., finance manager of the Presbytery of Tampa Bay.
“From finance to insurance to physical facility, if churches aren’t on top of their game, they can suffer significant loss and wonder, in hindsight, what happened that they weren’t prepared,” said Valdebenito, an experienced church administrator.
On one day in October, church administrative leaders around the country will be helping each other do a better job of protecting their congregations from those threats. The second annual National Church Administration Day Oct. 21 has taken as its theme “Risk Management: The Cost of Ministry.”
Sponsored by the National Association of Church Business Administration, NCAD is an opportunity for congregations to celebrate and honor the work of the nation’s church administrators. It is a peer-learning event in which administrative leaders share their knowledge with each other so that all can be better protected from risk.
Most of the 80 local NACBA chapters around the country will host the instructional events, not only for their own members but for all clergy and laity who are interested.
During last year’s inaugural National Church Administration Day, organizers saw the critical need for training in risk-management preparedness, said Phill Martin, deputy CEO of NACBA. “Part of the cost of doing ministry in a dangerous world is preventing, minimizing and preparing for these threats — that is, risk management,” Martin said.
“As a risk manager for a church insurance company, I see tragic, preventable situations happening at churches all too frequently,” said Eric Spacek of GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, IA, “from fires caused by lack of maintenance, to heartbreaking incidents of child sexual abuse, to the all-too-common situation of someone falling and getting hurt on the property due to a hazard there.”
“We call church risk management ‘the missing ministry’ to emphasize the point that (1) it is in fact a ministry, in shepherding the church, acting as stewards of the people and property under our care, and expressing love to one another, and (2) it is absent in all too many churches.”
The idea behind National Church Administration Day is for seasoned church leaders to share their expertise with anyone – whether clergy or laity – performing administrative duties in any congregation, with the goal that all churches become more effective and responsible.
This year NCAD will offer professional advice on the four critical areas of risk management:
- Property risks – e.g., eliminating health hazards, enforcing building codes, providing liability insurance.
- Personnel risks – e.g., ensuring personnel policies are appropriate and applied, understanding the laws that apply to church hiring.
- Congregational risks – e.g., properly screening and training volunteers, providing security for church gatherings.
- Financial risks – e.g. properly handling offerings, developing a financial operations manual.
NACBA is expanding on last year’s event by developing a unified theme and crafting instructional materials for local chapters to use. The materials were developed by Dr. Judy Stamey, who is director of the certification program for church administrators at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
The risk-management module is designed for a one-hour presentation by local chapter leaders during the three-hour National Church Administration Day celebrations. Most chapters are planning the events for Oct. 21 and supplementing NACBA resources with their own content.
Two NACBA chapters in middle Florida – theSunshine (Tampa Bay area) and Central Florida (Orlando area) chapters — are jointly offering one event at First Presbyterian Church in Lakeland.
“In addition to the NACBA PowerPoint presentation, which offers a 30,000-foot view of risk management, we are honored to have several speakers who offer expertise in the areas of emergency preparedness, human-resource concerns, financial issues and legal perspectives that may need to be considered,” said Valdebenito, an elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Valdebenito saw the need for emergency preparedness first-hand during 9/11, she said. She worked for a Virginia church located 30 minutes from the Pentagon, site of one of the terror attacks. “The emotional response was dramatic,” she said, particularly from parents of children in the preschool housed on the church campus. “[P]arents were crazy with worry and behaved in extraordinary ways.”
“Serving on the disaster-response team for the local presbytery was also an eye-opener,” she continued. “It was our job administratively to vet the needs of churches and people throughout the region who suffered from extraordinary or emergency events of many kinds.”
Patti Malott of Spring, Texas, specializes in keeping churches out of lawsuits that result from personnel and sexual-abuse issues, which unfortunately are on the rise, she said.
“Far too often our organization receives the call after an incident rather than before,” said Malott, founder and president of Upright Ministries, which trains and protects congregations by “streamlining [financial] processes and safeguarding people.”
“It is heartbreaking to see church leadership switch their focus from ministry to damage control over the results of a disgruntled employee or allegation,” she said. “There are some practical and simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of an employment and sexual-abuse lawsuit or allegation.
“We must take every step possible to safeguard people and keep donors’ contributions going to ministry and not litigation.”
For additional information on National Church Administration Day visit www.nacba.net.