COVID-19
  • On belay: answering the call to care

    By Eric Scalise, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT Years ago, I used to do quite a bit of rock climbing when I lived in California. I also worked with at-risk teens, most of whom lacked any meaningful connections in their lives. There are a number of critical voice commands climbers use, especially when there is limited or no visual contact between them. Whether climbing or rappelling, “On Belay” is the first command used. It refers to different techniques for keeping sufficient tension on a climbing rope so that in the event of a mishap, a climber will not fall very far before being stopped. It indicates the climber is now connected to the rope. The partner responds by saying, “Belay On,” which conveys the equally important message: “I’m locked in and anchored here for you — for your safety and wellbeing. I have you and you’re good to go!” Mountains, like obstacles in life, can be summited and overcome with determination, teamwork, support, consistent communication, and most of all, the element of trust. The same is true for people facing loss, trauma, crisis, or simply a time when hope has vanished and guidance is needed. Mental health & the Church May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year, perhaps more so than in the past, the significance of this month is being filtered through the global coronavirus pandemic. Every indicator — anxiety, depression, suicide, domestic violence, abuse, addiction — has been magnified. Yet, the Church-at-large continues to wrestle with the right approach, the right resources, and competent servant leaders who are properly equipped to make a difference in the middle of this ongoing storm. So how do we say, “Belay On?” The truth is: a mission field exists on both sides of the sanctuary doors. Mental health in general remains largely stigmatized within the Christian community. People are hurting, and the Church is hurting. The apostle Paul said, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NKJV). Many pastors wonder if they should offer direct counseling-related services and ministries or whether this is more the purview of formally trained Christian professionals. For me, the answer is not an “either/or,” but a “both/and.” The local church often is, and should rightly be, the first line of defense whenever someone is in crisis, experiencing profound brokenness, or needing godly counsel on a matter. The need for compassionate caregivers Sadly, the Body of Christ is also the only army I know of that consistently shoots its own wounded — and then we bury them before they die. As a licensed clinician with over 40 years of experience, I strongly advocate the need for highly trained and authentic Christian therapists. However, I am equally fervent about the role of the lay caregiver and our responsibility to function as God’s ambassadors of compassion. Webster’s Dictionary defines the term compassion as a “sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress, together with a desire to alleviate it.” The word is derived from the Latin pati (“to suffer”) and the prefix com (“to bear alongside” or simply “with”). Much of the research on this subject underscores the importance of the helping relationship, along with caregivers who are frequently in close proximity to the emotional suffering and resulting grief of those they minister to. This is the essence of the counseling and caregiving alliance. From a biblical perspective, compassion can be viewed as one of the distinguishing characteristics of Christ and His own relational style. There are numerous Old and New Testament passages that reference this model (Psalm 103:4, 135:14; Isaiah 49:13, 54:8, Jeremiah 42:12; Micah 7:19, Matthew 15:32, 20:34; James 5:11). In rebuking the Pharisees because their religious form took precedence over their concern for others, Jesus said, “I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7 NASB). Taking this admonishment to heart, the decision for many pastors and churches might become this: not so much “If we should begin to provide ministry in these areas,” but “How and where should we start?” Become a lifeline to hope There are a number of tools and resources available at our ministry to help individuals address life’s challenges or become equipped to be trained caregivers. There are multiple individual topical videos and books that provide practical, biblical guidance on specific spiritual, emotional, and relational issues and that share clear answers from God’s Word and concise, practical guidance for life’s various challenges. Just like a climber’s rope represents a “lifeline” of trust and safety, these resources provide the necessary tools to help people manage some of the significant issues they might be facing. They also equip men and women to become more effective people helpers — rope holders who can say with confidence and humility, “Belay On.” Our mission at Hope for the Heart is to help others draw closer to God in genuine relationship. The objective of our Lifeline to Hope caregiving resources is to train people to provide support, encouragement, spiritual care, and referral services on a short-term basis during times of crisis, significant need, or where biblical guidance is being sought. Proverbs 13:17 (ESV) encourages us that, “a faithful envoy brings healing.” An envoy is an ambassador, a title derived from a Celtic word that means “servant.” It was first used in this manner by Charles V in the middle of the 16th century and later found its way into the Germanic languages and Old English as “ambeht” or “servant messenger.” Answering the call to care must begin somewhere. Perhaps God is encouraging you to take the first step in walking alongside and climbing with those who need a lifeline. Billy Graham once said: “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless. God has given us two hands — one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”   Eric Scalise, Ph.D.,LPC, Read More >

Leadership
  • Disability insurance: the forgotten safety net

    By Alex Kim, CFP®, MBA, CPA Accidents happen. We’ve all heard it. We all know it.  Yet, when it comes to accidents, injuries, or illnesses that sideline someone from work, many people think they only happen to someone else. Disability insurance replaces part of your salary if a disability temporarily keeps you from performing your job, but this coverage tends to be the distant cousin twice removed of life and car insurance. Many employees buy life insurance to protect their families in the event of death. Still, they don’t think to protect themselves and their families from the loss of income that a health issue can cause when it prevents a breadwinner from working. Consider this … • The average long-term disability claim is just under three years, but only 25 percent of Americans have enough emergency savings to cover six months of expenses.1  • Financial crises due to disability are a leading cause of personal bankruptcies.  • Disability is more common than you might realize. One in four 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of a health problem before reaching the typical retirement age. According to the National Information Institute, 43 percent of all people age 40 will be disabled for 90 days or more by age 65.2 Disability insurance prices often run anywhere from 1 percent to 4 percent of a worker’s yearly salary, but it pays to have this important safety net to help secure your financial future. There are ways to obtain affordable rates.   The long and the short of disability insurance First, find out if your organization offers group disability insurance. Obtaining coverage through your employer is less expensive than purchasing an individual insurance policy.  Workplaces offer two types of disability insurance. The first is short-term disability (STD), which covers 40 percent to 60 percent of weekly gross pay for up to three or six months. The second is long-term disability (LTD), which covers 50 percent to 70 percent of your salary for up to two to 10 years. Some organization’s STD policies automatically convert to LTD when STD expires, but other employers only offer STD insurance. Certain organizations also provide their staff group supplemental insurance, which can furnish extra coverage beyond LTD. Like LTD, obtaining supplemental insurance through your job is cheaper than individual supplemental insurance. You will want to look into supplemental insurance at work or on the private market if your employer’s LTD covers less than 60 percent of your salary. That is generally the minimum threshold to protect yourself financially while you are sidelined from work, but your minimum threshold might be higher depending on your specific circumstances. Going solo Secondly, keep in mind that buying STD or LTD is less expensive the younger you are because the chances of becoming disabled increase as you age. It’s a good idea to try to purchase STD and LTD as early in your career as possible.  If your workplace doesn’t offer group disability coverage, then look into individual insurance policies, which can be tailored to meet different needs. You might want to consider these customizations: Make sure you acquire a non-cancelable and guaranteed renewable rider (an add-on to a policy). These protections ensure that once a policy is in place, your premium schedule, your monthly benefits, or your policy benefits will not change during the life of the policy as long as you pay the premiums.  Guaranteed renewable stops your insurance from being dropped. Extend the time when the policy kicks in from 30 days to 90 or 180 days, and you will pay a lower premium. Most plans have waiting periods before benefits begin, so make sure to build your emergency fund to sustain you during the waiting period. Disability insurance prices often run anywhere from 1 percent to 4 percent of a worker’s yearly salary, but it pays to have this important safety net to help secure your financial future. There are ways to obtain affordable rates. Obtain a shorter or smaller disability plan than you originally intended if you find that a plan insures you till retirement or for 10 years is cost-prohibitive. Typical policy lengths range from two to 10 years or until you retire. The smaller the policy, the less expensive it will be. Keep in mind your medical history when deciding on the length of your coverage. Coordinate with one or more people to buy coverage at the same time. You might receive a lower rate. The more people you purchase with simultaneously, the more of a discount you may receive. Look to Uncle Sam Next, if you will be away from work for at least a year, you can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is not available for partial disability or short-term disability. Apply as soon as possible to reduce the chances of an income gap while your SSDI claim is processed. For more information on applying for SSDI, visit ssa.gov/disability/disability.html. Last but not least, be sure to read the fine print on your disability policy. Make sure you understand what conditions are excluded from coverage, your waiting period, and the ins and outs of how your policy operates before you sign on the dotted line.  Disability insurance is a safety net that can provide you peace of mind and a financial cushion. It safeguards both you and your family. The monthly premiums might cost you money upfront; but if you’re ever disabled and don’t have coverage, you’ll pay a higher price in lost wages, depleted savings, and possible financial distress. 1Social Security Administration, Disability and Death Probability Tables for Insured Workers Born in 1997, Table A. 2Bankrate.com, August. 20, 2020, James Royal, “Survey: Nearly 3 Times as Many Americans Say They Have Less Emergency Savings Versus More Since Pandemic.” This article is not intended to be financial advice. The promotional content is for informational purposes only; you should not construe the promotional content as legal, tax, investment, financial or other advice. Please Read More >

Risk Management
  • Protecting the kids in your care

    Churches want to do all they can to keep the children in their care far from harm. Yet, these spaces are often considered “soft targets” among offenders.  That’s because — despite the best intentions — gaps and missteps are prevalent in churches’ efforts to create a safe space for all. Here, two expert panelists discuss how to do better. Tell us about the sexual abuse incident landscape in churches right now, from an insurer’s perspective. What are you seeing?  Brian Gleason: Expanded statutes of limitations in many states have allowed lawsuits to be brought from activity that occurred decades ago. While we still have a long way to go, we are seeing organizations take action by developing prevention plans and reporting abuse allegations to law enforcement. These are positive steps away from the long-held pattern among religious organizations of dealing with allegations internally.   Becky Moyer: We are seeing more churches updating their child protection policies and responding well to training opportunities.  Sadly, we continue to see claims and some from many years ago. There is a heightened awareness, as there should be, so churches must be above reproach in protecting not only children, but teens and adults as well.   How do you combat the notion that “it can’t happen here” on church campuses? Moyer: When a church says or implies that ‘it can’t happen here,’ we quickly respond with examples of churches that felt the same way until it did happen in their church. Of course, we never reveal enough details to identify the church or others involved; however, with the hundreds of churches we insure, we have many real-life situations that we can share to help them understand the reality that their denial might actually make them more vulnerable. I often share that I have the great privilege of having a front row seat in seeing God at work in His church as I see ministries flourish in reaching the lost, growing disciples, and serving their communities. However, I also have a front line position to walk alongside churches when faced with tragedy.   Gleason: Experience has shown that abuse allegations occur in thousands of churches each year —regardless of size, geographical location or denominational affiliation. While not all of these give rise to a lawsuit, any allegation has a lasting impact on the spiritual, reputational and financial health of the congregation.    We hear a lot about the importance of having a written child protection policy in place at a church. But in your experience, how many do? Gleason: In our work with thousands of churches across the U.S., we find that most churches have practices to limit opportunities for abuse. Many need to merge their practices into clear, comprehensive polices providing guidance as to how the church will reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse.    Moyer: If we insure a church and they don’t have a child protection policy in place, we work with them to put one in place within the first few months.    Even among those that do have a written child protection policy in place, are there gaps or oversights you observe in these policies?  Moyer: A policy should be more about what you actually do, not what you want to do. We have basic components that we recommend for every church, as well as some additional desirable steps to minimize risk.   The most important factor is that they have a policy that the church is committed to following consistently. We also encourage churches to have their child protection policy reviewed by their legal counsel, as some jurisdictions are different. It is important that the policy is consistent with the mandatory reporting guidelines for their state.    Gleason: Churches often provide good direction for routine activities at the church property, but policies and procedures tend to get murky when activities move off the campus. This is especially true related to transportation of minors.    Let’s talk about the screening and background check process for staff and volunteers who work with children. What role does this play — and how can it fall short of adequately protecting children if not done properly? Gleason: The best way to avoid abuse claims is to screen out potential offenders. Organizations can do this by having a process that significantly vets applicants. Every applicant should complete a written application that includes: questions about experience in working with children; a criminal background check that identifies any previous history; reference checks with those who have seen the applicant interact with children; and a personal interview in which the applicant is specifically asked about his or her interactions with children.    Moyer: A national background check is a crucial part of the selection and retention of staff and volunteers but only a part. There should also be an application, a personal interview, and references verified.     If a registered sex offender begins attending a church, how can leaders mitigate the potential risks posed to children? Moyer: A church should have a conditional attendance agreement that leaders review with a registered sex offender. This outlines the expectations and guidelines to attend including restrictions to be in areas that have children and youth. Our experiences with churches who have done this is that the registered offender who is truly repentant is understanding and appreciative of the guidelines.    Gleason: Working with convicted sex offenders requires a careful balance between meeting the spiritual needs of a congregant and the needs of the members of the church. This should be a deliberate process that includes input from the church leadership, the individual who has offended and any appropriate court or rehabilitation official. Then, the church should institutionalize operational measures to reduce risk of the registered sex offender from coming in contact with vulnerable members of the congregation including children. As a condition of membership, the registered sex offender must realize that there must be transparency with all members of the church concerning the individual’s conviction and rehabilitation. We talk about Read More >

Pastor-Friendly A/V
  • SANDY THAILING & CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION: Maximizing the video team’s creative potential — despite COVID challenges

    Content creation without barriers By RaeAnn Slaybaugh Having worked with Church of the Resurrection (COR.org) in Leawood, Kansas, in some capacity for more than 20 years, it is safe to say Sandy Thailing knows everything there is to know about its video production setup.  Aside from his extensive work with this very large church, Thailing began his career freelancing on the Branch Davidian trial for CourtTV which has led to a lot of corporate production in Dallas, as well as the Kansas City metro area.  So, when the time came to take the COR video production team’s output to the next level, he knew how instrumental a more efficient, accessible collaborative media storage system would be. And that would require finding just the right media server and storage-unit elements. Last summer, Church of the Resurrection Video Production Manager Sandy Thailing was well underway in his search for collaborative media storage options when Senior Executive Director Dan Entwistle passed along a Church Executive article: “Storage made for Sundays.” Coincidentally, it spotlighted solutions from creative.space that are designed to be “as simple to use as an iPhone and ideally suited to churches.”  That caught Thailing’s attention.   “Our main goal was to have on-premise shared storage for our video editors to access and edit from, eliminating local RAID storage that filled up pretty fast over time,” he says, referencing the use of Redundant Array of Independent Disks, a data storage technology that combines multiple physical disk drive components.  His reasons were good: each local RAID unit held eight to 24 terabytes, and each editor had their own RAID array connected to their Mac or desktop. “So, we would do some sharing, but it was always a little bit convoluted,” Thailing explains. “We had to give certain permissions to connect and share media, which meant our machines always had to be on even when editors weren’t at their desk.”  Consequently, the church’s methods for moving media around in the past could best be described as a “sneaker net.” Content creators, editors and producers ferried flash drives or USB sticks from editing suites to control rooms instead of using the existing network.  “Most of the time, it was just easier to do it that way,” Thailing admits.  Accordingly, this meant video content was stored in several different places — not at all centralized.  “As each RAID filled up (fast), we’d have to buy a new one and the old one would sit on a shelf,” Thailing adds. “So, it was tough to know where all the media was. We didn’t have a good library because we haven’t really gone down the file / data asset management route yet.”  Technology guided by faith A member of Saddleback Church for nearly 20 years, Sean Busby, president and co-owner of DigitalGlue and creative.space, says the release of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life impacted him hugely. Given his 24/7/365 business commitments — servicing the broadcast television network industry with customers like FOX News, The CW, Trinity Broadcasting, and American Forces Network — Busby volunteered at the church in the only way he could manage: parking cars.  In 2003, a friend introduced him to Life.Church pastor Bobby Gruenewald, who was committed to simultaneously sharing the sermon given at the main campus with two new locations. “I immediately realized we were on the same mission,” Busby says. Later that year, the Life.Church satellite network was up and running.  Soon, others — Mars Hill in Seattle; Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas; and Church Unlimited in Corpus Christi, Texas — inquired about building the same type of network.  But there were only so many churches intent on going this expansive.  Fast forward to now, with Busby’s offering of the entry-level //ROGUE PRO server for on-premise storage and the portable //ROGUE enterprise-based video storage system that can live on the editor’s desk at church or at home.  Since churches’ annual budgets are primarily based on the previous year’s giving, creative.space’s flexible contacts and all-inclusive monthly or annual OPEX payment structure are a huge appeal for houses of worship like Church of the Resurrection. Customers pay a flat monthly or annual rate that includes hardware, software, and 24/7 proactive support, and contracts are offered in one-, two-, three- or five-year options with the ability to lengthen or shorten the term as needed. For a limited time, the 96TB //ROGUE PRO starts at only $495 per month (usually $595 per month). The portable //ROGUE is the only unit available for one-time purchase starting at $4,795 for 48TB. “With these tools, a church’s video team is finally able to collaborate quicker, producing better and more content than ever before at a price that has never been possible,” he explains. “For me, that incredible feeling of giving back, is back.” Enter: COVID When Coronavirus struck, the need to “build a better mousetrap” became even more pressing.  Pre-pandemic, the workload was already significant. Most important, Thailing and his team of four video producers — Greg Hoeven, Natalie Cleveland, Kersee Meyer and Cam Hershberger — produced content for the weekly sermon for Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton. They also created video content for live worship; produced a weekly online service (in both modern and traditional formats); and provided support for the rest of COR’s ministries — from missions, to kids’ discipleship, to youth programs. Additionally, they helped produce DVD-based books for ministry staff who are also published authors.    Once COVID-19 hit, Thailing and his team were asked to ramp up production in a big way — and a lot of it would need to be done from home.   To ensure continuity and engagement with church members, they would produce a weekly live-switched podcast in their small studio, as well as a handful of live-streamed conferences. The production of worship services would also be significantly elevated; pre-COVID, these two live streams were presented as if someone was simply watching the service in the sanctuary. Now, their TechnicalArts ministry would deliver full-production-value products: four different versions of Read More >

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