By Phil Elmore
How technology can help you respond in times of risk and crisis
Most churches have taken some time to create policies to guide their business and ministry functions. But, the ongoing adherence to (and review and possible modification of) those policies often proves challenging.
For instance, a church policy might require all teachers working with minor children to undergo a background check prior to being approved to teach. But, what happens when it’s late Saturday night and two of your children’s teachers have called to inform you that they won’t be able to teach on Sunday? At that late hour, can you live up to what was agreed upon in committee and codified in a document? Or, is it easier to just call someone else on a list who’s “probably OK” to substitute for your children’s ministry? What risks and exposures have you introduced into this situation?
Policies are paramount
This is just one risk that could crop up in your church. However, it applies to all sorts of volunteer and staff responsibilities and situations. (Think: teaching kids, handling money, having licensed van / bus drivers, facility security, property maintenance, emergency response and so on.) How can you make sure that a policy is (a) what it should be, (b) designed to make your staff and volunteers successful in their ministries, and (c) includes contingencies for when policies are challenged by real-world variables and risk?
Every church leader knows that a certain amount of trial-and-error, open deliberation, and checking with peer churches and professionals can help refine what’s best and most reasonable for their own church policies.
Creating policies that help your volunteers and staff be successful in the implementation of those policies means having regular opportunities and channels for feedback, and also proactively testing policies to see how your people will react. This doesn’t mean you aim to “catch” someone in violation of a policy; it does, however, mean regularly asking difficult “what-if” questions of the people you trust.
Remember: Most people aren’t natural-born leaders. When you entrust policy to staff or volunteers, you’re extending your leadership and influence through them. Make sure your policies align with their abilities to lead and influence.
Now, whether it’s the ongoing review of policies for minimizing risk or the response to risks themselves — anticipated or not — timely, dependable communication is essential. There are many tools that can serve you towards these ends. And, if you communicate regularly with these tools, your staff and volunteers will come to depend on them.
One such tool — in use at my church — is One Call Now, which provides voice, texting and email messaging for churches. A designated church leader has the options of using multiple modes of messaging for outbound communication (routine or emergency), and then using the service’s polling and message reporting features for gathering feedback.
When a church integrates its data with such a service, it has enormous leverage for mitigating risk. That kind of leverage can help a church leader solve a problem and reduce risk — in the midst of a weather emergency, or when you plan to have a contractor repairing the main sidewalk into the church, or when you’re facing the tough Saturday night question of who will teach the kids tomorrow.
Phil Elmore is pastor at Fields of Grace Worship Center in Covington, OH.