Risk management and safety practices are a crucial part of the longevity of any ministry. It is the ministry of Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) to ensure that Seventh-day Adventist ministries worldwide have the tools and resources needed to protect their members, facilities, and visitors. When ministries hold risk management and safety practices as a priority, it provides room to focus on the central purpose of the church: to bring the world to Jesus’ feet and grow together in faith.
A first step to prioritizing church safety is to have a safety committee dedicated to maintaining and improving the safety of the church and its members. The committee is made up of a safety officer and safety team. Committee members should be selected based on their knowledge and skillset. Together, they will be able to stay ahead of the curve and ensure the church is a safe place for all.
The Safety Officer
Begin by appointing a safety officer for your church. The safety officer will lead the church safety team in church risk management and safety practices. He or she will be involved in bringing any safety issues to the church board and updating the board on team actions. The church safety officer should not work alone but have the support and assistance of the church safety team in carrying out any risk management or safety-related task.
The Safety Team
The safety team members should include representatives from specific ministries in your church including children’s ministries, physical plant services, a medical professional/first responder, and a deacon/deaconess. These members work together with the church safety officer to spearhead the implementation of safety measures in the church. Together they will focus on developing safety programs, creating emergency plans, conducting self-inspections, and investigating accidents.
As the church safety committee is formed, there may be some key safety issues you have in mind as a church leader that the committee should prioritize. Additionally, there are other responsibilities that the committee should add to their agenda and regularly address. Don’t overlook these tasks.
The church safety committee should conduct regular church self-inspections. This is an opportunity to identify safety hazards and begin a plan of action to address the dangers. It is also an effective way to assess the current state of specific equipment and determine if it is safe for use. Set a schedule for regular self-inspections of your church and use ARM’s Church Self-Inspection form as a guide.
This item might remain a regular piece of the committee agenda. Maintaining the church, specifically the safety of the church, is an ongoing task that the committee should organize. An excellent place to start is to have a maintenance check conducted at the start of each season. This will allow you to identify any issues caused by weather conditions and prepare the church for the changing season. If your church experiences any natural disaster or emergency (such as a hurricane or other emergency), conduct another maintenance check as long as it is safe to do so. Use this informational sheet from ARM to help your committee start a preventative maintenance program.
This is an item that may already be on your list of issues for the committee to address. A few areas the committee can examine for church security include outdoor lighting, security cameras, and key access. Another way to approach the issue of security is through regular training or educational seminars for the committee. This better prepares committee members should a security breach occur.
If your church does not have an emergency plan in place, the committee should begin identifying the emergencies your church may experience and create a plan of action. The plan should include key emergency personnel to contact, steps to take from the moment the crisis begins until it ends, and any other pertinent information. Part of emergency planning includes conducting regular drills. The committee should coordinate with the church board to schedule a minimum of two emergency drills each year.
Activities and Transportation
The committee should be involved in reviewing upcoming church activities and transportation logistics for potential safety hazards. If any safety hazards are identified, the committee can work together with the board and the corresponding ministry to address the issues before the planned activity. The committee should be a resource and a source of help in this situation. Use ARM’s Trip/Off-site Activity Planning Checklist as a guide.
Protecting the children of the church extends beyond the Pathfinder Club—it is a part of every church event and activity as children are part of all areas of the church. The committee should create or update the church child protection plan to ensure it covers aspects such as Sabbath School, Vacation Bible School, and other church programming. Additionally, the committee should be included in helping all church volunteers complete the necessary training and background checks before they begin to help the church. Use ARM’s Child Protection Plan to help your committee get started.
The First Step is Getting Started
While each of these safety items may be too much for one person to handle, having a church safety committee will make it more manageable. The safety committee can work together to address each issue and create a culture of safety in your church. Begin by appointing a safety officer and safety team members and take the first step towards a safer church.
Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist for Adventist Risk Management