7 Steps to Protecting Your Ministry Vision

Protecting your ministry vision using risk management is a vital, and yet sometimes, overwhelming endeavor.  If you hang around my site long enough (and I certainly hope you do), you’ll realize I love to give very practical tips on how to implement the ideas I suggest. In keeping with that practice, if you haven’t yet formalized your risk management plans here are seven steps to help you get started:

Step #1: Make the case and get leadership on-board

This involves vision casting. Yes, I just mentioned vision casting in a post about risk management (trust me, they must be linked for this to work). If your senior pastor and board aren’t already familiar with the processes and actions required to mitigate risks, they may need to be convinced that this is worth spending the time and money to accomplish.

As you know, vision casting involves telling stories to paint the picture of a preferred future. Here’s an example for risk management:

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning. We’ve just had our time of worship, announcements are made, and Pastor is starting the sermon. About 10 minutes into the message, the fire alarm goes off. The wail of sirens makes everyone nervous and the entire congregation starts to stir. There are about 100 children in the nursery and toddler rooms. Parents are anxious about the safety of their kids, so they leave the sanctuary to pick up their children. Kids are scared of the loud noise of the fire alarm and are crying for “Mommy!”. Chaos ensues… 

OR

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning. We’ve just had our time of worship, announcements are made, and Pastor is starting the sermon. About 10 minutes into the message, the fire alarm goes off. Pastor calmly states, “Folks, I don’t know if there’s an actual fire or if this is a false alarm. However, just to be safe, please follow the staff and volunteers who’re already heading towards the exits. Parents: Our teams know what to do and are already moving your children outside into the north parking lot. Please do not go to the check-out area as they won’t be there. Please go directly to the north parking lot and we’ll be able to reunite you with your children at that time.”

Minimal, if any, chaos. Families are reunited safely, parents are grateful for the care and professionalism of your team, and everyone walks away with a greater sense of confidence in their church leadership team.

The second scenario is only possible with the planning and training completed as part of an overall risk management effort. Months before, church leaders developed a disaster response plan. Included in this plan was a list of various scenarios that could occur, who would be in-charge for each scenario and what staff and volunteers would be responsible to do at that time. The team worked with staff and volunteers to develop the plans, then reviewed them with local first responders to get their expert input. Once the plans were approved, then all staff and volunteers were trained on what to do in each situation. Periodically, staff members “drill” their volunteers by asking them “The tornado sirens just went off. What do you do?” to make sure they remember the training. Laminated “cheat sheets” are posted in appropriate areas to remind them of what to do in an emergency. All of this culminates in a response that is calm, confident, and provides for the safety of everyone involved.

Step #2: Develop a plan to implement risk management

Start with a list of risks to evaluate and mitigate (this list is a great place to start), then assign one person to lead the effort for each risk. This person won’t do all the work by himself, but he will coordinate the effort and will be accountable for meeting deadlines and reporting status.

Step #3: Introduce risk management to your staff

The next step is to get your team involved. Don’t just tell them what needs to be done. First, explain why this is important and how implementing new processes and policies will support ministry. Let them know that you’ll need their help to develop and implement these risk prevention strategies. Assuming you’ve already told them individually, go ahead and announce which staff member is responsible for each risk.

Step #4: Find out what you’re already doing but haven’t formalized

Each risk team leader first needs to gather information on what you’re already doing to prevent that risk. You’re probably already running background checks on staff and volunteers who serve around children. However, do you have a documented policy to re-run background checks every other year (with records to prove you followed the policy)? If not, that’s one example where you’ll need to formalize what you’ve started doing already.

Step #5: Identify the gaps and find resources to help close the gaps

As they gathered information, did your team leads uncover any areas where you don’t have good controls or systems in place to prevent certain risks? For example, you may have realized you don’t have detailed records of all maintenance performed on your property with vendor warranties and other paperwork. Or maybe you don’t have a succession plan for your senior pastor and need to start developing one. Prioritize your list of gaps and identify who, how, and by when you’ll have each one completed.

Step #6: Implement new mitigation steps

As you formalize what you’d already started and close the gaps identified, start implementing each new process to mitigate those risks. Review new processes and policies with your staff and volunteers. Provide training as needed and make sure they understand what you expect from them.

Step #7: Monitor regularly

It’s hard to develop new habits and routines, so you’ll need to check-in with your team to make sure they’re following the new processes. You may require a report that includes a list of all new volunteers in the children’s areas over the last six months and when the background check was completed for each (prior to them serving). Monitoring could also mean walking up to a staff member and saying “The fire alarm just went off. What do you do?” to test their knowledge of a new disaster response plan.

Implementing risk management requires time and diligence, but is definitely worth that investment. The safety of your congregation, the reputation your church has within the community, and the trust relationship between leadership and members are all at-stake here.

Preventing risks is part of ministry and of seeing your ministry vision come to fruition. I realize this can be a huge project and you probably don’t have staff members with plenty of spare time available to tackle this effort. That’s why I wrote “Protect the Vision” – to help you streamline the process. The information and tools in this resource will give your team a running head start. Click here to learn more and to purchase your copy of “Protect the Vision”.