Scandal! It’s a word that crops up and plagues churches in the media far too often, a word no church leader ever wants to hear associated with theirs. Unfortunately, scandal is also something that catches most church leaders off guard when it happens.
Whether it’s a staff member embezzling funds, a pastor acting inappropriately toward a child, a bad accident, or even just a leadership transition gone awry, these stories come out — and the churches they come out of almost never saw them coming. It’s always a shock. How could that person act like that? How could an accident or tragedy like that happen to us? In ministry, it is not a question of if you will face difficulties, but instead a question of when and which ones.
Preparation can be the difference between difficulty and disaster
We can’t prevent all bad things from ever happening, but we can prevent some and prepare for the rest. While it’s impossible to predict the exact challenges your ministry will face, there are categories of risk that every church should be preparing for. That preparation can be the difference between difficulty and disaster. Here are a few to think about:
- Sexual sin. Sex scandals are media fodder. They erode community and member trust in leadership and can even turn people away from God. A clear, enforced plan can proactively protect not only potential victims, but also your staff and volunteers from false accusations. Develop a policy around staff and volunteer expectations, like keeping an open-door policy for meetings and making sure no one meets one on one with members of the opposite sex.
- Financial mismanagement. Generosity is an act of spiritual discipline, and financial mismanagement betrays the trust that givers have placed in the church. It can also wreck your finances further into the future than may be immediately obvious, as people become reluctant to give again. Fortunately, an accountability plan can head off temptation. Create transparency around the use of funds in the church and what is to be accomplished with them.
- Neglecting succession planning. When you have great leaders in your ministry, the last thing you want to think about is replacing them. But the best leaders aren’t the ones whose organizations couldn’t survive without them; they’re the ones who raise up leaders to follow in their footsteps. Preparation can help bridge the gap when someone leaves. Document the responsibilities of each ministry role in your church in a job description, and keep those documents up to date. Invest in staff development. Every leader should be looking to train others to be as capable as they are.
- Poorly maintained facilities. The energy around new building projects is great, isn’t it? The staff is excited, the church members get excited, and everyone pitches in a little to make a dream come true. Maintaining facilities you already have gets less attention. But a facilities-related lawsuit could wreck your ministry’s finances and reputation. Make sure you’re covered. Plan and budget for the improvements you’ll be needing to make in the coming years and the upkeep the buildings will need.
Risk is a part of life, and ministry is not immune to it. But we’re not helpless. We can act now to protect our ministries, our leaders, and our communities before something happens.
These are four risks that you can protect your ministry against with some proactive planning. To learn more about risk management, download our free eBook here.