In times of crisis and natural disasters, local communities find refuge in houses of worship. Churches become sanctuaries to help those in need during these difficult times, which are becoming more frequent. In 2022 alone, 308 natural disasters were recorded worldwide. But to serve your community, your sanctuary must be prepared and have a church crisis plan.
Preparedness allows your church to take a proactive approach to crisis management. Having a plan and knowing how to respond will allow your congregation to act more quickly and more effectively.
First and foremost, you should create a church crisis management plan, and that plan should be reviewed and updated regularly. Whenever you review your plan, review your emergency kits, too. Taking these steps will help ensure that you have the right equipment on hand if a disaster should strike.
Your preparedness strategies should also include:
Establishing a Crisis Management Team
If a disaster does strike, who will enact your plan? Establishing a crisis management team eliminates this question. Trusted and reliable members of your congregation can volunteer to be a part of this team, along with leaders of your church.
Make sure that every team member understands:
- The tasks they’re responsible for
- Each step of the plan
- How and when to act in case of a disaster or emergency
If a crisis does arise, your team should be quick to act and know exactly what to do.
Conducting Risk Assessments for the Church Community
Along with establishing a crisis management team, you should also conduct a risk assessment for your church community.
What types of disasters are likely to occur? When do they typically occur? What can you do to ensure your church is prepared to respond?
An assessment will help you refine your crisis management plan to make it even more effective.
Budgeting and Financial Considerations
One of the biggest concerns in any church crisis is the budget. If your congregation is to help the community, it must have the means to provide additional support. For example, in times of crisis, your church may:
- Open its doors to provide shelter to those in need
- Provide childcare to first responders
- Connect people with physical or emotional support services
- Collect food donations or hold other fundraisers to help those in need
All of these actions will come at some cost, even when members volunteer their time.
Consider the cost of enacting your crisis management plan and what it might entail. For example, will you need to invest in more church chairs to ensure that everyone has a comfortable place to sit while waiting for help?
Consider creating a separate fund for crises and allocating some of the church’s funds to it. If disaster does strike, your church can respond as quickly as possible and will have the means to do so.
Congregational Support and Care
Church crisis management means supporting and caring for your congregation. Every crisis is different and will require a different approach. Your preparedness plan will need to remember that the goal is “peace,” as it’s taught in the Bible.
You’ll need more than just church chairs and a place to congregate to provide support.
Church leaders need to work to:
- Collect supplies for those in need
- Fundraise to assist members
- Offer care for the struggles that your members are experiencing
Your church’s growth comes from many sources, but the primary driver will be from within. Support may also include connecting with external sources, which we’ll discuss soon, but it often begins with understanding the strength of each member.
- Who from the congregation can offer therapy?
- Who can cook for others?
- Who can offer their expertise in some way?
Preachers may need to offer grief counseling, and while this may be outside of their wheelhouse, it offers the support and care necessary for the church to thrive.
Collaboration with External Resources
A church crisis management plan should include collaborating with external resources. Churches can’t fund every crisis recovery, but they can work with:
- Disaster agencies
- Fire departments
- Local businesses
Perhaps a church member’s house burns down, and it results in a massive outpouring of support. You can work with an external resource, such as the Habitat for Humanity, to build the person a home.
Church is all about community, and you need to have these external connections and resources in place to help your congregation navigate crises.
Legal and Regulatory Considerations
Your church crisis may end up with you acting as a shelter. Opening your doors to the local community during this time is what every person or institution of faith should do. However, you need to consider some of the events that can happen:
- Drug use
How will you deal with these events? Regulatory measures may be in place, such as a strict no-tolerance policy that removes anyone who engages in these acts.
If you want to act as an emergency shelter, you’ll want to connect with local officials to learn what acting as a shelter entails. You may need to take certain legal steps that vary from location to location.
Insurance, such as liability insurance, must be in place in case a member falls or files a lawsuit against the church for some reason.
The Role of Faith in Crisis Management
The role of church crisis management is simple: members seek guidance from the church and God during times of crisis. Mental health will be a major driving factor for your church because, in times like this, people need:
- A reason to go on
If homes are lost or communities are in shambles following a natural disaster, people will turn to faith as a way to guide them forward. Otherwise, the local community will feel alone.
Natural disasters and other crises can arise at any time. In these difficult times, churches become a place of peace and sanctuary for those affected. Having a crisis management plan and being prepared will ensure that your church can respond quickly and provide the level of support your community needs.