Whether you are a church comprised mostly of new churchgoers or a church packed with life-long members, it’s a good idea to prepare for whatever the future may bring. While planning for the future growth of your church can be exhilarating, creating a church crisis communication plan is often overlooked. This key step is critical in ensuring your church staff is trained to protect your growing congregation in case of future incidents.
A church crisis communication plan is a plan that describes protocols your church will follow if or when different crises occur at your church. It should provide specific steps your church will take to tackle each type of crisis. By having a detailed plan you review regularly with staff members, your church can take immediate action with confidence. Here, we’ve listed a few possible church emergency scenarios to help you formulate your church’s crisis communication plan.
Children’s Ministry Breach
One thing that all churches fear is a breach in their children’s ministry. Whether it’s a missing child or letting a volunteer with a criminal record lead classes, a church can never be too careful. Part of your crisis communication plan should entail what to do if either of these two incidents occurs. Be as specific as possible. Who does the children ministry leader contact first? Who contacts the child’s parents? What are the steps you can take to make sure everyone else in the ministry feels safe?
If you have a church management system, such as Elexio, then contacting the entire children’s ministry is as easy as forming one email (or text message) and sending it out. You can also use your church management system to house parental information and emergency contacts.
Here are a few children’s ministry breaches to include in your crisis communication plan:
- Missing Child
- Volunteer with criminal background
- Illegal guardian picks up child (or tries to pick up child)
- Predator in the area
- Dangerous weather threats
- Medical conditions that pose a threat to a child’s life
One way to better protect your children’s ministry is through background checks. Be sure to complete an annual background check on all your volunteers to make sure your children’s ministry is equipped with the safest volunteers. To learn more about the importance of background checks, check out this article.
Weather, Fire, or Related Incidents
Your crisis communication plan should also include how you’ll respond to weather, fire or other related incidents. Include specific answers to the following questions: If a tornado warning or fire occurs during your Sunday morning service, where should people go? Who will be in charge of making sure people get to shelters safely? How will you know when it’s safe to leave the identified areas? Who will contact everyone?
It’s important to make plans for these kinds of incidents. Without one, people are often left in frantic confusion. Help your church avoid a large-scale panic by establishing crisis plans and training staff and volunteers to take the lead and keep everyone calm. Ideally, there should be evacuation maps and plans in every room of your building.
Unfortunately, mass shootings are a common fear among church leaders and members. In fact, since 1999, there have been 18 fatal church shootings. Although no one wants to think about — let alone experience — a mass shooting, it’s very important to have a plan in place in case something like this happens.
Make plans beyond just who calls 911. Your crisis communication plan should identify security professionals who will take immediate action. Also include who will lock all the doors and ensure the children’s ministry is safe. Make sure all exits are clearly identified at your church so members can easily locate them and escape if possible.
Again, being prepared and training those who will need to step up and take on critical roles is critical. You’ll want to devote time and resources to devising a plan and practicing protocols. Be sure to check out How to Prevent a Mass Shooting at Your Church to learn more.
On occasion, a member of their leadership team or congregation might make news for committing a crime. It’s an unfortunate challenge, but know that you’re not alone. With a strategic crisis communication plan, you can take immediate action to protect your church.
First, prepare is a statement that can be quickly adapted to fit the situation.
Here’s an example:
We are disheartened to learn about the alleged INSERT INCIDENT. While we have no indications any inappropriate communications occurred involving INSERT NAME OF INDIVIDUAL in his/her capacity as a minister at our church, we will work with those officials looking into this matter. We are praying for INSERT NAME OF INDIVIDUAL and his/her family, and we are here to provide support and comfort.
Also include any further actions that should be taken in your communication crisis plan. For instance, if it was a youth pastor, be sure to contact any parent of a child or teenager at your church to ensure their children are safe. If it is a pastor, be sure to let the entire congregation know you are working to make your church safer. Ensure that people are safe and let them know that you are there to answer questions and provide support.
Hopefully, this has given you a few key pieces to include in your church’s crisis communication plan. Elexio also has many tools that can help your church create a safe environment. Reliable Church Management Software will help you communicate quickly with specific groups of people at critical times. Learn more about how a robust ChMS can help you organize and manage your church office in ways that free you up to focus on ministry in The Ultimate Guide to ChMS.