Who is the Church’s Risk Management Officer?

Every organization has a risk management officer – someone who is formally or informally charged with ensuring the safety and security of the church and its property, with knowing the church’s personnel and financial policies and insurance limits, and working to reduce its legal liability to almost nothing. Unfortunately, many churches, if not most or perhaps even 99.999%, do not recognize the need to assign this responsibility to someone.

From a legal standpoint, the courts have assigned this responsibilty to someone, the senior pastor. Whether or not the senior pastor realizes this is another matter. If the senior pastor does not want this position, then the senior pastor must formally assign this to someone, whether it is a staff person or a lay person. However, the senior pastor must verify that this job responsibility is being carried out regularly.

Here are some things to check on:

  • Safety issues related to the phyiscal building and grounds regarding things such as tripping hazards, sharp edges, or other things that can harm people
  • Safety items related to the people including background checks on people working with minors, protecting people from known predators who prey on adults and children, removing (by force if necessary) people who come to the church in a threatening manner
  • Building security to make that unauthorized access or use of the building is not happening so that people don’t hide in a building after it is closed to do something illegal or that they can’t get locked inside a room
  • Emergency safety including evacuations and hunkering down depending on the type of emergency such as fire, bomb threats, severe weather, armed intruders, kidnapping, etc.
  • Personnel law to ensure that the church is complying with all laws pertaining to its personnel management to prevent legal action from current or former staff
  • Medical emergencies which require the intervention of trained professionals and what by-standers should do in such a situation
  • Financial policies to make sure that proper laws are being followed so that the church is not exposed to the mismanagement of funds including embezzlement and lawsuits or threats related fiscal management
  • Vehicle inspections and safety so that all church buses and other vehicles are safe, road-worthy, outfitted with good tires, and that brakes, seat-belts and other safety devices are in good working order.
  • Police interaction to keep a good relationship with local law enforcement so that when there is an emergency the police will take a personal, not just professional, interest in the situation and the location.

As I said, the courts have already assigned this responsibility to the senior pastor but most pastors have no idea of this legal burden. Pastors would be very, very wise to sit down with the church’s personnel, finance, legal, and other wise counsel to draft a plan so that all aspects of risk management are covered. This will protect the organization and actually help the organziation be proactive in the instance of an event.

Lead On!