Does your church have an emergency plan?
What will you do when an emergency hits your parish?
The tornadoes that hit my home state of Alabama yesterday got me thinking about these questions. Are churches prepared for emergencies? If the churches I’m familiar with are any example, most churches have no plans at all.
Given events in recent history that have affected communities around the country and the world, the local church should be prepared to handle emergency situations. A natural disaster or other emergency could affect the parish church or the town where the church is located. Every church should have a plan to assist its members and the residents of its community in the event of a church or community emergency.
Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm about emergency preparedness.
How will you know if your parishioners are safe?
If a tornado strikes your community, how will you account for everyone? Do you have phone numbers and addresses for your members? What about the same info for frequent (or even occasional) visitors? Do you have a phone tree that could be used to check up on folks? Can parishioners call in to the church to let someone know their status?
What will you do if an emergency occurs during your worship service or other event?
If a deranged man walks into your building with a gun and starts shooting people, what is your security plan? Do you have security guards? If not, who in the church is trained in defensive tactics? What is your emergency evacuation plan and who will direct people during the evacuation? How will you alert police and other emergency services about what is happening?
What will your church do to support members of the congregation who are affected by the emergency?
If a hurricane hits your town and some of your parishioners lose their homes, how will you assist your church members? Do you have a food pantry or clothing closet? Are you able to take parishioners into other members’ homes? Are funds available to put members up in hotels? Do you have rooms in your church building in which folks could be temporarily housed? Are you connected with other organizations that could help—such as a ministerial association, church network, community food bank, etc.?
How will your church respond to the needs of those in your community who are affected by the emergency?
If your town is flooded, what will you do for those in your community who need assistance? Do you know who in your congregation owns boats and might be able to rescue others in town? Can you open your church kitchen to serve meals for those who are displaced from their homes? Can your Sunday school rooms be turned into temporary housing? Is your church building available to be used as a makeshift aid station?
Every parish should consider the implications of an emergency on its ministry and functions. There are theological considerations in how we approach this topic. If we are truly the body of Christ, we will respond with generosity and kindness to those in our family who are in need. And we will reach out to those around us who are hurting. We will not simply pray that they may be clothed or fed; instead, we will give of our abundance to the needy.
Start this week by drafting a security plan for your congregation. Identify a security head. Even if yours is a tiny one-room church building in a rural area, find someone who takes the matter of security seriously. Help him put together a common sense plan that protects lives in the event of a security emergency.
Next week, continue your preparedness by drafting a congregational response plan that includes the following: accounting for the whereabouts and safety of your church members; phone and address rosters for contacting church members; assess the need and feasibility for maintaining emergency stores of food, clothing, blankets, and other emergency essentials.
Emergency preparedness and response is an ongoing concern that will need to be addressed occasionally in order to maintain a workable and effective plan. This is an area of pastoral ministry that can bring glory to the Lord as the church works to show compassion and charity to those within and without the body of Christ.
What is your parish doing to address emergency preparedness? Leave a comment to share your ideas with others!