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Unexpected events can catch a congregation’s leadership flat-footed and confused unless you take the time to do a little planning. We are used to planning for financial crises with rainy day funds and savings, but we don’t always take the time to discuss other “what ifs” – what if a child gets out of the nursery and ends up across the street? What if the city threatens to shut down your homeless ministry? What if your property is vandalized?
While you can’t make a contingency plan for every single possible occurrence, you can think through some broad policies and practices that will be invaluable should a crisis occur.
Some resources that might be helpful are posted on the disciples.org website on the Resources page. A publication called Crises in Your Church is available for download or you can order a printed version from firstname.lastname@example.org. Though printed before the prevalence of social media, the planning steps are sound.
Another document of note for the people designated as spokespersons in your plan is one on media relations basics. This will be particularly helpful if the crisis at hand is one of mishandling funds or other potentially criminal activities.
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Not IF, but WHEN
- Have a plan
- Know media before you need them
- Be committed to open and honest communications
- Immediately notify emergency responders and/or regulatory agencies
- Don’t immediately admit fault or try to spread the blame
- If there is a death or injury, the spokesperson must immediately express concern and sympathy to families and the injured.
- Have one person designated as spokesperson.
- Tell facts as they develop. Do not speculate. Rely on investigative sources for details.
- NEVER, NEVER SAY “NO COMMENT”
- Retain a trained public relations professional or consult the Communication Ministries in the Office of General Minister and President for counsel (email@example.com). Take their suggestions as trained counselors.