By Kristen Eleveld
No one likes to think about having to deal with a crisis in your church. But it’s critical to have a plan in place that will keep everyone in the loop and outline the steps you need to take for any unexpected situation.
Figuring out how to get started may feel like a daunting task, but by breaking each task down into smaller steps, you and your team can create a communication plan that will serve you well for years to come.
Step 1: Write down a plan.
You may have some great ideas on ways to communicate during a crisis or unexpected event, but those ideas are only as good as the paper they’re written on.
In other words, you need to make sure to meet with other members of your church communication team and key leaders—not only discuss your ideas, but also create a document or file that can be easily accessed by anyone who may need it.
When the time comes to execute a crisis management plan it’s important that people know it exists, where to find it, and how to follow the plan.
Many services, like Google Docs, offer the option for multiple people to view and even edit a document from different locations. If you’re working with a large number of people who may be unavailable for calls or meetings, having a document like this easily accessible is convenient.
Once you agree to a plan, be sure to let everyone know then lock the document so no additional edits can be made. This will help avoid confusion and let people know they are viewing the final version of the plan and to act accordingly.
Step 2: Consult the experts.
You are a communication expert, but you might not have as much experience dealing with issues like security or emergency planning.
This is a good opportunity to seek out experts in these fields to ask for their thoughts on your plan, along with any suggestions they may have for improving your crisis management process. Community members like police officers and firefighters are excellent resources for this type of information.
Creating a team within your congregation is also a good way to get useful input on your ideas. Some of your church members may have experience with planning for natural disasters or with crisis training, and they can incorporate their knowledge of your building and congregation to assist you with your emergency plan.
Even those members who lack that particular type of experience but who are regular volunteers in other areas can be useful. For instance, you might talk to the Sunday School teachers in your children’s department to find out what they think would be the biggest obstacle to getting the kids in their class to safety during an emergency.
Step 3: Be specific.
The plan is made, it’s been vetted by others, and now you need to make sure everyone understands the role they will play during a crisis or emergency.
If the church is closed due to inclement weather, who is in charge of letting the congregation know? If this information passed on through an email blast, phone chain, or a combination of various services, who activates each service? If a member has a question, who can they contact at the church?
Answering these questions before a crisis hits will go a long way to smooth the process during a real emergency.
You also need to make sure everyone on your team understands not only their own role, but the role of others on the team.
Someone needs to be in charge of communicating to the church, and someone needs to be in charge of talking to emergency services as needed. There should be a team member in charge of responding to concerns from the members. You need to specify which person(s) will be tasked with updating social media.
Clarifying who is responsible for which actions will keep you from doubling up in one area while neglecting another.
Create a chart that maps out everyone’s jobs and, if possible, include contact information so everyone has it readily available as needed.
You can’t predict a crisis or disaster, but you can be prepared to combat it with excellent communication.
Planning now will help create success later, so gather your communications team and get to work on managing these situations together.
This article is courtesy of Church Juice, which provides congregations with free resources and opportunities for training and consulting on church communications, www.churchjuice.reframemedia.com. Church Juice is a ministry of Back to God Ministries International, the media mission of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA).