By Brad Kitchen
Not many endeavors face as many unknown risks as churches and sending organizations. Those that do spend a great deal of time and money preparing for what could happen.
However, many churches and mission organizations have personnel who face great risks on a daily basis, but all too often very little preparation is done to ensure that potential risks are mitigated or that unexpected events are properly dealt with.
This can be a difficult task given the delicate balance between protecting those who minister and taking up the cross. That balance is the subject of differing opinions and also the focus of this article.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Scripture is clear. Christians are to present the Gospel of Christ to as many as possible, and the best way to do that is by face to face contact. Personal contact of this kind often means that potential danger must be weighed against taking the gospel to those who need it most and who are the most difficult to reach.
What Is Secure?
True outreach is cost-effective when done personally, which means it can’t be well done from behind locked doors or bulletproof glass.
We are expected to be wise stewards with the resources we have so generously been given, which means that attention to the safety and security of our best tools, our people, needs to be considered. And how is that safety to be measured? How much risk is acceptable and what risk is not acceptable?
The terms we use, Theology of Risk or Philosophy of Risk, are phrases often used in helping organizations properly decide for their people what danger is acceptable to them and what danger is not.
Theology of Risk will differ between organizations and may be the subject of a difference of opinion within organizations. However, making those calculations is paramount in providing guidance to personnel and security to precious resources. The key is balance based upon scripture.
In order to properly formulate a Theology of Risk, an evaluation of the risks faced by personnel is necessary and often times is better done by leaders who are not as closely involved in the outreach as those who are deeply involved.
Those who are actively and personally involved in the work on a daily basis sometimes fail to recognize real risk in order that the preaching of the gospel be accomplished. A managed approach sometimes requires an evaluation by those not so intimately involved.
Internal evaluations are possible given the right training and recognition of the impact that risk can have on the organization.
For the Church and Sending Organizations
Risk is inevitable for all churches engaged in evangelical outreach to bring the message of the Savior to the world, but has a reasonable effort been made to reduce and abate that risk?
Analyzing risk and either mitigating or eliminating it allows believers to go farther, stay longer, and accomplish more. This kind of preparation and care can instill confidence in the parent organization, which bodes well for retention and recruitment of new people.
We live in a litigious time when training and preparation are becoming more and more necessary to preserve precious resources needed to accomplish the work.
Much to their dismay, sending organizations are now finding it necessary to defend themselves from an increasing number of civil actions making it even more prudent to prepare and protect themselves and their people.
They are finding that preparation and protection of assets, live and otherwise, is the wise and prudent course. Churches can no longer depend on the courts for protection as they might once have done.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”
Remedies are not difficult but require a keen awareness to current events and trends, as well as a forward-thinking mindset. The time has come for the thoughtful management of risk to come to the forefront and take its place alongside of other church programs.
Take the challenge. Ask the hard questions. Pay attention to the answers. Prepare for the future. Successful ministries plan for the hard times and survive.
Brad Kitchen is president of Fort Sherman Academy, as well as a veteran of law enforcement and crisis management teams, www.fortsherman.org.