Holiday Service Safety Considerations

// Lindsay Taylor on Friday December 15, 2017

Christmas services are among the highest-attended services of the year, presenting an exciting opportunity to celebrate and worship with a larger audience. With the increased number of services and attendees, you’ll want to make safety a top priority. Here are some pointers to help you plan for your large gathering.

Review your safety plan. Take a moment to revisit the safety plan you have established for your church. Review all procedures with your staff and volunteers to make sure that they know how to respond in the event of an emergency.

Determine logistics. With so many people in attendance, it's especially important to make sure that you have a game plan for the day – and that this plan is clearly communicated to staff and volunteers. Here are some details to consider:

  • Will you allow people to roam the facility or will you close off certain parts (e.g., church offices, classrooms, the gym or cafeteria)?
  • What time will the services start?
  • When will you start letting people in?
  • Which doors will you allow people to enter through?
  • Do you have enough seating and supplies (bulletins, candles, etc.) available?

Tip – It’s a good idea to have extra greeters and ushers available to assist people, since more nonmembers and out-of-town guests will be in attendance and may need more guidance and assistance.

Know your maximum occupancy. Going over this number can make for a squished, uncomfortable service – and create a safety risk in the event of an emergency.

Tip – Consider setting up overflow seating in a gym or fellowship hall with live video feeds of the services on TVs or projectors. This will allow more people to attend your service without it creating a safety risk.

Avoid slips and falls. There’s something special about a white Christmas, but you’ll want to be extra careful to limit slippery surfaces. Clear walking surfaces of snow and ice, and increase traction indoors by placing sturdy mats and runners at entrances.

Decorate with care.  Make sure that trees, manger scenes and other decorations do not block means of egress.

Step up security. Increased attendance also increases the potential threat of crime and violence, so make sure appropriate security measures are in place. Check out our post 4 Ways to Step Up Security at Holiday Events for ideas on how to do that.

Safely bask in the glow. The tips in this post will help ensure your candlelight service remains peaceful, not perilous.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is a Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on marketing communications and the co-op program.

In her free time, she enjoys dancing, running and spending time with friends and family.

5 Steps to a Successful Background Screening

// Sarah Arnold on Monday January 23, 2017

Whether you’re hiring new employees or gaining volunteer help, background screenings are an important part of the onboarding process. Equally important is the manner in which background screenings are conducted. Make sure your organization’s background screenings follow these best practices.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Sarah Arnold

Sarah Arnold

Sarah Arnold is a Web Marketing Intern for GuideOne Insurance.

When she is not at work, Sarah enjoys horseback riding, painting, reading and spending time with her husband, ponies, cats and hound.

4 Ways to Step Up Security at Holiday Events

// Katie Rynard on Tuesday November 15, 2016

As the holiday season approaches, your organization is likely gearing up for Christmas programs and other seasonal activities. These events tend to draw a lot of nonmembers, and while it's important to make guests feel welcome, you don't want to roll out the welcome mat for thieves.

The best way to prevent theft is to include security in your event-planning conversations, says Tom Strong, senior loss control manager at GuideOne Insurance. "Preparation is key," Strong says. "If you have a plan to control the situation, there will be a better outcome." Assemble and train a team of trustworthy volunteers, then put the following security safeguards in place:

1. Establish a presence. Strong recommends that volunteers wear matching T-shirts in an eye-catching color so attendees will know who to ask for help – and so potential thieves will know they're being watched. "Physical presence is a big deterrent," Strong says.

2. Watch the doors. Only unlock entrances you know you'll use. When you're carrying items in and out of the building before and after the event, have a volunteer monitor the door to prevent someone from sneaking in. Make sure the building is locked when you leave.

3. Call attention to approved areas. Close off and lock up areas of the building that are off-limits, and "use signage to point guests in the right direction," Strong says. Assign a volunteer to monitor the building during the event in case someone gets lost or ventures where they shouldn't be.

4. Secure valuables. Collect money in tamper-proof bags, and deposit or lock up cash immediately after the event based on your organization's money-handling procedures.

Taking these precautions will help ensure your holiday events are as joyful as you intended for everyone involved – the event planners, volunteers and attendees.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard is a Corporate Communications Specialist at GuideOne Insurance.

When she's not at work, she enjoys decorating, traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, daughter and dachshund puppy.

Financial Safeguard Test

// Ellen Wade on Thursday December 10, 2015

How secure are the financials at your organization?  It’s always important to keep the money your donors have entrusted to you safe, but it is especially vital this time of year, as nonprofits tend to see an increase in donations and welcome more newcomers through their doors.

Test your financial security adeptness by answering yes or no to the questions below.

  1. Do we have clear, written procedures for collecting, counting, depositing and reporting our finances?
  2. Do we train ushers/collectors on how to take donations and then keep them safe?
  3. Are there always two unrelated adults with the money from collection to deposit?
  4. Do we keep our petty cash in a discreet location and monitor and audit its use?
  5. Do we have a separation between the ushers/collectors, counters, financial secretary and treasurer?
  6. Do we forbid anyone from taking funds home to count?
  7. Do we use a receipt or voucher system for purchases?
  8. Are our financial records safe (books or on computer)?
  9. Do we have an impartial, scheduled audit of our books?
  10. Do we keep a log of all accounts within the church?
  11. Are special event funds required to have two people present with them?
  12. Do we provide any security when large sums of cash are involved?
  13. Do we keep cash locked up?
  14. Do we use a system with transients that does not utilize cash?
  15. Are receipt and disbursement of funds reported to the membership?
  16. Do we encourage members to safeguard their personal belongings while on-site?

If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you should consider making changes to your current financial safeguarding procedures.  A small change could make a big difference in protecting your contributions.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade is a Marketing Specialist for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on content marketing and social media.

In her free time, she enjoys running, biking, reading and exploring new cities.

Starting a Safety and Security Team

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday November 5, 2015

Whether you’re a church that’s long established, or a new church gathering members and finding a place to worship, having a Risk Management Team oversee the safety and security of your church is important.

Instead of various groups spending time dealing with each of the key risk management issues that a church faces, a Risk Management Team can look at risk comprehensively and formulate a plan that best fits your ministry and membership.  By forming a quality safety and security team, the chances of maintaining a safe and secure environment increase dramatically. Read on to learn how to structure and organize your risk management team.

Team Structure

  • Your team should include between three and eight members. They may include current or former law enforcement officers; current or former military personnel; those who have a background in insurance, claims or risk management; facility managers, and others who feel strongly about a proactive risk management program.
  • The team should be endorsed and officially formed by action of the church's administrative body. Once established, they should meet at least on a quarterly basis.
  • All ongoing activities, new ministries, special events, and building upgrades and construction should be filtered through the committee.
  • Regular activity reports should be given to the church staff and administrative body.

Team Organization

  • Educate: The team should obtain resources and seek training to become informed on key elements and responses of church risk management. The team should then educate the church board and staff members.
  • Plan and Respond: As a team, begin developing a security plan that includes initial congregational education, inspections, activity protocols, and policies.
  • Train and Inform Others: Begin a congregation-wide educational program on safety, security, and risk issues. Speak to small groups, key committees, and other members to keep them informed and receive their input on key safety issues and implementation.
  • Follow Through: Develop a strategy for slowly phasing in a risk management program, as well as the ongoing monitoring, and an educational emphasis. The goal is to integrate safety and security measures into the daily life of the congregation without compromising the church’s ministry.

For more information on risk management and areas your safety team should consider, view these additional church safety resources from the GuideOne Center for Risk Management.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.