Whether it’s dedicating a Sabbath afternoon to feeding the homeless or hosting a local health screening event, many churches participate in outreach activities regularly. While the goal is to serve your community, outreach activities come with a level of risk that left unmanaged can harm your ministry and the people you came to serve. Here are three ways to increase safety at your next community outreach event.
1. PLAN ADEQUATE SUPERVISION
It is important to plan for adequate supervision for all in your group, whether you are leading a group of Pathfinders and Adventurers, or the men’s ministry group. Consider the kind of event you will be participating in and how many volunteers will be in your group. Based on these two factors, you can determine how many supervisors or team leaders you will need for your event.
In choosing your supervisors, be sure they are well trained in the activity and are familiar with whom they will supervise. Schedule a separate meeting to inform supervisors of their responsibilities and your expectations. Don’t forget to instruct them on what to do in the case of an emergency. Provide each designated supervisor with an emergency plan as well as names and contact information of the point person coordinating the activity.
By making supervision for your event a priority, you are proactively managing any crises that may arise, as well as minimizing the risk of liability.
2. TRAIN YOUR VOLUNTEERS
Just as your supervisors are well-trained, it is also important to train your volunteers. Based on your activity, determine which skills your volunteers will need in order to perform their duties. Does the activity involve hard labor? Will your volunteers handle food or money? How can your team prepare for the activity and the people they will encounter?
Make sure your volunteers are insured in case of a slip or fall, or even if they inadvertently cause harm. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. provides volunteer labor insurance for churches, schools, and conference groups participating in approved mission projects. Contact your local conference to see if this coverage is available for your ministry.
3. PARTNER WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
One might forget that partnering with your local community is also a service activity. This can include local emergency personnel, health services personnel, and even social service organizations. Your positive interaction can build rapport and strengthen relationships.
Not all community service events will involve going out into the community. Some events may be hosted within your facilities. If you plan to host multiple community service events in your facilities, inform your local emergency personnel of your ministry’s emergency plan and offer blueprints of your facilities at the beginning of each year. This will allow for a smoother process in case of an emergency. Additionally, take time to find out about required county and city fire codes and restrictions, as well as the maximum number of people allowed inside the building at one time.
As a leader, your ultimate goal is to have a community outreach program that will focus on service and ministry to others above all else. By taking care of potential risks and other liabilities, you can rest assured that you have done your part as a ministry leader and a risk manager.
For more information on protecting your ministry, visit AdventistRisk.org.
Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist at Adventist Risk Management, Inc.