For those of us who live in the northern U.S., it's time to prepare for lots of snow and ice. We have the infrastructure to clear the roads fairly quickly, but there are days when even an army of snowplows can't do the job fast enough.

Regardless of where you live, you're likely to run into weather conditions that make driving to church less than safe at some point. It's best to prepare for those days well before they occur.

Here are five steps to consider as you plan for inclement weather:

1. Assign someone to make the decision

Does the senior pastor make this call? Is it a joint decision with the elders? Prevent any confusion the day-of by assigning someone to decide whether to hold services, delay them or keep the regular schedule.

2. Provide that person with decision-making criteria

Do we cancel or delay services based on whether schools are already canceled for the following day? Do we make our decision based on recommendations from certain weather experts or government officials? Do we follow the lead of other churches or organizations in the area?

Having at least some general guidelines can help your decision maker(s) be consistent over time.

3. Determine how to announce the decision (and who will make the announcement)

Once you've decided how to proceed (whether you close, delay or remain open), how will you announce that information? Do you post it on your church website and social media channels? Do you send out a push notification via your church's mobile app? Do you contact the local news stations so they can include your church's information in their list of delays/closings?

Compile the list of "how to announce" steps and provide that documentation to those responsible for communicating the decision.

Next, assign someone to each aspect of announcing a delay or closing now, so there's no confusion when this happens. Determine who will update the church website and social media, who will send out a push notification and who will contact the local news stations.

4. Consider providing a message online

If your church already livestreams services or posts messages online, decide if you want to post a message so people can participate at home. If you anticipate canceling services, you might be able to video the pastor giving the message a few days before and post it Sunday morning.

Otherwise, consider posting an older message or see if your pastor is comfortable doing a short Facebook Live session to encourage everyone at home.

5. Create a plan for helping the community

Consider now how your congregation could mobilize to help people without power during an ice storm or to clear debris after a natural disaster.

Note which members have specialized skills that could be extra helpful in such a situation (carpenters, electricians, etc.). Ask them if they'd be willing to provide their expertise if needed and keep that information available within your church database.

Bad weather doesn't have to mean you skip connecting with your congregation or the community. From being proactive in deciding whether to hold services, to providing an online message and helping your community through a rough situation, your witness can be stronger than ever with a bit of advanced planning.