To put it mildly, 2020 has been a challenging year. We've all had to deal with the impact of several significant events in a short period of time. While no one envisioned so much happening so fast, this raises an issue that many church leaders prefer not to consider … risk.

Even without a global pandemic, life, business, and even the nonprofit world involve risk. A top leader could quit, donations may take a nosedive, a storm damages your building, etc. No one likes to think about these risks.

However, leaders who have a plan to prevent these risks and how to deal with them if they occur will fare much better than those who don’t. Here are a few things for you to consider as you mitigate the risks to your church.

Tip No. 1: Conduct a risk assessment

Talk with your staff to discuss the question that no one likes to consider, “What could happen that could take down our church?” That could include financial fraud, personnel scandal, a destroyed building, lawsuits, and more.

Tip No. 2: Develop mitigation and response plans

Once you have a list of potential risks, discuss what you can do to reduce the likelihood of each. Next, determine how you would respond if one of these events occurred. Document your plans, make changes to current policies and procedures if needed, and update these documents at least annually.

Tip No. 3: Seek wise counsel

Once you’ve developed your risk mitigation plans, including policies for staff and volunteers to adhere to that are part of those plans, consider reviewing them with legal counsel. This helps protect the church by having a lawyer review key practices and offer expert advice.

Additionally, review these with the church’s insurance provider. You may need liability insurance in case someone is injured while on your property, waivers or release forms for individuals participating in certain events, etc. It is worth the investment of time and money now to prevent potentially large expenditures later in fines, penalties, and litigation.

Tip No. 4: Educate staff and volunteers

Anyone who is representing the church in an “official” capacity needs to be aware of your policies, when waivers or release forms are required, and what to do in an emergency. Communicate these rules and provide training often. Do not assume that people will remember — reiterate regularly.

We all would prefer to think positively and not dwell on what could go wrong. Unfortunately, this year is serving as a reminder that we live in a fallen world, and bad things will happen. Instead of letting that thought defeat you, use it to propel you to act.

Investing the time to consider risks and how to prevent them will make your church better prepared to handle whatever comes your way. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking because you’re not a large corporation that you don’t need to consider risks. You are just as, if not more, vulnerable to risks as a big company — especially if you don’t plan to prevent and handle them.