God has blessed my church with plenty of talented members of the medical community. If a medical emergency were to take place, it is reassuring to know how quickly and efficiently our members could work to resolve the issue.

But what if our church didn’t have people with medical expertise? Or what if there had been a different kind of emergency? What if this had happened at another church? These sorts of questions echoed in my mind all Sunday afternoon.

I believe that every church should have emergency plans in place. No matter the size of the church, emergencies can strike at any time. Here are three plans that every church should be prepared for.

1) A Medical Emergency Plan:

As long as you have people attending your church, you are at risk for medical emergencies. If an ambulance arrived at your facility, would the first responders know which doors to enter? Are they clearly marked? Are the doors big enough for stretchers?

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Do you have one or two church leaders in charge of calling 911? What about someone assigned to stand in the parking lot to meet the ambulance when it arrives? (to make sure they don’t accidently pass by your church or miss the entrance).

Have you thought through what the musicians should do if something happens during a song in the service? What if it happened during preaching –or another element of your worship service? (By the way, my pastor did an excellent job informing the congregation of what was happening and following up afterwards with a reassuring update on the situation before He began preaching).

2)A Security Emergency Plan:

Unfortunately, churches are just as susceptible to crime and violence as any other establishment. Even worse –many churches leave themselves open to opportunities for security breaches every Sunday. Have you thought about all of the unattended, unlocked doors around your building while everyone is gathered in the Sanctuary? Do you have a secure system for your nursery and child-care? What would you do if someone kidnapped a child? Is there a leader on duty in the children’s area of your building who would call 911? Is there a plan in place to “lock down” the facility in case the perpetrator is still in the building? Do you have descriptions of each child available to provide law enforcement immediately? (the first hour after a kidnapping is the most likely time to recover the child –time is of the essence and parents may be too rattled to provide a description quickly.) How would you communicate the security breach to your congregation?

What if someone became belligerent during a service? What if someone began shooting in the sanctuary? Would the congregation know what to do? (One wrong move by just one well-meaning person could risk the lives of the entire congregation).

3) A Weather Emergency Plan:

What if a thunderstorm, tornado, or ice storm trapped people inside your building for a prolonged period of time? What if the power went off? Do you have enough supplies in case the congregation is required to stay in the building for a couple of days? Do you have enough food on hand? Does your church have a generator?

If part of your building were destroyed suddenly during a service, what would you do? Who would be in charge of calling emergency personnel? Who would assess the situation to determine whether the congregation should evacuate or remain in the building?

Plan Ahead

While these kinds of questions are never fun to think about, the alternative is worse. Pastors are charged with overseeing the flock as shepherds –and the sheep trust the pastor to care for them in a Christ-like manner. Can you imagine how the mismanagement of one emergency could jeopardize that trust? No pastor wants to think about how his own lack of planning could lead to losing a child to a kidnapper or a member to a heart attack. Imagine the pain of thinking “If only I had planned ahead….”

So please, for the sake of your congregation and for the sake of your ministry –make a plan. Keep it up-to-date and share it with your leaders and congregation regularly.

Hopefully, you’ll never need it!