Suburban, Urban, Rural Churches... We Are All Vulnerable


By Dan Steska

“Find a champion within the church to be trained as a disaster coordinator--this helps in developing a disaster response policy, and keeping that in front of church leadership. Emphasize small group ministries so that people are connected and ready to help one another after a disaster – clean up, housing, relational support. Make sure data is backed up off-site. Have a contingency plan for where you would meet for worship and other ministries.” – Pastor Aaron Brown, St. Paul’s UMC, Joplin Tornado
“Plan in advance for: How do you account for members and who was affected? How will you deal with damage to your building? How can you connect volunteers with needs?” – Mark Statler, Southwest District Superintendent

Fire Facts

  • In 2012-2013 over a dozen fires damaged or destroyed United Methodist Churches ($10,000 to $3.3 million in damages)
  • Over 1300 church fires reported yearly
  • Arson is leading cause of church fires (25%)
  • Smoke alarms not present in 65% of fires
“Gather these items away from the church: insurance policy and agent, restoration companies, a contact list of church leaders in their church. Establish a disaster committee, an alternative worship. Remember you need your prayer group to be praying diligently as you take this journey, and know God is with you even in the midst of this.” – Pastor Michelle McGhee, The Village Church, Dec. 2013 Fire

Deadly Force Intruder Facts

  • 2013: 85 Incidents of deadly force on church property
  • 2012: 35 Incidents of deadly force on church property
  •  Occurrence in 37 different states (74%)
  • 1999-2013
    • 723 incidents with 458 victim and aggressor deaths
    • 16.5% domestic issues
    • 14.3 % personal conflict
    • 23.4% robbery
    • 58.9% used a gun - 17.4% used a knife
    • 40.5% occurred during a church event

Child Abuse Facts

  • 1 of every 4 Americans has been a victim of child abuse
  • Vast majority of molesters are male
  • Prior to being caught, the molester has attacked an average of 13 children
  • Molesters are often married
  • Victims may be male or female
  • Christianity Today: “70% of churches do nothing to screen volunteer youth workers”

Church Fraud Facts

  • Church financial fraud increases at 6% per year
  • Expected to reach $60 billion by 2025
  • 80% of all cases go unreported
  • Usually the offender is one of the most trusted in the church
“Always have asset lists, document copies, and church contact list offsite, as well as a list of responders you can count on. P.S. Gift cards are much better ‘things’ for meeting immediate needs.” – Pastors Sharon and Tommy Freeman, St. James, Joplin

Tornado Facts

  • Missouri ranks # 8 in tornadoes relative to all states
  • Missouri ranks # 12 in risk of tornado death
  • June has the highest rate of tornadoes
  • Lead time for tornado warning averages 13 minutes

So What Can We Really Do...Today? 

Please take the following ‘My Safe Church’ evaluation. Check the boxes your church has in place:
  • Emergency plan  
  • Evacuation plan
  • Communication and electronic records back up plan
  • Smoke alarms/sprinkler system
  • Limited people have building keys
  • Security/safety team
  • Medical team
  • Adequate insurance? Volunteers, vehicles, contents, replacement cost
  • More than one person counting money and reconciling accounts
  • Safe Sanctuaries policy
  • Staff, key volunteers have a criminal background check
  • Someone is clearly responsible for our safety planning
  • Review other church policies for good ideas
  • Enforce, train, practice, evaluate, revise all of the above

We Can Help! 

Creative Ministries provides a ‘10 Step Planning’ presentation for your church: “Intruder Security: Church Disaster Readiness.” For more information contact Dan Steska, Disaster Response Coordinator at 573-474-7155 or