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Risk Management Minute

Valuable Information to Help You Protect Your Ministry

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Years ago we had a dream of creating a risk management system for churches. We started with researching and writing a couple sample policies in order to help our ministries.  Then we decided to create an entire risk management manual and deliver one to each of our pastors. What we discovered is that our churches now owned another book. Those sample policies, although in the manual, weren’t doing the ministry any good if they weren’t being adopted and implemented.

So now, we have a new idea and we think you might approve. Take your current risk management manual. Not sure where it is? It’s probably on a shelf! *insert sarcasm* Now, remove all the sample policies and throw them away, leaving only the dividing tabs. Why are we telling you to do that? Pick your jaw up off your desk and I’ll explain.

Those sample policies will not help you in a lawsuit anymore than a dictionary; unless you want to look up the definition of lawsuit. The only way they become useful is if you actually adopt them, and can show documentation of when that adoption occurred.  For further reading on policy adoption check out this blog. Meeting Minutes

On our website we have a risk management library for our clients to use. Simply log in and go to risk management documents. See, we made it really simple for you. From there you click on a policy and it will automatically download.  Most of our policies use the term “Sample Church” in the forms. You can use the “Find & Replace” tool in Microsoft word to replace sample church with the name of your ministry.  

As you work your way through tweaking the samples to make them your own, print them out and add them to your folder under the appropriate tabs. Once they have been adopted I recommend putting a copy of the meeting minutes with that policy in the manual. That way if you are ever questioned as to the origin date, it will be easy to find.  As to documenting communication of the sexual misconduct policy for example, have a sign in sheet for everyone who has received a copy. Place that sheet in the manual with your sexual misconduct policy as well.

The purpose of this to make sure that the risk management manual sitting on your shelf is full of policies and procedures you have agreed upon, adopted, documented and communicated to your congregation. That is what makes the manual priceless. 

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AC Transit official pleads guilty to charges of embezzling from Oakland Church.

Man accused of stealing $150k from Victory Church waives prelim hearing, has bail reduction.

Woman pleads guilty to thefts from Columbia Baptist Association.

Ex-worker pleads guilty in Edmond Church embezzlement case.

Man charged with stealing more than $60,000 from central Minnesota Church.

Former Grand Rapids Pastor, church secretary will repay $220,000 taken from church, judge vows.

 

These are just a few recent headlines, but as you can see fraud within Churches has become a major problem.  

Churches play a vital role in the community. They open their doors inviting you into a safe, supportive and welcoming environment. Those placed in leadership roles are highly trusted individuals who have been pillars of the ministry for years, sometimes decades. Therefore when monetary irregularities begin to appear the Church is left in shock and disbelief.

How could this happen?
We had no idea they were capable of this.
I can’t believe it.

These are just a few common statements made upon discovery. However, there are things you can look for, and procedures you can implement that prevent these travesties from ever occurring.  

The following are things consistently observed when it comes to church fraud.

Of all the cases, 87% involved first-time offenders with no prior criminal records. Personal debt, medical crisis, or the unexpected loss of a spouse’s job creates unexpected pressure, with many rationalizing their acts as “temporary loans” that they intend to repay- but never do.

An average theft amount of at least $100,000, and usually between $200,000 - $400,000, all stolen over a period of several years.

At least two to four media headlines nationwide each month involving an arrest or prosecution of a bookkeeper, accountant, or pastor suspected of embezzling from their church. 

So what measures can your ministry put in place?

Consistently evaluate the pay structures of your pastors and staff, and watch for stressful events in their lives that could lead to heavier financial pressures.

Use internal controls to segregate duties and involve multiple people in all of the various steps involving money-from collections to counting to accounting to bill paying.

Don’t underestimate the value of internal and external audits. An external audit involving a qualified, independent outside firm requires time and money. Consider doing one about every three years because it helps ensure no gaps or loopholes have developed over time. Internal audits conducted by church staff and volunteers can be done on the years when an external audit isn’t done; these can simply review policies and procedures in place to make sure everything works right and looks right.

In our Risk Management Document Library under Church Polices you will find a sample policy titled “How to Handle Money.” This can help get your ministry started down the right path of protecting your assets as well as removing temptation from your members. If you're interested in additional reading, please check out this article Financial Fraud in Heartland Churches.

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Traveling the world is an adventure. Last year I was fortunate enough to take a solo two week trip to Europe, much to the chagrin of my parents. I've always been their independent child. I believe my first sentence was "I do it myself."
While I had traveled outside of the US before, this was my first trip on my own. I learned a lot during my time abroad. How to navigate public transit without English signs everywhere, how to order at a restaurant without being able to read the menu, how to communicate with various hand signals and that good walking shoes are a MUST! Traveling abroad is a wonderful thing, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to, I recommend you explore as much as possible. However, there are a few things you need to know before you set foot outside of the US. 

Whether you are traveling for personal pleasure, work, or a missions trip you need to purchase an international medical insurance plan. Insurance coverage for your church, your personal health insurance, or you business does not extend outside of the United States. 

If I were to ship my car over seas to London, my car insurance would not be effective even though my car is in London. The same is true for your church liability, med pay or personal health insurance. Just because you are in London does not mean your insurance follows you. 

So how do you purchase an international medical policy? Typically when you are purchasing a ticket to an international destination the airline will offer you an opportunity to purchase a medical policy. You can also purchase them from various companies. You can select an individual policy or one for a group. If you are going on a mission trip, every single person attending needs to have an international medical policy. Even if you seek medical treatment in the US upon your return, your health insurance would deny coverage because the injury occurred out of the country.The pricing for these plans are very reasonable, and well worth the coverage and security it provides. As an example I did a quote for me and my Dad.  

Jessica Gleason      30 years old      $500,000 of coverage      $20 premium 
Mike Gleason         52 years old      $500,000 of coverage      $40 premium 

Here is a link to one of these companies. MEDEX Assist

A
s always, if your ministry is planning a trip and you have questions, please give us a call. Also, feel free to invite me! 

 

                                      

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According to Robert’s Rules of Order, meeting minutes play a crucial role in providing record of what was said and done at the meeting. While typical minutes do not make for riveting reading, it is important that they are informative and easy to navigate for whatever the reader needs to know six months from now.

As you work on implementing our risk management procedures into your ministry, it is important that your meeting minutes reflect the adoption of these policies.

Let’s say that a sex offender starts attending your church, and you are made aware of his history. Upon meeting with him you explain your ministries policy on sex offenders attending services.  He may then claim that you are discriminating against him.  If you can show that you had adopted a policy regarding sex offenders prior to him stepping foot in your building then he cannot claim discrimination. However, if you decide to adopt a policy after he started attending then his claims have validity.

 

So how do you adopt a policy in your meeting minutes? You want your minutes to be readable, and use of unpretentious language helps, just remember to be precise in the information you give.

Following the example of the sex offender, this is a sample guideline of how to adopt a policy.

I make a motion that we adopt How to Handle Sex Offenders, Policy 1, from the Ministry Protection Risk Management System. 

You can adopt policies and procedures individually, or you can adopt our risk management system all at once.

I make a motion that we adopt all policies and procedures from the Ministry Protection Risk Management System.

If you have hosted one of our Risk Management Seminars, we would suggest you list that in your meeting minutes as well.

Board acknowledges Ministry Protection Risk Management Seminar occurred on (date) in compliance with the policies and procedures of our Risk Management System.

While this may seem redundant, it is important to keep a record so that you have proof of implementation. 


The Sex Offender Policy I referenced above is available for download in our Risk Management Document Library. It provides three sample policies with different levels of protection for you to choose from. Simply log in and select - Ministry Risk Management - and from the drop down choose the document library. This form is under the Sexual Misconduct section and titled "How to Handle Sex Offenders." 


Adoption of these policies is a simple step your ministry can take to ensure you are protected. 

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There was little to disguise what these two had been up to moments before police pulled them over. The would-be burglars master plan had one tiny flaw; there 'disguises' comprised of masks drawn on their face with permanent marker pen. American police stopped their car after a witness reported two men with "painted faces" were trying to break into a flat in Iowa. 

Although these men might not be the most brilliant or successful criminals, burglaries are on the rise. One area Churches are particularly affected by is copper theft. Worldwide demand for copper has brought its price to an all-time high, resulting in an increase of copper theft crimes. Ground and roof mounted heating and air conditioning units have been stolen or destroyed at churches across the country for the copper they contain. 

So what measures can you take to protect your property? Step one, cover everything in permanent marker......Just kidding! There are many ways to help protect against copper theft. 

Add security lighting to areas where thieves may hide. 

Deny access to roof-mounted HVAC units by removing ladders and other step-ups that may assist thieves. 

Consider using wrought iron cages or fences to enclose your AC units. 

And finally, what may be considered the ultimate deterrent, add security cameras. Now I know what you're thinking, "It's not in the budget to purchase security cameras!" Was I right? I have a feeling I was.  I'm also sensing you're hungry, but before you reach for that donut hear me out. While I suggested your purchase security cameras, I didn't say they had to be real. The UniquExceptional UDC4 Cameras contain 30 fake infared night vision LEDS that stay illuminated during darkness. The batteries last 9-12 months, and the model can be installed with a few screws in minutes. A security sticker is also included at the grand cost of $7.99 per camera. 

I would suggest you purchase a few of these to install around entry doorways and above your HVAC unit, placing the sticker on the unit itself. For just a few dollars you can deter potential copper thieves since no one, even those who paint their faces with marker, will go after a unit under surveillance when there are plenty out there unprotected. 

 

Here is the link to the cameras on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime - they qualify for free shipping! 

UniqueExceptional UDC4 Camera

 Editors Note: It may be worth paying for real cameras if you can capture something like this! Enjoy! 

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