In college, my Greek professor had a standard answer when worried students started asking about the next exam. With a wry smile, he repeated, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." In other words, don't worry about that yet. (Or as some of us learned to interpret it, today was to be enjoyed because exam day would be a terrible day of judgment … ). Yes, it's biblical. See Matthew 6:34 in your KJV.
Just as students may worry over an upcoming exam, our uncertain world may cause infectious fear and worry within our churches. Severe weather, violence on church property and industrial disasters are all very real threats we cannot control. Or perhaps your church takes the opposite position, assuming only the best and ignoring potential crises. Refusing to cave in to fear of the unknown, you simply decide to postpone disaster to another day. Let me suggest that both of these choices can be dangerous, but a third alternative is available—planning ahead with confidence. An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a good idea for every church.
Every church is different, so no off-the-shelf plan will work for everyone. You'll need to write your own. Such a plan may not seem urgent today, but a good EOP will actually help you minister more effectively when the unexpected happens. Consider these steps as your starting point for preparedness.
Utilize Insider Expertise
- Put together a team to develop (or review) your EOP. The team should include leaders from a variety of ministries in your church. They will provide practical insight regarding what will work in your situation.
- Also include church members with experience and expertise in emergency response if you have them. They will bring technical understanding to the process. Both technical and practical input will be important in developing an effective plan that people will actually use.
Take Advantage of Outside Expertise
- FEMA has a free downloadable booklet, "Developing High Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship," which can be a valuable tool and can be found at www.whitehouse.gov.
- Many church insurance providers have developed tools for churches related to planning your EOP. Ask your insurance agent to attend a meeting of your team to explain what is available. The following insurance company websites offer some free resources:
- If the church is hosted/sponsored by another congregation, visit with the host/sponsor leader to see if an EOP is already in place. If no plan is in place, it might be possible for the two congregations to plan together.
- Develop an ongoing relationship with local first responders and involve them in the conversation as the plan is developed. They will know about local practices and procedures, which vary from place to place in Texas. Some churches invite local fire and/or police departments to use the church building for training seminars and exercises, which builds goodwill and familiarizes responders with the facilities.
- Learn from good sample EOPs, but never adopt one without serious discussion about the unique setting and needs of your own church.
Just one chapter after the "Sufficient unto the day … " quote used by my college professor, Jesus tells a famous story of the wise and foolish homebuilders riding out a fierce storm. Of course the application relates to how we practice Jesus' teachings, but it's not a stretch to say it also communicates the value of thinking ahead in very practical ways. A good Emergency Operations Plan is a wise investment in your church's future.
By the way, I'm happy to report that I passed Greek. Something tells me my professor's advance work in class helped minimize the effects of the "evil thereof" that inevitably came my way in the form of exams!
David Adams has forgotten nearly all of his Greek—that was years ago! But if you need help with church administration issues he's glad to help you find the right resources. You can reach him at david.adams [at] texasbaptists.org.