Preparing for Disasters
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
We’ve all heard this famous quote from old Ben before. Heck, many of us have used it to encourage our teams to come to rehearsals, listen to music ahead of time, and do whatever other weekly preparation we wished they’d do in order to create great moments of wonder in our services each weekend. Lately though, I’ve wondered if we really get the extent of how prepared we should be. We all know that California is destined to fall into the Pacific Ocean some day, but what if the big one hits your church? What if your audio system completely quits one Sunday, or your main projector dies Friday night, or worse?
Over the past few weeks I’ve learned of two ministries whose big one hit. The first is a church in Phoenix, Arizona I spent months serving with on various projects. It broke my heart to learn that on a Friday afternoon (and thank God, the day after VBS completed) nearly their entire Sanctuary roof came crashing down to the ground with little to no warning. The second, a church in Eastern Iowa, had a Tornado rip through their building and take out much of their stage and roof. Both are extreme cases for sure, but both churches were sent scrambling to both help people overcome the shock and grief of the disaster at hand while at the same time coming up with a plan B for weekend services just days later.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
I like this quote from our former Secretary of State, and I believe it’s Biblical. Sure, we will not be successful if God does not bless us, but in my experience, God will not bless our work when we lack preparedness and discipline. Success is not about being perfect, but about learning from mistakes (our own and from those around us) and preparing better for next time. George Bernard Shaw says it like this: “Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one a second time.”
How often do we make the same mistakes when it comes to being prepared? Have you ever had a piece of critical equipment go down right before it was needed? Has one of your leaders in a critical weekend role ever gotten sick and had to miss services? Do you live in an area where natural disasters are highly possible?
I propose there are 3 disaster areas that all of our churches need to be better prepared for:
Disaster 1 – Electronics Failure
If you’ve ever had critical equipment fail on you right before you need it, you know how intense a feeling this can be. After disaster strikes is not the time to come up with a plan, it’s the time to execute one. Know in advance who you can call to help you out of a bind – whether with repairs, new, or rental gear. It would be wise practice to have the contact info posted of an integration company that you have a good relationship with – plus perhaps the names, numbers, and inventory list of some nearby rental companies.
Disaster 2 – People Failure
People are fragile. We get detained, we get sick, and eventually we even die. Do you have a clearly defined succession plan for people in every key role (speaker, worship leader, tech director, producer, etc.)? If your worship leader gets sick on Saturday, does everyone know who will step in ahead of time? If your main speaker gets into a car wreck on the way to church Sunday morning and ends up in the hospital (or worse), does everyone know who takes over the message that weekend? What if the 1st backup isn’t available? I know of one church that records every message their pastor speaks to HD video, not because they are a multi-site church, but in case their pastor suddenly get’s sick and can’t deliver the message next service.
Disaster 3 – The Big One
People don’t like discussing disaster plans. It can feel overkill and morbid. I’m guessing if you asked my friends in Arizona and Iowa, however, they’d tell you that they wished they had plans in place to move forward in the face of disaster. When disaster strikes, an abundance of emotion and need already exists without having to come up with a plan B and running yourself into the ground to see if the hastily put together plan works. Rarely have I seen those kinds of plans be successful.
“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Disaster arrives in different shapes and sizes and is rarely seen coming, but stay in any game long enough and it will come. You and your team are uniquely placed and gifted to lead your congregations through it, but only if you’re ready. Will you and your team be prepared and rise to the occasion? Will you provide outstanding ministry with a well-executed plan in the midst of crisis, or will you scramble to simply keep ministry afloat? The choice is yours.