Protecting Against Theft in All Areas of Your Church
As church leaders, staff, volunteers and members, it is hard to imagine a religious facility being a prime target for criminals. Churches are seen as sacred and safe, and the thought of a crime, such as theft, taking place on church property is uncomforting. Theft in your organization could range from church property to offerings or tithes. Regardless of the severity level, theft is no small loss for your church. Fortunately, there are steps your organization can take to prevent loss and protect against theft in various areas of your ministry.
Implement a Security System
Statistics show that a security system can significantly reduce the chances of a burglary or break-in. These systems provide automatic monitoring of your facility, and signal an alarm or call for help in the event the building is breached. With advancements in technology, security systems have become more affordable, and with the lengthy list of benefits associated with their use, they are a great investment for organizations of all kinds. A well-marked security system is a deterrent in itself. Criminology studies have shown that most burglars will avoid buildings with a security system. Decals and window stickers provided by security companies warn criminals that your church is protected, making them less likely to break-in. Visible cameras and obvious wall-mounted systems can have the same effect.
Consider the “5 L’s” of Crime Prevention
Sometimes, a security system may not be feasible for your organization. In this situation, or to add additional security to your facility, consider the following crime prevention measures:
- Make sure that doors and windows are locked when the building is unoccupied.
- Maintain key control, particularly when there has been a turnover in employees.
- Lock up ladders, tools, and flammable materials such as cleaning supplies and gasoline at the end of the day.
- Illuminate exterior buildings, doors, and parking lots from sunset to sunrise.
- Keep interior entry light on during overnight hours.
- Consider installing motion-activated lighting near doors and windows.
- Keep shrubs and trees trimmed around windows and doors to eliminate potential hiding places for arsonists and criminals.
- Pick up trash and other combustible materials from church property.
- Establish a “Church Watch” program in which members volunteer to drive through the property at various times throughout the week and alert police to anything suspicious.
- Ask neighbors to contact police to report suspicious persons or activities.
- Develop positive relationships with local police and invite them to patrol the property at odd hours.
- Familiarize police with times of worship and church activities so that they will be alerted when people are unexpectedly present.
Put Financial Safeguards in Place
The offerings and tithes collected by your church are essential to the operations of your ministry. To reduce the risk of member theft or individuals embezzling funds, consider the following safeguards:
- Train church ushers on how to safeguard the collections during and after it is taken. Ushers should watch for suspicious activities and effectively communicate visually and verbally with other ushers.
- Secure collections until it is counted, and use the two unrelated person rule whenever funds are being handled.
- Count collection money in a locked room. Before or after counting, see that the funds remain in a safe or are brought to a bank.
- Establish a collection team and rotate weekly or monthly.
- Separate the duties between the counting team, treasurer and financial secretary.
- Run background checks or check financial references for volunteers or employees who handle funds.
Preventing Theft and Protecting the Organization
Your church contains many valuables and resources that are important to the overall ministry. To protect the mission of your organization, make sure you are taking adequate measures to protect against theft, such as a security system, church watch program and financial safeguards. Do not allow criminals to think your church is an easy target.
© 2020 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.