June 27, 2012

Beauty and Safety

On a rare day off from work, I visited Ebenezer Baptist Church, a renovated historical church in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. Martin Luther King, Jr., once served as pastor of this church.

The building gleamed with cleanliness and grandeur, and the church seemed well kept. Even items saved from its renovation still looked to be in pretty good shape. I didn’t have to wonder about their perspective on safety; I noticed that one of its ministries is “Building and Grounds.”

Yes, they have a ministry devoted to the building and the grounds. This is not to say their reason for having this ministry correlates with their perspective on safety. However, having the mindset to maintain the building leads to a safe environment.

Here are some ideas about church beautification and maintenance, and how they improve safety:

Grounds Maintenance—The simple task of walking the grounds and picking up trash can alert you to potential hazards. Anthills or gopher holes, especially in rural areas, are real hazards. Other common tripping hazards are cracks in the sidewalks and parking lots. To avoid them check the grounds weekly.

Flooring—Nothing says “We don’t care” like torn carpets and damaged floors. They are also slip-and-fall hazards. Determine the extent of the damage and correct it as well as possible, until the flooring can be replaced.

Windows—Broken windows also scream “we don’t care!” It suggests easy access to your property and can influence vandalism or criminal behavior. Always repair broken windows immediately.

Start Your Beautification Project
If you are the church’s safety officer, start by organizing a committee. This should be done in consultation with the church board. The committee should meet quarterly, at which time all aspects of safety during church activities are discussed, from grounds to contingency planning.

Do a self-inspection of your church. Adventist Risk Management has a “Church Self-Inspection” form on its Web site, www.AdventistRisk.org. This form will help your committee identify safety items that also improve the look of the church.

Third, set a budget and a date for completion of the project. Again, these items should be brought before the church board for approval.

Sign up volunteers according to their skill sets. Depending on the project, you may ask them to bring the appropriate tools for their work. Some jobs may be too technical for volunteers, such as cutting down trees or roofing repairs on buildings that have a very steep pitch. Use experts for these situations.

Ensure that projects are well organized and that you are ready to utilize volunteers efficiently when they show up to work. If volunteers don’t have specific skill sets, use a sign-up sheet to assign them to the appropriate tasks.

It’s all about planning. Decide on your desired results and know that you can achieve them. Make sure volunteers are educated to not take big risks and save difficult jobs for professionals. Make it fun; but above all be safe.

Regular maintenance and upkeep not only keeps our church buildings looking great, they also prevent major, expensive future repairs. Remember, how we care for our church properties indicates to our fellow members and our communities how we regard the God who has bestowed so many blessing upon us.

David Fournier is marketing and communications director for Adventist Risk Management. This article was published June 28, 2012.