Most Houses of Worship leaders are concerned about the reputation of their organization but many do little to protect reputation. Reputation is an important asset and failing to protect it can result in disasters ranging from loss of confidence to financial ruin.
I receive Google Alerts for crimes against churches and often read about the following activities that impact Houses of Worship. These crimes and activities are vandalism, burglary, theft, embezzlement, inappropriate conduct, arson and assault. How do these crimes impact reputation and what can be done to prevent and mitigate impact?
Vandalism such as a broken window has little or no impact on the reputation of a church but what about havoc that destroys priceless artwork, expensive musical instruments or results in fire destroying the entire facility? Following such events parishioners and the community begin asking if such events could have been prevented.
Some events as sexual assaults or inappropriate conduct especially from pastors can result in even more harm to the reputation of a church. Some might argue that there is little that can be done to prevent a pastor or church staff from engaging in inappropriate conduct or committing a criminal act but this is not true.
Much can be done to prevent illegal or unethical activities and protect the reputation of a House of Worship. This website offers guidance in other sections but I will share a few security strategies that can prevent such activity or mitigate the impact.
While background investigations won’t guarantee that a church staff member will not engage in inappropriate behavior, a thorough pre-employment investigation will serve to reduce the risk of this activity occurring and if it does occur, to mitigate legal actions that may follow. It’s not uncommon to hear of funds embezzled or stolen from a church by a trusted employee. Reputation is harmed when during the investigation it is discovered that this trusted employee had been fired from two other churches for committing a similar crime not once but several times. Or a pastor who following inappropriate or illegal conduct was found to have been asked to resign from prior church assignments due to alcohol problems or affairs with parishioners.
Reputation is damaged when a serious crime or event occurs and there were no policy or procedure in place that if managed could have prevented the activity from occurring. Using embezzlement as an example which is a crime that often occurs when the same person is responsible for collection of revenues and paying bills. In this example, separating these responsibilities would serve to ensure that this sort of crime is less likely to occur.
These are just a few examples to demonstrate how failing to adequately protect assets can result in loss of reputation while taking proactive measures can serve to prevent or mitigate the impact resulting from these sorts of events. Please review the other resources on this website to learn more about protecting assets and mitigating risk.
By Jim McGuffey,
CPP, PSP, PCI