Disaster Ministry Function of the Church

The point of contact at the community level for all United Methodist assistance in a disaster is the local United Methodist Church. However, local churches are not expected to respond alone or in a vacuum as there are many resources available to assist. Working together with a church disaster team and the district and conference Disaster Response Coordinators, many connections are easily made that will ease the process.

A disaster may take considerable time (years) to resolve. Our church should recognize and acknowledge its limitations in the response and recovery effort. The district Disaster Response Coordinator and the conference Disaster Response Coordinator should work with our church to identify its role in long-term recovery, should that be necessary in the community.

As a local church we do not work directly with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a resource agency of the general church.  When invited by the Bishop, UMCOR may provide resources and assistance to the California-Nevada Conference through the Bishop, who will delegate day-to-day operations.

Our church Disaster Response Coordinator is the point person for ensuring fulfillment of the disaster management roles and responsibilities of our church, of course working closely with the church staff.

The actions the church should take in fulfillment of its’ disaster ministry role are best seen when broken down into the stages of disaster response.


Stage 1: Planning and Preparation – Before Disaster Strikes

Working with the pastor or designated church leadership, identify a Disaster Response Coordinator and recruit a disaster team.  The pastor should not be our church disaster team leader, though the pastor is encouraged to be an active part of the team.  If the pastor is not part of the team, ensure that the pastor is informed and updated regarding activities before, during and after a disaster.

Support the development of a church plan that includes:

· Caring for people

· Caring for church facilities

· Caring for community

· Caring for others in the conference and beyond

The senior pastor, the Board of Trustees and the finance manager should review insurance coverage annually.

1. The Board of Trustees should make an annual inventory of church property and contents and provide a safe repository of valuable records.

1. Communicate with the District Disaster Response Coordinator regularly to ensure knowledge of the church plans in the event of a disaster.

2. Send a copy of the plan to the Conference and District Disaster Response Coordinators .

3. Set up a Disaster Response Center and disaster team work area and, in the event that the disaster has a severe adverse impact on that location, identify an alternative location to work from.

4. Make full use of resources from other disaster-related organizations, such as Sonoma County Office of Emergency Services or Santa Rosa Police and Fire Departments, the American Red Cross, and others.  First Aid and CPR training, shelter management and certification of facilities are available from your local chapter of the American Red Cross, and should be taken advantage of prior to any disaster.

5. Encourage the congregation to support the efforts of the UMVIM teams and other groups actively participating in disaster response, whether here or elsewhere.

6. Encourage the congregation to support the Bishop’s appeals regarding disaster relief (supplies, collections, food drives, aid to other conferences, etc.)

7. Encourage the congregation to support the annual “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering.  This is UMCOR’s primary source of funding for their work in disasters and other endeavors.  In the event of a disaster we will turn to UMCOR for help, so we should support their annual fund drive during the good times.


Stage 2: Warning – Disaster is Imminent

1. Working with the church disaster team, confirm communication channels and review response plans within the church, the district and the conference.

2. Check for updates from the district and the conference web sites.


Stage 3: Emergency Response – After Disaster Strikes

Implement the church Disaster Plan including:

1. Checking on the safety of the pastors, the staff  and their families;

2. Assessing damage to church property;

3. Using information from local emergency service organizations, assess the overall damage to the community you serve.  Then develop a general assessment of the safety of members of the congregation and property damage within the congregation;

4. Report your assessment to the District Disaster Response Coordinator and/or the District Superintendant.  If they are not yet functional, report your findings to the conference Disaster Response Coordinator or the Office of the Bishop.

Stage 4: Relief

1. Determine if telephone communications are functioning.

2. Continue to implement the church Disaster Plan.

3. Establish the immediate needs for food and shelter to the community.

4. If buildings are damaged prepare to file a claim with the insurance carrier.

5. Keep strict and separate accounting of disaster funding and document all expenditures and receipts of money.

6. Concentrate on making folks safe, sanitary and secure by meeting the basic needs of food, water, sanitation and shelter.

7. When permitted, send out care teams to check on the most vulnerable church members and prepare early response teams to go into neighborhoods; contact the District Disaster Response Coordinator to request Early Response Teams and Care Teams from outside areas when appropriate.  Report what level of support you can provide incoming disaster workers, particularly if you cannot support them and they need to be self-sufficient and self-supporting.

8. Prepare to receive work teams that may show up to help.

Contact other faith based operations through the local VOAD and coordinate your efforts.


Stage 5: Long-Term Recovery

1. Working with your conference and district Disaster Response Coordinators, determine the level of involvement appropriate for your church in long-term recovery.

2. Develop a procedure for referrals of people who contact the church asking for assistance.

3. Develop a procedure for managing volunteers who contact the church.

4. Develop a procedure for handling supplies offered to the church.

5. If our church is not in the impacted area, determine the level of involvement our congregation can make in long-term recovery by providing work teams, supplies, funds, etc.