An Excerpt From Chapter 4

A Picture Video is Worth a Thousand Words Dollars — Recording Church Belongings

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but I think a video might be worth a thousand dollars!

Try this exercise: List every item of value that is within your entire church facility. Every piece of furniture, computer, tech equipment, book, chair, toy, vacuum . . . everything. Think you can recall the details by memory? I’m betting you can’t.

Let’s say something catastrophic hits your church. We don’t want to think about this, but the reality is, it does indeed happen. Buildings burn. Hurricanes create floods. Tornados rip off roofs. Earthquakes turn everything into rubble. Thieves disappear into the night. Vehicles and trailers go missing. It happens. And it happens to churches a lot!

What was once sacred in the eyes of most people, a church building is now often seen by the unreligious public as a place that has little security, few people at night, and an easy target. Every year, hundreds of churches around the country have large thefts, devastating fires, or debilitating destruction from nature. We never see it coming. Proverbs 27:1 (NIV) says it best, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

While standing in the midst of the rubble that was once a House of God, you’ll find that raw emotions and struggles you never knew you had might creep up and hold you and your congregation paralyzed for a long time. To add to that frustration, an insurance claims adjuster will show up and begin asking you to fill out forms that catalog everything that might have been lost. If the destruction or theft is significant, it can often be a challenge to remember what you had and where it was and other details of those items. To provide funds for replacement items that were inside the facility, insurance or authorities will need a list of everything that was inside the building, destroyed, or stolen.

So how do you list everything the church owns after a disaster? You could gather several congregants and ask them to work together using their collective memories. This would certainly get you much farther. But then details start to become fuzzy even for groups. Were the candelabras silver or pewter? How many microphones did we have and what model were they? How many books were in the library or the pastor’s office? Which books? What kind of furniture was in each room? What sound equipment was in the rack in the back of that closet?

Sometimes insurance companies do not need every detail and will rather provide a blanket cost for estimates. But generally, they want a detailed list of every item. If you want full compensation or have many expensive items, your insurance might request proof of ownership. The only way to create this list is to do it prior to needing it. You must do it now!

I realize that documenting in detail everything in the church can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be. You can do it fast and cheap; you just might be able to document your entire church campus in less than an hour. If your campus is large it might take a bit more time, but even a few hours of this method is better than sitting at a desk wondering or writing down with pencil each item.

Using a smart phone or video camera, simply walk around the entire campus and video everything in every room. This will create a digital archive of everything the church owns. It’s best if you do this when nobody else is around so that people do not get in the way.

Go to each room in your entire facility and walk around slowly, verbally describing what you see and which room you are in. Your verbal descriptions will be captured on video and help with any additional descriptions that might not be seen visually. Open drawers and show the camera what is in each drawer or cupboard, open all the closets and poke your head (and the camera!) inside, walk down the halls to show any furniture or paintings of value. Count items of interest if possible and zoom in on expensive items like sound consoles, video projectors on the ceiling, organ pipes, or tech equipment. If you are able, read off model numbers and serial numbers for more expensive items. Stop and get good clear images of stained glass or other expensive features that are part of the buildings.

If you have a trailer or storage bin in the parking lot, make sure you record the contents of these as well. You can also do this with still photos, but it will be more time consuming and you will be more apt to miss something.

The video does not need to be edited or cleaned up. Keep it raw and plain. Transfer the video files to a small portable hard drive and store it in a fire safe or upload it to a safe place in the cloud. It would be wise to store a copy away from the church campus, like at your house or with a board member. Do this annually and whenever you make substantial purchases or renovations to your facility. Should anything catastrophic happen to your church, you will have a digital record of everything the church owns. All it will take is to play back the video file, pushing “pause” every time you need to write an item down. Should an insurance company question whether you actually had certain items or what the details were, video proof is pretty good proof!

Not only is video an easy and cheap way to document the belongings in the House of God, it’s easy for you to do in your own house, too. Walk through your home, document everything you have and then put that video file away for a time you hope never comes.

Planning for a catastrophe is not fun. But the Lord gives church leaders the responsibility of knowing and caring for the church. Also, in Proverbs we’re charged with this: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations” (27:23-24 NIV). In our modern society, pastors and church leaders are not just responsible for the Church that is made up of people. They’re also responsible for the church that is made up of buildings. It’s the responsible thing to do to ensure the church has adequate insurance coverage prior to needing it. And with a simple video of what the church owns, you can be confident that you have adequate proof.

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