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For Travis Hutchinson, the life of a pastor in a small-town Georgia church is about preaching the gospel, ministering to the needy and, increasingly, figuring out how to handle an ever-growing list of risks.

Some new risks are real and demand vigilance, says Hutchinson, pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Ga. For example, conducting a criminal background check on everyone who works with children has become a necessity.

Other risks are more remote, he says. Still, vendors stoke anxiety about everything from shooting sprees to federal audits.

"I get lots and lots of stuff that just seems like fear mongering, and apparently that's taken hold in some places," says Hutchinson. "One of the things we have to do as a congregation is ask ourselves: How much of our time is (risk management) eating up? And how much time are we spending doing what God wants us to do?"

In the wake of the Catholic Church's clergy sexual abuse crises and several church shooting incidents in recent years, risk has become a hot topic for churches. The National Association of Church Business Administration last year convened 30 first-time regional workshops to raise risk awareness among the 85 percent of churches it says are vulnerable because they don't have a professional administrator.

"Risk management is a huge issue in the church right now," says NACBA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Phillip Martin. "It carries everything from child protection issues … to the issue of security as it relates to guns, protection of pastors, staff and congregants."

This year, GuideOne Insurance is responding to rising demand from churches by rolling out new types of coverage, such as insurance against income loss caused by a church intruder. In March, ...

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For Churches, How Much Risk Is Too Much?
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February 2010

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