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Y2K — 24 things your church can do to prepare, minister

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The following is a list of suggestions for churches interested in becoming Y2K-compliant and ministering in their communities should a crisis occur because of the transition to a new millennium.
The list is adapted from the article, “Y2K — A Couple Dozen Things Your Church Can Do,” by computer specialist-turned-minister John Gillmartin, pastor of First Baptist Church, LaVerne, Calif. Gillmartin’s article will appear in the June 1999 issue of Church Administration magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
External leadership action items:
1) Form or join community leadership coalitions.
2) Organize or lead community awareness programs, often.
Internal leadership action items:
3) Study the problem; communicate what you learn, as you learn it. Prepare yourself, then prepare your people; a people prepared is a church prepared.
4) Plan to conduct special services for the fall and winter of 1999 (a food gathering at Thanksgiving, a season of hope and faith at Christmas, a New Year’s Eve prayer vigil, New Year’s morning celebration or comfort service).
5) Experts say there will be economic disruptions; some say minor, others say major. Pray for the former; plan for the latter. We have to admit economic downturns affect offering plates.
6) Consider temporary quarters near the church if you commute and your presence is essential to church. Be available for your people. Park an RV at the church, include extra propane and a 50-amp generator.
7) Form a task force to a) inventory your church’s Year 2000 exposures, b) separate the possible from the impossible, c) prioritize action items and d) assign responsibilities.
External task force action items:
8) Organize neighborhood action committees; plan block-related activities.
9) Volunteer church facilities to city, county and state agencies for emergency use.
10) Organize and coordinate church-sponsored, community-wide food closets.
11) Plan, along with community leaders, a heated community center; perhaps a list of homes with coal or oil heating units or large fireplaces could be retained by emergency personnel.
12) Organize a centralized portable community power generation station.
13) Inventory your community’s senior citizen exposure; there’s a chance no one else will.
14) Ask nearby hospitals if they are Year 2000-compliant. Make yourself and your people available in the event of a serious emergency.
15) Phone local emergency preparedness agencies (public safety, fire department, law enforcement agencies and the sheriff’s department) and ask if they have Y2K emergency plans. Ask community leaders if the Emergency 911 system is Year 2000-compliant.
Internal task force action items:
16) Develop an emergency plan for your church and its members. Let people know where to go and what to do in the event of crisis.
17) If you or someone you know is on a life-support system or dependent upon an automated device, contact a health-care professional or the manufacturer of the equipment to determine if any exposure exists.
18) Inventory essential church electronic equipment such as video or multimedia, data processing, HVAC, sump pumps, sewage pumps, water or irrigation equipment or systems, security systems, computers, printers, word processors. Don’t rule out anything that is essential to church operations. Call, don’t write, manufacturers (not distributors) to determine Y2K compliance; don’t bother people about non-essential equipment. Verify Year 2000 compliance with manufacturers of all church vehicles.
19) Inventory critical computer software; your computer may be compliant, but an individual program might not be. Verify Y2K compliance of financial giving programs and the equipment they run on. If they aren’t, trade up. Now, not then.
20) Call your financial institutions (banks, credit unions, annuity and mutual funds, vested insurance/pension plans); verify they are Year 2000-compliant. If large sums are involved, get their commitment in writing. Even if the church’s bank is Y2K-compliant, a power or satellite outage may affect cash availability.
21) If possible, plan the following before Sept. 9, 1999, or postpone them until the crisis passes: retreats or cruises; celebrations involving people traveling from your church; concerts; publications requiring cash advances or distribution; socials or fellowships that involve substantial church funds. (See the following article about Y2K compliance efforts related to YouthLink 2000 events.)
22) Don’t forget sanitation and hygiene supplies — toilet supplies, soaps (especially the new waterless bacterial soaps you can get at the pharmacy). Consider the need for homemade toilets (chlorinated lime powder is a good idea). Double garbage bags for litter disposal. Put trash out on pick-up day, regardless. Don’t allow garbage and refuse to accumulate near buildings or living quarters.
23) Unemployment may increase substantially. Churches are economy-sensitive; step back and take a cold, hard look at your position. If you think you might be in jeopardy, begin to soften the blow now. Rethink next year’s budget. Be Joseph-like in your planning. Get rid of “callable” debt, pay off interest-bearing debt and set aside some easily accessible and liquid funds.
24) Call your public service providers (phone, water, gas, electric, security), and ask them to inform you of their Y2K compliance. Check with insurance carriers and determine the church’s exposure. Take inventory of any, repeat any, essential goods or services your church requires. Find out how the Year 2000 crisis might affect your ability to procure them, then plan accordingly.
Above all, use wisdom and common sense to offset fear, and blanket all that you do and all that you serve in prayer. Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 2:4: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others” (NIV).