On Sunday, May 15, I was privileged to bring the morning message at South Joplin Christian Church in Joplin, MO. Under the capable leadership of Rev. Jill Cameron Michel, this church established a permanent fund several years ago and encourages its members in all aspects of stewardship.
Just one week later, I watched in shock the devastating effects of an F-5 tornado which ripped through the town of Joplin. The church where I had worshipped just a week earlier sustained heavy damage, but it will rebuild and recover from the storm.
One of the first reports heard out of Joplin was that St. John’s Regional Medical Center took a direct hit from the tornado. Before the evening was over people several counties away—over 100 miles in distance—were finding medical records, files and x-rays in fields, streets and highways. People’s personal histories were tossed in the air by the violent winds and scattered like confetti.
A significant question then arose: How would those records be recovered? Was there a database system that backed up the information? Was there some kind of digital program which stored important documents offsite? And what about the banks, businesses and offices that were leveled in the town? Was there a disaster recovery plan in place so that documents could be recovered?
Following 9/11 in 2001, many organizations, including the Christian Church Foundation, began an aggressive plan to back up important, sensitive and historical data in the event that any disaster would prevent the office from operating in a normal day-to-day way.
Another outgrowth of that plan was the establishment of a new resource for congregations: Managing Estate Gifts. Not only in times of disaster, but when committees and leaders change within a congregation, it may be difficult to keep track of legal documents regarding donor-restricted endowment gifts. Understanding donor intent from a will or trust is extremely important as a congregation exercises its fiduciary responsibility.
This service is available, free of charge, to churches that have at least $10,000 invested with at the Foundation.
Whether your church does or does not have important historical documents related to estate gifts, now would be an excellent time to review your own “disaster recovery” program, not only for charitable gifts, but for by-laws, policies, and sensitive documents as well.
Give us a call to learn more at (800) 668-8016.
- Kirby Gould, Vice President, North Central Zone