Preparing for the inevitable

You arrive at your church office on a typical night after work, and go to your desk.  Flipping on the monitor for the computer, then hitting the power button on the desktop, you sit back and wait for the system to come up.  It grinds away for a few minutes and then the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH displays!  If you are a techie you start trying to diagnosis it.  If not, then you call the techie who set it up for you.  In either case you get the bad news eventually.  Your hard drive failed.  Crashed and burned is more like it.  And with it goes your financial records for the church, the documents you have so carefully written, your sermons, your hymns and choruses for the presentation software.  Even your church directory.  Those  pictures you took at the church retreat last year, the profile pictures for the church directory?  Gone.  If you had a church techie the first question out of their mouth after telling you the hard drive is toast will be, “Do you have a backup?”  You hang your head and your face turns red as you say, “No.  I didn’t think I needed one.”  Well, Sunshine, you did.

Another scenario…you have turned your resignation in to the Church Board.  You are heading to another, larger church but you have to leave some basic info for the pastor who will be following you into this church.  How do you do this?  Paper files?  My father-in-law, with 40 years in ministry, would always leave a detailed letter with key documents for the next pastor.  A CD-ROM?  The password to the computer and a wish for good luck in locating anything?

When I came to my current church we did not even have a list of the members.  We had a number given at the previous District Assembly, but no names.  We never did identify who all of the people were who were supposedly on a list somewhere.  The previous pastor was not available to call, either.

I’d like to offer a couple suggestions.  First, backup your computer.  The best choice is a backup offsite somewhere.  If you do this and the building burns down then your backup is safe even if the hard drive is literally melted down.  If you do not have an internet connection at your office then the second best choice is to buy two portable hard drives (~$60 each at the time of this writing).  Schedule a nightly backup  of all your user documents with one, then take it home or to another safe place and then use the second the next week to back up the same files.  One of your backups will be safe regardless of what happens to the second one.    You will lose no more than a week’s worth of data.  DO NOT backup the applications.  Those can be replaced and will take up a huge amount of space.  Your user documents cannot be replaced.

Second, consider using a secure cloud server off site to store generic documents that you will want to pass along to the next pastor.  I recommend using the Google app ‘Drive’.  Create a user account for the church and store the documents you really need to pass along here.  Categorize them so someone looking through them can find information easily.  So you might want a folder for Board Meeting Minutes, broken down to subfolders by year.  Another folder might contain documents related to membership records.  A third might be policy documents.  Make sure the Board knows about this account and the account login information is available to trusted individuals.  I have known more than one pastor who has died and someone else has been left to pick up the pieces. When the time comes to resign or you otherwise leave this pastorate most of the documents needed will be available simply by giving the new pastor the login info.  You can even do this by loading completed documents to a thumb drive at the church, in the case you don’t have internet access there, and upload them to the cloud server from another location.  The beauty if this is that the cloud server is (or should be) well protected and encrypted, and is accessible anywhere there is a web connection.

We never like to consider these things, but if you take the two basic steps outlined above you will save yourself, your church and another pastor a great deal of work.


“…making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:16


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