A major snow storm came through the midwest and eastern states this week, closing churches, schools and many evenings events. It also alerted some people to the idea that they need to have a better plan.
One of my responsibilities as the Children & Family pastor is to make ‘the call’ on weather related closings of weekday events. I also give input on Worship service closings as well.
As I thought about it this week, I realized there are a number of reasons to close that aren’t really good reasons…
I lived a little over 4 years in upstate New York, just above the snow belt. (The snow belt is a band of space where cold fronts pick up moisture from the Great Lakes and dump snow through New York.) This means that we would get slammed with snow almost every winter. It also meant that they were good at dealing with snow – one weekend, starting Friday evening, we had 48 inches (yes, 4 feet) of snow and everything was on time Monday morning.
I learned to deal with snow. But that doesn’t mean that DOT or families were I live now are as equipped to deal with snow. My personal feelings aren’t a good reason to close.
School is closed
For evening activities this may be a convenient call, but a major part of our decision should be based on safety, not convenience. Part of why schools close is to keep the roads clear for the plows. They have to make that call very early in the morning so that bus drivers don’t attempt to go to the depot, generally before 4 am. For a church, that’s close to 12 hours before any evening activities start…and that’s more than enough time for the weather and road conditions to change for better or for worse.
Incoming weather is something we need to know – and if your tasked with making a cancellation call you should know how to read the forecast for yourself. News stations sensationalize everything, including incoming storms. They also focus on the major cities – where bad weather has a bigger effect. If your in the suburbs you’ll need to help your leaders understand this concept too…Don’t rely on the weatherman, read it for yourself.
Attendance will be low
If it’s a weekly event, there may be people that are counting on your program. Canceling because you aren’t sure who will show up can lead to people thinking that you don’t see value in the program. And, if you don’t see value, why should they?
Leaders will not come
This is much like the one above: If you move forward and your leaders won’t come it stands to reason that you need to consider: Did I make the right call? Are my leaders really committed to this program? Are my leaders committed to following me?
In each of these thoughts you need to have grace and consider what you are asking (especially in relation to the weather).
After thinking about each of these areas I’ve reached the conclusion that I need to base my decisions on safety. Will children be safe on the way to, at church, and on the way home. I also consider the same of my workers.
When I begin to base the decision on anything other than safety my temptation is to lean towards people pleasing…which means I will also displease others.
One thing that I will do different next year (because we have winter every year) is communicate my thought process before winter arrives. I’ll be talking to my workers so they know what the weather policy is: when cancellation is automatic, how and why the decision is reached, and how the decision will be communicated. People are much happier (and you will be too) when everyone is on the same page.
Of course, once you decide to close, you’ll need to have a communication plan in place….but that’s a different post.