Inter-American Adventists Learn Loss Prevention, Risk Management Strategies
More than buying insurance, key is protecting church’s mission, members, workers
By Mark A. Kellner, news editor
Say that 240 Seventh-day Adventist administrators from the Inter-American Division (IAD) gathered for a conference on risk management and don’t be surprised to get a few yawns in response. Could there be a less-interesting topic? some might ask.
But explain that the delegates—from 37 countries and territories spanning Mexico, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean—learned how to protect the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in their communities, and a subject first thought of as boring might actually become riveting.
The three-day seminar, organized by church-owned Adventist Risk Management (ARM) was held, at the IAD’s suggestion, at the General Conference world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Delegates were presented with a variety of seminars on safety, liability issues, protecting children and young people, and, yes, insurance. But holding an insurance policy is not the answer to risk management, said Arthur F. Blinci, an ARM vice president and the firm’s chief risk management officer.
“Insurance is the broom that comes to clean up the mess after the loss has occurred,” Blinci said. “If somebody’s lost their life because of the negligence of the supervision of an activity, no amount of dollars will bring that life back,” he added, explaining why loss prevention is so important.
Bancroft Barwise, treasurer of the Jamaica Union Conference in Mandeville, Jamaica, said that minimizing risk and preventing losses is central to managing the work of a church that counts nearly 275,000 Jamaicans as members—a substantial percentage in the island nation.
“The fewer losses you sustain, the more money there is for the mission of the church,” Barwise said. In Jamaica, he added, the Seventh-day Adventist Church can “least afford losses, given our [national] economic situation,” which has been plagued by an uneven economy in recent years.
And it’s not just the swings in the economy that concern Adventist leaders in Jamaica; the weather is another factor.
“We anticipate hurricanes every year,” Barwise said, “and they’re getting more and more violent.” He added that the church is also concerned about hurricane damage to members’ homes as well as individuals’ safety.
Barwise said that as a union treasurer, he often links risk management with stewardship in presentations to local conferences and churches, since both are important ways of managing resources for ministry.
“This event has given me tools and made me more aware of potential dangers and preventative measures,” Barwise said. “It’s made me more proactive since our country is one with a lot of risks” in terms of churches built in danger-prone areas. He said he was “very concerned about the potential for loss of life” and how to mitigate that risk.
At the Central American Adventist University in Alajuela, Costa Rica, risks and insurance needs are different—and growing—according to Carlos Cima, the school’s financial affairs vice president.
The school’s 400 students are largely from Central America, but are now including those from South America and the United States seeking a quality education at a lower price. Since there is no government health insurance for the students, the school needs to provide this on its own, Cima said.
(middle) DIFFERENT NEEDS:Carlos Cima, financial affairs vice president for the Central American Adventist University in Alajeula, Costa Rica, said risks and insurance needs are different for educational institutions.
(right) INSIGHTS FOUND: Florencio Suarez, treasurer of the Central Mexican Union, said the ARMseminar gave him insights into two areas: "information and influence."“It’s very helpful to know more on how to prevent loss and take responsibility over the assets of the church and how to protect our students against different risks,” he told Adventist World.
Florencio Suarez, treasurer of the Central Mexican Union, said the ARM seminar gave him insights into two areas: information and influence.
He said, “We need information to see what has happened in the past so we can learn and train local church leaders at every level to deal with any risk that may affect the church’s work.”
Suarez continued: “Because of these meetings, I understand that we need to extend leadership’s influence at every level of the church. We need to have moral authority for those who serve and belong to the church, so we can take care of our members, who are of the highest value.”
Such sentiments reflect ARM’s philosophy, as articulated by Bob Kyte, the company’s president: “Everything we talk about is ministry,” he told attendees as the conference opened.
“I tell people that our ministry is protecting yours.”
Adventist Risk Management, Inc., is the risk management company for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the largest global denomination headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area. It provides risk management services and insurance product solutions to assist the church in eliminating oversights that can lead to costly accidents. ARM employs 130 people around the world, and is online at www.adventistrisk.org.