How to Handle a Property Accident at the Church

“There’s been an explosion at the church!” Seminary prepares a pastor for many things, but no class, lecture, or seminar prepared me to handle the damage done to our church building when a compressed natural gas tank torpedoed through it, leaving over a hundred thousand dollars worth of damage in its wake.

It was a Friday, my day off, and I was in my front yard mowing our grass and getting some other last-minute chores done before I planned to leave for vacation with my family the next day. I strategically left my phone in the house so I wouldn’t be distracted by calls and texts that might sidetrack me. It was my wife who notified me of the news. When she pulled into the driveway and hurried toward me, I knew something was wrong. “There’s been an explosion at the church! Everyone is looking for you.” I put on a clean shirt, hopped in the car, and headed to the church, not knowing what to expect.

I arrived to find an ambulance, two fire trucks, three police cars, and a crowd of people gathering around the parking lot where the missile had penetrated a brick wall and blasted out all the windows on the lower East side of our building. Apparently, someone was working on the natural gas tank of a van across the street at a daycare when something went terribly wrong. The tank shot down the road, smashed into the back of another van, which redirected it towards our church building. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the damage was done, and I had no idea what to do.

I have learned valuable lessons over the last several months since the incident occurred at our church. Here is a list of steps to follow when your building experiences a significant accident.

1. Have a Properties Team. Before I arrived at the church, our secretary had already notified our property team members, and most of them were already on the scene. They were able to board up the windows and holes and secure the building after the first responders had left.

2. Call 911. This seems obvious, but if you’re going to file an insurance claim, they will be asking you for a police report. In our case, the first responders were incredibly helpful in ensuring that the building was safe for us to walk through. They secured the gas tank and had it hauled out of our building.

3. Take lots of pictures! Your insurance company is going to want to see them. Before you attempt to clean or board anything up, document the damage done by taking pictures of anything and everything affected by the incident.

4. Contact your insurance company. This seems obvious too, but it’s essential that you contact them as soon as you receive a number for them to access the police report. They will be asking for that and your pictures. It is critical that you communicate well with your insurance company throughout the entire process. Do not pay anyone for anything without first receiving their approval to do so.

5. Communicate with the congregation. In our situation, we decided to keep the section of our building most affected by the blast off limits until a structural engineer could come and determine that it was safe. This meant relocating our adult Sunday school classes and finding alternative locations for them to meet. All these things needed to be reported to the church in a clear and timely matter.

6. Delegate responsibility. As a pastor, you have enough going on. Identify leaders in your church who can serve as projector managers. Trust them with the responsibility to meet with the insurance agents and contractors. Stay involved, but don’t burden yourself with extra phone calls and emails that someone you trust in your church can handle.

7. Be patient. This is a long process. Keep in mind that it’s just brick and mortar. Don’t allow the damage, the delays, and the difficulties of the situation to distract you or your church from your mission to make disciples. You don’t need a building to do that.

Mike Scrivani is the pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church, Bartlesville and can be reached at

Similar Posts

What Pastors Need to Know About Grief

What Pastors Need to Know About Grief In March of 2004 my wife of 27 years and 18-year-old daughter were killed in a car wreck on the Indian Nations Turnpike in Oklahoma.  By that time in my ministry as a pastor I had done dozens of funerals.  But I had no idea about...


My Father and mother moved to Shawnee a couple years ago after their house flooded a couple of times back in Louisiana. One of the great but problematic things of their move was the consolidation of tools! My dad and I are both “wannabe” handymen. So, we have many...


     Our practice for forgiveness to others reflects what we think and understand about God’s forgiveness.  When you get to the heart of the Gospel it is all about forgiveness. Because of Jesus sacrifice and death on the cross we can be forgiven when we accept Him as...

Revitalizing Children’s Ministry

Children’s ministry looks different than it did a decade ago. The strategies we should be using today are not the same as they were at the turn of the century. Recent studies show that anywhere between 58% and 67% of Christian parents today choose a church with their kids in mind.

First Steps to Developing a Safety Ministry for Your Church

Developing a safety ministry can be a daunting task. The tendency will be toward buying a prepackaged plan with ready-made policies and procedures. My advice is to do the long hard work and put together a plan that considers your specific context.

Ministry is About Relationships

John Maxwell popularized the leadership quip “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” True enough. Hang around in ministry for a hot minute and you recognize that even leadership depends upon relationships. Oklahoma Baptists recently welcomed Ken Sande to our...

Revision…Revitalize…Ministry to Aging Adults

Oklahoma Baptist churches have been aging in demographic for several years. Part of the answer has been to program to reach younger people. However, in the course of doing this we likely overlook a valuable group of God’s people who need to be evangelized, discipled, equipped, and deployed for Gospel ministry: Senior Adults.

God Designed Your Emotions to Move Your Relationships

Like a locomotive barreling down the tracks, emotions often fuel the motion and direction of pastoral relationships. While many will want to exchange any emotional drive for a perceived healthier “rational approach,” God designed every human with emotions. How you, as...

Stewardship Matters

In the mid-’90s, Paul Powell of the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote a book titled “Taking the Stew Out of Stewardship.” While the book was well circulated, many pastors still find themselves in a “stew” regarding teaching and preaching about...

Practicing SOG

How do you become proficient in anything? As with so many things, the answer is simple but not easy. The path to proficiency is through practice. Reflection is important in peacemaking. Discussion is often helpful in conflict resolution. But in the end practice is the...