for Orthodox Parishes,
with Church Mutual
Orthodox Pastoral School
MGMT001: Parish Management and Operations
July 24, 2021
Fr. George Temedis, Fr. Vladimir Pyrozhenko, Nicholar Hantel, Esq.
This paper was written as an assignment for the Orthodox Pastoral School. I am not affiliated with Church Mutual and I do not speak for either Church Mutual or the Orthodox Pastoral School. I received no consideration or request from Church Mutual outside their availability for an interview.
1. Introduction: Speaking with a live human
When I was being received into the Orthodox Church, I was asked if I had questions and I said I was comfortable researching on the Internet. I was fairly strongly advised not to do so; I didn’t ask why not but this was presumably because a catechumen’s research on the web would quickly turn up non-canonical “information.” This is not a concern that affects the topic of this paper so far as I can tell, but something of the principle still applies.
I worked briefly in the insurance agency, and one of the first tasks my boss had me was ask me to read a book that outlined the basics of insurance agencies. One standard feature of insurance is risk management, also called loss prevention or risk control: a principle that, at least some of the time, it is cheaper to have a risk management agent spend time explaining practical ways to play things safer than to pay easily preventable claims (“losses”). Giving your customers a complimentary ounce of prevention is cheaper for insurance companies than paying for a pound of cure. Insurance isn’t just able to help you recover after something has gone wrong. Insurance is also able to help you make less things go wrong in the first place.
I called Risk Management at Church Mutual, available by phone at
(800) 554-2642 (Option 4) Extension 5213, then hit #. If someone else like Claims answers, ask nicely to be transferred to Risk Control. (Risk Control is also contactable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at https://www.churchmutual.com/8441/Contact-Risk-Control-Central). I was brielfy on hold before being warmly greeted. I explained my purpose in calling as regards this paper, and was told warmly and plainly that Church Mutual’s Risk Management department is happy to speak with customers or non-customers.
I intend in this paper to cover some of the basics of risk management. However, I would suggest that something like the Orthodox attitude of “Speak with your priest or spiritual father” is appropriate; if you wish to reduce risk for your parish or diocese, check in with a risk management expert. And Church Mutual is willing to talk whether or not you’re a customer.
I provide in section 4 a “feature walkthrough” of basic offerings from the Church Mutual website. I might comment that their website is well-done, and so you may be able to find just what you want from exploring https://churchmutual.com.1
2. Background research on Church Mutual
There are 91 reviews on Church Mutual at https://www.usinsuranceagents.com/reviews/church-mutual/ at 3.91 stars.2 The most common review appears to be five stars. There were multiple disgruntled reviews, one of which stated that the person posting the reviews was almost killed and they denied that person’s claim for one month of compensation. There are multiple reviews written by people who had filed a claim for a significant amount of property damage and were very satisfied with Church Mutual followup after the damage.
There was a Yelp entry, but it was an unclaimed stub with 0 reviews.3
Glassdoor has 78 reviews averaging 3.3 stars, with 57% saying “would recommend to a friend” and 79% saying they approved of the CEO; the company has an A (Excellent) rating by A.M. Best Co.4 The upshot I would take of the reviews were that of a mediocre work environment; there were some contradiction in the reviews (several reviews state that they have a 37.5 hour workweek, while a few people complained about out-of-control overtime), and top complaints were of a cliquish work environment, that mainly hired recent college grads, and was behind the times technologically. But honestly, speaking as someone who worked in information technology (and has written about humane use of technology5), if one of your top complaints is antiquated technology, you’re doing well!
By comparison in terms of ratings, Glassdoor’s page has a sidebar indicating “Top companies for “Compensation and Benefits” Near You” indicating State Farm had 3.6 stars, a BCBS / HCSC at 3.8 stars, “Liberty Mutual Insurance” at 4.0 stars, and “Travelers” at 4.1 stars.
The overall impression I would summarize is that it’s not an excellent workplace, but it’s also not the end of the world. It has been suggested that you don’t get excellent external customer service without excellent internal customer service,6 and the internal customer service raises concerns about how spectacular external customer service will be at difficult points.
However, I would expect it would make sense for parishes to go with a niche insurer who focuses on religious and nonprofit organizations than to go with secular, general insurance providers who don’t “get” nonprofit. The impression I get from the Glassdoor reviews is that working there is halfway to the work environment at a nonprofit, and that would suggest that the corporate culture is that of a place that “gets” religion and nonprofits.
And life at a Church Mutual insured parish can be a benefit. Fr. Gregory Finlon commented in a class discussion,7
[Our rector] has high praise for our insurance company Church Mutual, They give regular updates to keep us aware of changes in law or issues that effect churches. A risk report the addresses both building and personal issues that need to be watched is sent to us regularly. He has regular contact with our agent, who is always available to talk or visit when we have a question or need.
Possibly (I speculate) Church Mutual has made a decision to be unique by freely giving four or five ounces of risk management where a lesser company would stop after one.
2. An interview with Church Mutual Risk Management
The interview below was conducted 07/21/21 with Jordan Mikunda.
Please provide an overview for what Church Mutual offers an Orthodox parish in terms of risk management.
“A plethora of resources, various different topics of resources on the website, anything from COVID-19 response recovery to workplace management and safety. We offer live service; if we don’t have what you ask, we will try to find it.”
What do you most wish Orthodox parishes would understand about risk management?
“Probably the biggest hurdle is that as a religious motif that they want to see the good or the best in people, however as far as risk management concerns, there are people who would take advantage of religious understanding, and understanding that there are people who do have ill will and are looking to do bad things.”
What are your top sources of preventable losses [claims paid for incidents that never needed to go wrong in the first place, driving up prices] with Orthodox parishes?
“Water and temperature losses. We have a free program for our customers we call our CM Sensor 24/7 temperature and water monitoring program. The sensor actually alerts the insured to reduce the damage or prevent damages altogether.”
What can Orthodox parishes do to make your life as an institutional neighbor easier?
“We aren’t specifically looking to make our lives easier, just to serve your needs and your interests.
“We’re here for you.”
Is anything of this different for Orthodox dioceses as well as parishes?
“No. Not necessarily. A lot of this information is pretty universal, and I think it would be applicable to a wide variety of organizations.”
Is there anything else you would like to say?
“Not specifically. Risk and safety are important at organizations where safety is often overlooked, and sometimes there is inadequate staffing. Maintaining adequate safety and risk scenarios could be challenging. We want to have adequate procedures and protections.
“We’re always here to help you.”
Risk Control Agent Jordan Mikunda talked to me. He didn’t have to. But he welcomed me when I explained what I wanted to do, and allowed me to interview him, and really gave 110% of practically everything I asked. Within one minute of our call beginning I sensed that I was dealing with a top-notch communicator. Within two minutes I understood that I was being met with helpfulness, generosity and WIN-WIN negotiation.
4. Resources on the Church Mutual website
Church Mutual has an extensive and well-constructed website at https://www.churchmutual.com that includes multiple blogs and resources related to house of worship (and other) needs. “Risk Control” is the fourth item in the top red menu at their site, and it has subsections including a blog (https://blog.churchmutual.com/), with a “Houses of worship” topic on their blog at https://blog.churchmutual.com/topic/houses-of-worship. Their resource collection is well worth perusing whether or not you are one of their customers.
The “Safety Resources” section at https://www.churchmutual.com/98/Safety-Resources includes:
- “COVID Response and Recovery” at https://coronavirus.churchmutual.com/.
- “Armed Intruder Preparedness” at
- “CM Sensor 24/7 Temperature and Water Alert System” at https://www.churchmutual.com/sensors/.
- “Sexual Abuse Prevention” at
- “Wildfire Preparedness” at
- “Cybersecurity” at https://www.churchmutual.com/13474/Cybersecurity.
- “Fire Preparedness and Prevention” at
- “Injury and Illness Prevention” at
- “Security and Crime Prevention” at
- “Severe Weather Preparedness” at
- “Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention” at
- “Transportation Safety” at
- “Allergy Bands” at
- “Food Safety” at https://www.churchmutual.com/174/Food-Safety.
- “General Risks” at https://www.churchmutual.com/182/General-Risks.
- “Playground Safety” at https://www.churchmutual.com/182/General-Risks.
- “Volunteer Safety and Management” at
- “Workplace management and Safety” at https://www.churchmutual.com/180/Workforce-Management.
The “Safety Resources for Houses of Worship” page at https://www.churchmutual.com/17529/Safety-Resources-for-Houses-of-Worship includes the following. I am specifically including the same sex marriage / transgender / “marriage equality” entries after reviewing the first one and finding that it was largely informational and treating what issues congregations, specifically including Orthodox, should be aware of:
- “Self-inspection Safety Checklist for Worship Centers and Related Facilities” at https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/z8jmcbvlz9/cm0117-2020-04-rc-self-inspection-checklist-for-how8
- “Protecting Your Congregation Against an Active Shooter” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3140.
- “Safety Outside Your Worship Center” at
- “Crime Proof Your Worship Center” at
- “Make Activities Safer for Your Congregation” at
- “Youth Safety and Your Congregation” at
- “Safety at Your Playground” at
- “Playground Safety and Maintenance” at
- “Join the Band” (food safety) at
- “Avoid food contamination” at
- “Key liability risks for Religious Organizations” at
- “The Legal Responsibilities of Your Board” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=4178.
- “Faith and Law: Understanding Same-Sex Marriage and Transgender Law” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5188.
- “Involvement of Religious Charities in the Political Process” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5194.
- “Marriage Equality Decision Webinar Series – Part 1 Featuring Richard Hammer” at
- “Marriage Equality Decision Webinar Series – Part 3 Featuring Mark Chopko” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=5197.
- “Social Media: Best Practices for Congregations and Teen Ministries” at https://www.churchmutual.com/dsp/dsp_srVideo.cfm?id=3138.
- “Safety During Services” at
- “Preventing Fraud and Embezzlement at Your Worship Center – Attorney and CPA Frank Sommerville” at
- “Fraud in Houses of Worship (from Fraud Magazine)” at
- “One Burglary Occurs Every 14 Seconds” at
- “Crime Proof Your Worship Center” at
- “Best Employment Practices for Houses of Worship – Attorney and CPA Frank Sommerville” at
- “Volunteer Safety and Management” at https://www.churchmutual.com/6426/Volunteer-safety-and-management.
The “Houses of worship” section of the blog at https://blog.churchmutual.com/topic/houses-of-worship has, at the time of this writing, the following articles. (Please note that I have deliberately not filtered out e.g. guidance for COVID-safe ways to handle Halloween; I prefer to let you decide what is relevant and I think the historical dimension is valuable.)
- “Personnel aerial lifts require special care, regular maintenance, and training” at
- “Preventing injuries to employees” at
- “Sexual abuse series: Do you have adequate insurance for sexual abuse allegations?” at
- “Recognizing the importance of slips and falls on steps and stairs” at
- “Hurricane safety” at https://blog.churchmutual.com/hurricane-safety.
- “One burglary occurs every 14 seconds,” possibly the same as above, at
- “Working with the media” at
- “15-passenger vans require extra care” at
- “Enter into safety” at
- “Risk alert: Lending a hand in hard times” at
- “Spring safety series: Indoor maintenance” at
- “Spring safety series: HVAC maintenance” at
- “Risk Alert: Catalytic converter theft continues to rise” at
- “A clear path to slip-and-falls prevention” at
- “Armed security and your insurance coverage” at
- “Planning for the summer at your house of worship” at
- “Protect stained glass windows” at
- “Amazing people doing amazing things” at
- “Stay safe when using social media” at
- “Exercise caution with holiday worship” at
- “Reduce your risk from wildfires” at
- “Avoid food contamination in the kitchen” at
- “CM sensor protects you” at
- “Avoid frozen pipes this winter” at
- “Volunteer safety and management” at
- “Religion and politics: Nonprofits should not endorse political candidates” at
- “Trunk-or-treat is an alternative to trick-or-treat” at
- “Cybersecurity infographic” at
- “Risk Alert: Proper use of cleaners and safe disinfecting techniques are key” at
- “Keep wildfires at bay” at
- “Don’t let a hurricane devastate your facility” at
- “2020 Supreme Court civil rights case ruling” at
- “Coronavirus – What you need to know” at
- “Unsafe ladder use can pose serious risk of injury” at
- “Tips for building projects” at
- “Insurance terms” at
- “A clear path to slips-and-falls preventions” at
- “Armed intruder preparedness” at
- “Weather preparedness” at
- “Maintenance tips to protect your roof systems” at
In this litigious day, nothing can replace checking with your insurer and your counsel. If you think some of my suggestions are helpful, great! Run it by your legal counsel.
I have taken serious effort to make a useful article. There are topics that Church Mutual’s website does not address or does not address fully enough. It is my own opinion that their cybersecurity articles on passwords, for instance, miss some low-hanging fruit. Making a password that you can remember but criminals won’t guess is hard, and the password article(s) I have read that they link to9 do not seem to address either using a password generator such as at https://cjshayward.com/passwords/, or finding and using a good password manager such as mSecure10 for mobile, Mac, or PC; or the free and open source KeePass for desktop (https://keepass.info/).11 The guidance I have been able to find is not enough to get people using one different, good password for every login.
Nonetheless, Church Mutual has worked hard to provide a “plethora” of helpful, useful, and understandable resources, free to use whether you are one of their customers or just an interested member of the general public. In my opinion, it shows, and I am glad that the parish I belong to is insured by Church Mutual.
THIS ARTICLE AND ALL OF ITS SUGGESTIONS ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND ARE PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS ARTICLE AND ADVICE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.
2US Insurance Agents, as seen on 7/21/21.,
3https://www.yelp.com/biz/church-mutual-insurance-elgin?osq=church+mutual, from Yelp.com, as seen on 7/21/21.
6Christine Churchill, “Customer Service Institute of America,” https://www.serviceinstitute.com, https://www.serviceinstitute.com/external-customer-service/external-customer-service/, “How External Customer Service Begins with Internal Customer Service”, as seen on 7/21/21.
7Orthodox Pastoral School, https://orthodoxtheologicalschool.populiweb.com/router/courseofferings/10175647/discussions/4635583/show, as seen on 7/22/21.
8As seen on 7/21/21. The expected homepage at https://cmgroup.widen.net gives a not found (404) error, as does https://widen.net; my educated guess is that widen.net is a file hosting service “cmgroup” is owned by Church Mutual in some form and that URLs under https://cmgroup.widen.net are static non-webpage resources such as media files.
9https://cmgroup.widen.net/s/vhhhfs9w29/cm0163-2020-04-rc-tips-for-passwords, as seen on 7/21/21.
10mSeven Software, LLC. 2017-2020. mSecure, version 5.7.2, retrieved from https://apps.apple.com/us/app/password-manager-msecure/id1063795594.
11As seen on 7/21/21.