Are Your Church Christmas Decorations a Fire Hazard?

Churches seldom look more beautiful than when they're decorated for the holidays. Candles, lights, and greenery add splendor to the celebration of Christ's birth. Unfortunately, they also contribute to a number of fires each December. As you haul out the decorations, remember to balance beauty with safety. Here are some common questions people ask about holiday decoration safety.

Are Live Trees Okay in Churches?

Before deciding to use live trees in your church, contact your local or state fire marshal’s office. Some fire codes restrict the use of cut trees in holiday displays. If it’s okay for churches in your area to use live evergreens, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Buy a freshly cut tree. Needles should feel soft and springy and shouldn't fall off.
  • Cut one inch off the bottom of the trunk and place the tree in a sturdy, large-capacity stand with plenty of water.
  • Keep the tree moist. Dry evergreens can ignite quickly if they're exposed to heat, electrical sparks, or open flames.
  • Display your tree no longer than 14 days.

Are Our Christmas Lights Still Safe to Use?

After years of use, the wiring powering holiday lights can become damaged. Before hanging any lights, check all electrical decorations for fraying or exposed wires. If defects are found, cut off the plug and discard the decoration. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Use tree lights and holiday lighting approved and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Turn off all holiday lighting when the building is vacant.
  • Never use staples or nails to secure the wiring of outdoor lights.
  • Don't link more than three light strands together, unless package directions indicate it's safe.
  • Be careful not to overload outlets and extension cords.

Can We Still Use Real Candles in Church?

Today, you can find flickering LED candles that look, feel, and even smell like traditional wax candles. We recommend using them predominantly, because they’re the safest option. But we understand that LED lights can’t always capture the magic of a dancing flame. If you go with traditional candles, use them carefully and sparingly.

  • Place them in sturdy candleholders.
  • Keep candles at least a foot away from anything that could burn.
  • Make sure they’re out of falling distance from any live or artificial Christmas tree.
  • Extinguish all candles when leaving the sanctuary. Don’t forget!

If you’re looking for more fire safety tips, the U.S. Fire Administration offers advice on holiday fire prevention, including this infographic and video clip.

July 22, 2021
Thousands in Relief Funding Available to Ministries Through the Employee Retention Credit
Thousands in Relief Funding Available to Ministries Through the Employee Retention Credit

Most ministry leaders don’t realize there is funding available to non-profit employers including churches, schools, colleges, and camps. This post includes some highlights about the credit and guidance on where to start to see if your ministry is eligible.

Tags: ERC, tax credit, payroll
April 21, 2021
Take Time to Review Your Ministry's Child Protection Plan
Take Time to Review Your Ministry's Child Protection Plan

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Though child abuse may not be something you could ever imagine happening within your ministry, sexual abuse of a minor is one of the top five reasons churches end up in court, according to Church Law & Tax. Studies also show that a child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a trusted adult than a stranger.

Tags: protect, child protection, abuse prevention, child safety
March 16, 2021
Prepare for Severe Spring Storms Now
Prepare for Severe Spring Storms Now

When severe storms strike, they can produce high winds and tornadoes. Damaging winds can wreak havoc on your ministry’s property and to buildings. A high wind event can crash debris through your windows, strip your siding, down trees on your parking lot, peel shingles off your roof, and fling back the flashing.

Tags: weather emergency, lightning, storms, safety, protect
February 25, 2021
Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise: Protect Ministry Vehicles
Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise: Protect Ministry Vehicles

Thieves are taking advantage of soaring precious metal prices. Take steps to protect your ministry’s vehicles and property.

Tags: protect, theft, vehicle
February 5, 2021
Avoid Frozen Pipes as Temperatures Plummet
Avoid Frozen Pipes as Temperatures Plummet

As temperatures plummet, the risk of freezing pipes soars. Frozen pipes can cause costly messes that could also put your ministry on hold while you clean up.

Tags: frozen, building, pipes, prevent damage
November 23, 2020
COVID-19 and the Christmas Season
COVID-19 and the Christmas Season

Preparing for this Christmas season may require additional creativity, due to the uncertainty of what COVID-19 may bring in our local community.

Tags: COVID-19, health, health safety, protect, coronavirus, Christmas, risk management
October 28, 2020
Guidance for Ministries About Boy Scouts' Bankruptcy
Guidance for Ministries About Boy Scouts' Bankruptcy

A mid-November deadline in the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) bankruptcy proceedings may have you wondering what the organization’s bankruptcy filing means for your ministry if you ever hosted or chartered Boy Scout Troops.

Tags: coverage, protect, liability, damages, youth
October 1, 2020
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness

Organizations that obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding through the CARES Act can have their loans forgiven, turning them into grants. To qualify, each borrower must file a forgiveness application with its PPP lender, proving that it followed the rules. If your church, school, college, or camp meets all the criteria, 100% of its loan can be forgiven.

March 30, 2020
CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now
UPDATED: CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now

Learn about the CARES Act and two loans for which ministries may be eligible, since Congress authorized additional funding April 23. 

March 6, 2020
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention

As concern over the dangers associated with the spread of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, our agency and Brotherhood Mutual want to keep you informed and provide best practices for managing the spread of this and similar illnesses at your ministry.

January 29, 2020
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics

The first Sunday in February is a big day for sports fans. In fact, many Americans view Super Bowl Sunday as a national holiday. Friends and families will gather this year to watch the big game, enjoy delicious snacks, and of course, critique the commercials that go along with game day.

Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?
Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?

Recently, we learned about two major overseas incidents involving pastors on mission trips. The first incident involved a pastor being hit by a motorcycle while running. The second was a bus accident involving two pastors. The runner and one of the two bus passengers sustained extensive injuries.

Tags: missions, insurance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance

Last month, the IRS announced that its initiating hundreds of church exams to test compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While many provisions only apply to churches with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), even smaller churches could potentially violate provisions applicable to health benefit plans with as few as 2 plan participants.

Tags: ACA, IRS
July 3, 2019
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day

July 4th is synonymous with food, fun, and fireworks. If your church is planning an event this Independence Day, remember to keep a focus on safety, so that everyone can have fun.

Tags: firework safety
June 28, 2019
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it

National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28 this year to remind people everywhere that insurance is vital to their companies and ministries.

Tags: coverage, protect, directors and officers, liability, damages
April 30, 2019
Measles Cases Reach Record-Breaking Numbers
Measles Cases Reach Record-Breaking Numbers

More than 700 confirmed cases of measles have been reported in the United States so far this year, making this outbreak the worst in decades.

Tags: protect, liability, health safety, risk management, measles
April 8, 2019
Vehicle Registration Guidelines for Ministries
Vehicle Registration Guidelines for Ministries

Do you use commercial vehicles that transport more than 15 passengers or carry cargo from one state to another as part of your ministry? If so, you are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and obtain a USDOT number.

Tags: coverage, protect, directors and officers, liability, damages
March 14, 2019
Returning to Tornado Damaged Areas
Returning to Tornado Damaged Areas

If your ministry buildings become damaged because of a tornado, or if your ministry plans to volunteer to assist with disaster recovery for those affected by these storms, be mindful of the dangers involved.

Tags: damages, property, tornado, weather emergency
June 20, 2018
Check for Safety Before Putting Your Head in The Clouds
Check for Safety Before Putting Your Head in The Clouds

Thinking about taking a group from your ministry ziplining? Be sure to confirm that the site you choose complies with the new Kentucky state law that regulates aerial recreational devices.

Tags: protect, liability, zip lines
June 1, 2018
June Is National Safety Month - Week 1: Emergency Preparedness
June Is National Safety Month - Week 1: Emergency Preparedness

The National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month, so we want to make sure your ministry is doing everything it can to protect its people, property, and programs. Each week in June, we’ll tackle a different topic. Up this week: Emergency Preparedness.

Tags: disaster prep, fire prevention, lightning, medical emergency, medical team, storms, weather emergency