I have many happy memories as a child going to church regularly being with my friends and family. One day however sticks out in my mind above all others. On this day, a man keeled over in the pew in front of me and the havoc that ensued is still clear in my memory… Emergency.
Since there are no guarantees that you will never be involved in an emergency, this article will help you to understand some of the things necessary to properly handle, or ideally help prevent, a crisis situation in a house of worship.
What constitutes an emergency?
Well that might be the first question that should be asked. Just like a miracle breaks all the laws of nature to bring about some super-natural outcome, an emergency in church is when something or someone breaks all the laws, proper behavior patterns, policies and finally the peace of a church meeting to bring about a bad or negative result.
Whose emergency is it?
The simple answer is that a church emergency belongs to everyone. Most emergencies in a church will affect every member, visitor and sometimes the entire community, in attendance or not. Most recently in a small town in Texas where the unthinkable happened, not only were the church members profoundly affected, but the effects rippled through the town, the state and even nation. So while no one owns an emergency some are more ready than others to deal with.
The idea of church security, like any type of security, is to stop intentional harm, unintentional harm and embarrassment. Security is not a clean up crew, it is more a overt or covert team that stands ready to spot a potential problem before it becomes an actual one. Much like a fire spotter in a tower looking for a small brush fire before it becomes a major forest fire, that is the picture of your church security team.
Every day millions of people all over America sit in church buildings trusting that they will leave encouraged, blessed and changed. One of the main causes that bring about emergencies in a church is that the very people that are there to get help are dealing with toxic relationships in their lives. The number one crime when church is in session is domestics. Very often angry husbands who think their significant other is being unfaithful, perhaps with someone in the church, even the Pastor. Domestics can be very dangerous because of the passions they enflame in a person. Even police departments are cautious when dealing with domestic situations.
The first question about an emergency is who determines whether or not we will interrupt the entire service to say something is wrong? Whether it is an assistant Pastor, the Pastor’s wife, the head usher or the head of security, someone has to have the ability to totally change the atmosphere in a church service. It won’t be the Pastor because he will usually be preaching, involved at the altar or possibly be the target. Having trust in those people given the responsibility to call out an emergency is vital to both the Pastor and the congregation. Once the person determines there is an emergency he must communicate to the right people ready to deal with that situation. Another thing to think about is if the Pastor for some reason cannot function, who steps in to take his place and speak peace to the congregation.
Once you have decided there is an emergency taking place do you have a plan to deal with that particular type of emergency? If it is a medical emergency, do you know where your Doctors, Nurses or EMT’s are seated? Many churches have special seating for medically trained people so in the case of a medical emergency they know where to find them. If for some reason you need to lock down the building; perhaps an active shooter or a domestic situation with a child involved, again is there a process to isolate an area or the entire building until the situation is under control? Is someone responsible to call the police, fire or rescue squad? When adrenalin is flowing and lives are at stake, simple things like this sometimes don’t get done quickly enough or maybe not at all.
You start saving for retirement when you are young and healthy. You tune your instrument before the concert, and yes the time to prepare for emergencies are before they happen. Whether your emergency is medical in nature, a fire, or criminal act, there are things you can do to mitigate the damages. First Aid kits, fire extinguishers, flashlights, emergency lights and door hardware are all great tools to get a jump on an emergency situation. However, your greatest weapon is an alert and trained team of people who have gone over various scenarios on a regular basis and have knowledge and desire to see it come to a quick and painless end. This team will not only help bring peace to your congregation it is a great tool for men and women who want to serve the church in a way that is a little different than teaching a class or singing in the choir.
At times you can avoid an emergency just by having good policies in place. Policies are powerful tools not only to prevent problems but also to eliminate people from feeling profiled or not given a fair chance. For instance, if a church has a policy that any Sunday School Teacher must go through a careful Background check before teaching, there is a very good chance a pedophile will not apply for the job. Policies are especially good to let visitors know there are safety measures in place to protect both them and their children. Finally, good policies can keep your people from having to make quick judgments in areas they are neither qualified nor have the authority to do so.
In closing, while emergencies can be anything from a little nerve-wracking to deadly, preparation, training and
a mindset that is always looking for a problem before it becomes one will make your church a much safer place.
Church Security the New Frontier Part 3
By: DR. ANDREW P SURACE
Dr. Surace is a seasoned Pastor with over 35 years of ministry. He is a trained EMT and executive protection specialist. He along with co-Author Eric Konohia are authors of a book on the subject of church security entitled “Securing the Sacred”. It is available on Amazon as well as bookstores around the world.