THE NEW FRONTIER PT. 1
Having been in church for over 50 years, the words church security sometimes seem like an oxymoron. The church was the place that provided total safety and security. Now it has become the safe place that must be kept safe. Because the church is an institution that welcomes all comers with arms wide open, it has not only attracted those who want to bring their problems to the altar but those who want to cause a problem at the altar. In this article, I would like to look at some safety-related areas that will help change your mindset about church security and start you on the road to making your church a safer place.
THE GREAT ILLUSION…WHY THE NEED?
There was a time when church and security did not go together…when a church was a safe place…literally a place of sanctuary. This, however, is no longer the case. In fact, statistics show that more people have been killed churches in the last 15 years than in schools. While the reasons are many, I will discuss two. Churches have become places of controversy in a culture that no longer accepts the morals and values of our grandparents. The other reason being Churches are now attracting a variety of new people due to many churches looking very much more like nightclubs with loud music, smoke machines, and dazzling lights, than places of worship. Again, not your mom or dads kind of church. Though many of these people come to get help, some at times may come to cause problems.
THE ARCH ENEMY OF CHURCH SECURITY
This enemy is not a man with a gun or a grudge, it’s a man filled with faith. For decades, because churches have been relatively safe places and because of that, people of faith have felt there is no need to protect ourselves because God will protect us. However, many churches have now become very prosperous and with that prosperity made a name for themselves causing things to change. This new attention, some of which is negative, brings a new focus on the goings on in the church. The Church is no longer the little building on the corner with the steeple. It has often times become the voice in the community, on the radio, television and of late all over the internet.
IN YOUR SECURITY DON’T IGNORE SAFETY…IT’S MORE THAN WATCHING OUT FOR THE BAD GUY
Statistically, the chances of a gunman walking into your church are slim. Even violence in the church although growing at a rapid pace is not an everyday occurrence in this country. Those two issues, however, are just a small part just a small part of Church safety. Trip hazards, medical emergencies that walk in the door every week, furnaces not properly maintained etc. even accidents in the parking lot are all part of the non-criminal aspect of keeping your church safe. Church safety done right can at times be quite boring. While the guns and the domestics get all the publicity it is the little things that more than likely can bring a lawsuit or bad reputation to your church in the community.
WHAT DOES CHURCH SECURITY LOOK LIKE
Your Church Safety/Security team must not only look out for the bad guy but those things that can give people a bad opinion of or wrong impression of your church. Ideally, any type of security covers not only physical security of people and things but accidental or embarrassing things that might happen in a church. This includes things such as the Pastor tripping over a microphone cord, unruly attendees refusing leave or a Sunday school teacher not showing up in a classroom full of children. There are many ways that a church can find itself in a compromising or embarrassing situation that is not necessarily dangerous but can harm the reputation of that church and thus keep people away because of what the word on the street is. This also is part of the work of your safety and or security team…to protect the reputation of your church or ministry
CHOOSING YOUR TEAM OF FIRST RESPONDERS
Having good church safety is much more than watching out for bad guys with guns. As I said earlier, there are many things that go into creating a safe worship environment, therefore, there is a real need to develop the softer skills of your security team. One of the most common things to happen in a church environment is emergency medical problems. Anything from a bee sting to a heart attack can create havoc in a place of peace. Knowing who the people to call on are before you have to call on them is important. Do you have Police officers, Doctors, Nurses or EMT’s already in your building on any given day? A meeting with these people in good times can prepare them for emergent situations. Knowing who they are and what resources are available will save lots of time and perhaps lives when an emergency situation arises.
THE BUSINESS OF PROTECTING GOD’S HOUSE
One of the hardest things about church security is convincing the church it needs security. Because we live in such a highly litigious society, Secular venues such as schools, concert halls, theatres are setting the pace for security in places where people gather. In fact, chances are there has never been a time where security has been a more talked about topic in America. Slowly but surely this topic is leaking into the church which has always seemed to be impervious to this type of discussion. I have heard from some of my friends in ministry, that some insurance companies are now putting a demand on churches to have a safety or security officers before they will issue a policy. Yes, church security is becoming the business of the church and churches are scrambling to comply to meet the needs of not only their insurance companies but their congregations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A SITE ASSESSMENT
Because no two churches are alike, the need for an individual church site assessment is very important. Every building and campus has built-in weaknesses as well as strengths that need to be recognized ahead of time so that any type of threat can be more easily mitigated. Does your building have too many entrances, a safe room, enough fire exits or fire extinguishers? Again, to make church service a safer experience, these things should be looked into when there are no threats or no one at risk and therefore an atmosphere to easily make changes without causing fear or suspicion.
THE POWER OF POLICIES
When you think of policies, it’s easy to picture a lot of papers and cerebral discussion in some back room. Policies, however, are decisions made in private based on historical Intel and data of conflicts and problems faced in the past in any area of human interaction. So to keep it simple, when a conflict occurs in a church or on its property, often times it has happened before and a conclusion was come to on how to deal with it in the future. Security of any type is always evolving and policies are the written histories of what happened and how it was dealt with. The other major importance of having policies set in place is it avoids being accused of singling out or profiling any particular type of individual or behavior. In a day where people are so easily offended a policy makes it clear that this is the way a particular church deals with any particular situation for all individuals.
In closing, these are just a few good reasons as well as ideas as to why and how to start thinking about having a team of men and women from your church trained to start looking out for the safety of the people. As our culture continues on, this will be more and more necessary both from a business standpoint as well as a safety standpoint. As the church begins to grasp this idea, they will see that it will not only keep their people safer but will actually help bring more church growth.
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.