Never in the History of our country has it been more important to be aware of safety and security in a House of Worship.
With our safe places under attack, and churches, temples and Mosques under attack, it is time for men and women to step up and do what is necessary to help make their House of Worship a harder target! Here are five simple things you can do to bring more safety and peace of mind to your House of Worship.
1. Begin to change the mindset of the Leaders and congregation.
Whether it is some deranged gunman coming in looking for a high body count, fires set by people who hate the preaching of God’s Word, or sexual assaults on children within the walls of the church, our once safe places are under attack. If we expect people to leave the safety of their homes and come together to worship, we must as leaders do our part to make the environment as safe as possible. The Great Illusion is that the church is still a safe place, and sadly, the hardest people to convince may be those people in charge. Many church leaders still think it is a lack of faith to have to discuss or engage in church security, but sadly statistics don’t lie. Perhaps the one most shocking statistic that we never hear about is that in the last twenty years, there have been more lives taken on faith based grounds than in all the public schools in the country over that same time period. If we are going to be more prepared and on guard, it must begin with a change in mindset of both leaders and congregations.
2. It All Starts in the Parking Lot.
Whether they are good or bad, anyone that walks in your church usually comes out of a car in your parking lot. Statistics prove that about half of all church crimes happen outside of the building in your church parking lot. This is why it is important to put people with the best observation and social skills in your parking lot. Noticing unusual behavior from the opening of a car door enables your team to get a jumpstart on how to handle a situation. Is this a good member just having a bad day or someone new you’ve never seen before? Are there any red flags about their dress or gait? Will they look you in the eye or are they talking unusual? All this can be evaluated and acted upon before they hit the front door if you have the right people in place. The parking lot is the place for some of your best security people, as you want to keep trouble out of the sanctuary when at all possible.
3. Limit your Entrances and know who has access to those entrances
The more entrances you have, the more people you need to monitor them. Even worse, if you don’t have enough people to watch those entrances, they can become open doors to trouble. Since over 75% of churches are under a hundred people it makes good sense to limit your entry point into the building to one main entrance. Whenever possible, it is good to keep the entry door covered throughout the service. Again, statistics show, that many crimes in the sanctuary happen after the service has started, while peoples attention is on the front platform or the person leading the service at that time. Another important issue regarding your doors, is who has access to the various portions of your building? It is very common for churches to give keys to people who eventually drift away without returning those keys. Know who has access to your House of Worship! A key that falls into the wrong hands can by-pass even the best security plans.
4. The most common problems while church is in session are medical ones.
Are you prepared if someone hits the floor in the middle of a service? While mass shootings capture most the attention of the media, statistically it is the least likely problem you will encounter. Everyone in the building has passed two observation points to get into the building: the parking lot and the front door. Now the big question; with a greying population of church attenders, are you prepared for any medical emergencies that might arise during your time together? Having a well thought out and stocked first aid kit is key to keeping things static with your patient until the ambulance arrives. Ask your medical team to give a list for items they think necessary for the kit. Also knowing who and where your first responders sit is important at a time when seconds count. A good idea is to have your medical people sit in a certain area so they are easily accessed in case of emergency.
5. Vet and know those workers who work with youth
With child and sex abuse accusations at an all time high in churches, It is very important to do background checks on any workers who desire to work with your youth population under 18 years of age. In fact, just informing those who want to work with youth that a background check is mandatory, is a great deterrent and will chase many with bad intentions out the proverbial door. Even more important is to know a little about the people you allow to work with youth as the average pedophile may offend over two hundred times before finally getting caught. Team teaching between unrelated teachers as well as windows on all classroom doors are two more excellent practices to help mitigate any type of abuse in a classroom.
FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR HOUSE OF WORSHIP A SAFER PLACE
By: Dr ANDREW P SURACE
Dr. Surace is a seasoned Pastor with 40 years of ministry. He is trained as an EMT and executive protection specialist specializing in church safety and security. He along with co-Author Eric Konohia are the authors of a book on the subject of church security entitled “Securing the Sacred”. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble as well as in bookstores around the world. To contact Dr Surace about doing a church protection seminar at your church or in your area he can be reached at email@example.com .