Church security is a topic I will write about frequently, as it is at the heart of what a church should be – a safe place to come and worship. Church safety starts on the parking lot and works its way through every area of your church, from children’s ministry to student ministry, all the way to the pastor’s personal safety.
What I want to address is the need for planning and give you some practical steps to begin the process. Church security looks very different from church to church; based in large part on the size of your church building and how many people are attending. A small church has a close-knit group of people who may all know each other. This is an easier situation. When any outsider is noticed, attention can be paid to that person; however, this looks very different in a church with a large membership.
Planning cannot be over emphasized. While you may not have a security staff member, you must have a security team. Even if they are a volunteer team, these are the people that will help you monitor church activities. Creating the plan lets everyone know what is expected and also know when the security team can deal with an issue or when the police need to be called. Bright lines are your friends here; you do not want someone calling the police at every little thing, but you also do not want a security team individual going rogue on you either.
Lets start with just a few practical thoughts to implement in your church policies:
- Decide who is protecting your church during “church events.” This can be a member of your security team or a hired officer from your local police department or the county sheriff. Either way, there should be someone clearly identifiable and accessible (preferably not in the service or in a classroom) a person who looks like they are there for security and to be the watchman on the wall for your church.
- Lock the doors. While we want to be welcoming to all our members and guests, that does not mean that every door needs to be unlocked. I am amazed at how many churches leave the back door to the children’s area unlocked. This is not a main point of entrance, and even if it is, a proper security plan says this should be revised. All visitors to the children’s area need to go through a central point to allow a chance for people to be noticed, welcomed, and questioned.
- Cover secondary events. We all know that Sundays are the church’s equivalent to the Super Bowl. We have volunteers every Sunday, but what about secondary events? Who are our volunteers on Wednesday nights or for Tuesday morning Bible study? Any time your children’s facilities are open, a security team person should be at or very close to the children’s area. This not only acts as a deterrent, but also provides someone who can be focused on anyone who looks out of place.
- Practice with your security team on what happens when you have a disruptive person. Part of having a security plan is being aware of how to put that plan into action. I was recently at my own church when a man walked right by the front of the stage while the pastor was preaching, went to the side of the stage and reached into a black messenger type bag.
Needless to say, there were several people who were on the edge of their seats, but the security team did not know what to do with him when he walked in front of the stage. Thankfully, it was just a camera he was pulling out of his bag. We later came to find out that he was not right mentally and we were able to minister to him. At that moment though, with all the church shootings that have recently happened, several people, including some of our pastors, all thought we were about to experience something tragic. What should the security team have done? They should have escorted him out and questioned him. Praying at the altar is one thing, but walking around and being a distraction is the first potential sign of trouble, so the security team should investigate.
Now these are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are four practical first steps to put in place to protect your church events. Check back soon for more practical advice about church safety.