Churches by their very nature are vulnerable. We as God’s people welcome all to come worship with us and we should. But, wise church leaders are beginning to recognize that there are more dangers and security risks than ever before. And, regardless of where you live in our country the threat of crime, misconduct, lawsuits and violence on church grounds is a growing concern.
Pastors are given the responsibility of being a shepherd. In the Old Testament shepherds cared for and lead their sheep, but they also protected them. Naturally, we think of this as only being in spiritual terms. It’s our job as pastors to shepherd and protect our churches. But there’s another issue that needs to be addressed, that of providing church safety and security for your congregation.
Church Safety and Security Becoming A Concern
Unless you’ve lived under a rock (or a cave like Elijah – 1 Kings 19:9), there’s been a lot in the news about church safety and security concerns. For an example, the firearm incident at Bellevue Baptist in Memphis on Easter Sunday , the Pastor who was shot in church by his own brother in Dayton, Ohio, and the horrific shooting in Charleston, SC last year. Some church leaders continue to banter back and forth regarding the issue of the proper Christian position on self-defense. (e.g. Jerry Falwell, Jr. and John Piper as well as a whole list of varying views on the issue by Tim Challies.) Regardless of who your theological hero is, chances are they won’t be around to defend your position if something happens at your church. So you’ve got to sort this out for yourself. Pious platitudes sound great and noble, but let’s face it . . . they won’t mean much to your community, your congregation, the victims or the media when something happens.
My Recent Church Safety And Security Training
As a part of my ongoing training to help local churches, this past week my wife and I attended a meeting on church “Safety and Security for Places of Worship” in Lynchburg, Virginia. This special training was presented by the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy, Training Force USA and PSU Crisis Management and Training Group, Inc.
Claude Pichard, of Training Force USA did a great job putting this together and our instructor, Tom Gillan has a passion for providing help for churches with these issues. He did a tremendous job educating a group of about 60 people on providing church safety and security.
The purpose of the class was to raise the awareness of local church safety and security. It provided solid recommendations based upon case facts and helped to stimulate a discussion among church leaders, staff members, volunteers, law enforcement personnel, first responders and congregations.
It was a full 8 hour class and we both received our certificates to help churches establish security protocols and procedures to handle a variety of issues. The training ranged from theft, vandalism, a wide variety of abuses, disruptions, abductions and active shooters. The class was based around five main headings:
Thomas Gillan, is the Founder and Director of The PSU Crisis Management and Training Group, Inc. Gillan is a Certified Law Enforcement Trainer, Certified Crisis Management Specialist, Certified Human Trafficking Instructor, Certified Life and Wellness Coach, Compassion Fatigue Specialist, and Motivational Speaker. His organization has a solid history of providing services to a long list of professionals which includes: law enforcement personnel, military personnel in transition, news reporters and photo/video journalists and corporate clients. Mr. Gillan has taught over 10,000 law enforcement professionals across the country. He is an instructor with Valencia College Criminal Justice Institute, Saint Leo University Criminal Justice Department, The Center for Public Safety Innovation at St. Petersburg College, The Florida Attorney General’s Office, and Training Force USA. He has received numerous awards and special recognition for his accomplishments such as receiving the 2012 Trainer of the Year Award from The Florida Network of Victim Witness Services.
The class was well attended by a variety of law enforcement officers; including Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police and State Police officers, as well as a few pastors and local church safety and security teams from Virginia and neighboring states. We received some outstanding training and were able to make some great connections with others in attendance.
Why You Should Consider A Church Safety and Security Program
Sadly most congregations have no church safety and security. Many think that security isn’t even necessary. Mr Gillian informed us that “Faith-based organizations are one of the top five at-risk sectors in terms of security and emergency preparedness, according to a 2007 U.S. State Department Briefing. Many places of worship are “behind the curve, compared to the secular world” in terms of security and emergency preparedness.“
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that you must protect those who attend your church, your facilities and your church’s ministries – both physically and financially. Church leaders must take proper precautions to help prevent tragedies, possible law suits and other issues from occurring. In the business world this is what is known as “risk management“. You can no longer put your head in the sand and say “nothing bad will happen to us.” The days are gone when you can assume that evil will not enter your sanctuary, other facilities or your events. As a church leader, it is your responsibility to create a safe place for people to worship and fellowship – to do otherwise is to be naive and negligent. I will have more on this issue in days to come. The best way to provide church safety and security is to be informed and prepared!