Many of us have stood in line in airport screening areas waiting to be wanded, searched, questioned, and x-rayed.

I, for one, absolutely hate it. I long for the pre-9/11 days of care free thinking at airports when we had the perception of security by running our bags through scanners and boarding an airplane without the anxiety of being blown out of the sky.

In an effort to do something, our government has spent billions in security measures that probably really won’t stop a committed person from following through with his plans of destruction.

Today, I received a question via email that I have never considered in the realm of church security. I think it is a good and thoughtful question: Here it is:

What security measures should be taken when people bring in backpacks to the church service? Lockers, designated areas, or just let them keep them?

When people hear the words church + security something inside them bristles. We have all accepted the necessity that airports, workplaces, schools need some type of security measures in place to stop bad things from happening to good people.

In fact, whenever we hear of the latest violent outrage, we have become used to it, and we shrug our collective shoulders, repeatedly asking how in the world this could have been stopped. We have to this point accepted the fact that our liberties have suffered in the name of security in pretty much all public spaces.

Poked, prodded, touched, scanned, x-rayed, beltless and shoeless are all things I have mindlessly accepted as I inch forward in the public cattle line. I guess I don’t have a choice if I want to take part in flying, a baseball game, or a visit to the White House.

All public spaces have been overwhelmingly “secured” save one: Church.

Personally, for me, I don’t want people to have the feeling that church is a dangerous place that necessitates that locked down feeling we have all grown to expect.

On any given Sunday, women bring in purses, moms bring in diaper bags, girls wear backpack type purses, boys bring in a change of clothes for an activity and so far, this hasn’t presented a problem so far. Heck, some people’s Bible covers could be mistaken for a backpack.

While thinking about this question, I found that I neither want to be the guy being asked to leave my bag somewhere secure, nor do I want to be the guy asking people to do this.

The possibility for confrontation and hurt feelings is obvious.

Is there a chance someone could plant a bomb in a bag and carry it into a church? Yes. Bombs rock churches in the Middle East every now and again. I’m not sure they are using a backpack or purse, but it is definitely possible.

I think security can be overdone. In the name of safety many things are done that don’t really have the desired effect of making people safer. It only looks like people would be safer because we are caught up in the act of influencing a perception. We can’t stop every threat.

I believe security measures can alienate people and rob them of an experience. This is a possibility in the faith community. In church, most people don’t want to be reminded of the ugliness of the world. It is or should be a respite from the world.

So we are left with limited options. I think you would agree that obvious security measures are accepted by most people; cameras, check-in system, parking lot guys. I think most people would be put off and angered by any attempts to have them check their property at the security gate.

Here is my answer:
That is an interesting question. I would say it is a judgement call, but due to style/trend issues, backpacks have become a regular part of today’s style. Because it is church and not a public baseball game or 4th of July celebration, I would not make it an issue. The balance of church security is to have security without it looking like you have security.
Confronting someone about a bag could lead to negative things, and avoiding the appearance of being heavy handed is desirable.

I say our efforts to secure our church should appear to be seamless and integrated into traditional positions like ushers, offering takers, parking lot attendees, greeters, & childcare workers – all acting as one team but guided by both training and policies which bolster overall security for the church body.

Any one of these people can report something suspicious or out of the ordinary without the necessity for possible confrontation or the risk of losing a church attendee’s personal property.

Do you have any thoughts? Agree or disagree?

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