In the ten years I have been paying attention to church security issues, I have found the greatest threat against local churches is the local criminal who steals, burns and robs churches and church patrons.
Much of the violence happening against churches are from people who are associated to it in one way or another.
When posting articles on Facebook, I am surprised by many of the responses from those who read my posts blaming ISIS, when the facts are evident that it was a local criminal who caused the damage.
When I see it, I usually respond to the person who posted the comment, correct the record, and then delete the post. Yes, it is censorship, but I’m not going to support ignorance or hatred against an entire religion. I understand the aim of Islam is to convert the world to Islam, so please don’t misunderstand. There is a threat and it is playing out in the world.
I regularly receive emails from people asking my opinion of realistic threats from terrorists or jihadists against American churches. I sense they are trying to bolster an argument for implementing security at their church and they want to be armed with anecdotal evidence of real threats against the church. I don’t have any real stories that I have seen where I can help them. I follow facts, and thankfully right now, I have nothing to report regarding churches.
I’m afraid I have disappointed several people because in America we haven’t seen direct action from a Islamic lone wolf or terrorist cell against a Christian church. We have had reports of suspicious activity (recording services, inappropriate behavior) from what appear to be young Arab men, but the numbers of actual violence against churches point to local criminal actions.
Please understand, just because we haven’t seen this happen here in the U.S., incidents in the Middle East and Europe have been happening, and an uptick in any attacks against churches or synagogues should pose enough risk to keep us on our toes and wary of all threats, foreign and domestic.
So what kind of intelligence should we gather?
First, begin your search for information internally. Pastors and leadership often possess information about domestic situations, child custody issues, boyfriend-girlfriend problems, problems at other churches and a host of internal issues within the local body.
Request to be allowed to attend pre-worship meetings or ask your pastor to keep you in the loop about specific issues that may threaten the security of the church. Discretion is the word. Be worthy of the trust given you by only sharing the information with those who need to know, and avoid issues of gossip.
Second, I think communicating with local law enforcement regularly is a great place to start. Many communities have local crime maps detailing where crimes have happened. Remember, not all crimes are reported, and not all crimes make the local television news or newspaper. Yet, understanding reports of crime in your church’s geographic area can go a long way in protecting not only church property, but the people who visit your church.
Every week, I see crimes against churches and those attending church, and understanding crime patterns in the vicinity in your church may cause your team members to pay more attention.
Additionally, police departments receive briefings from Federal authorities on a regular basis highlighting specific and general threats against populations in the U.S. Connecting with a community police officer or beat officer weekly to determine what the feds are saying and determining any crimes in the neighborhood can go a long way in helping your church.
Secondly, check with your local Sheriff or city police department and determine whether they have crime mapping software. Recently, we were seeking to rent a place for vacation via Air BnB. Before booking the place, I typed in “crime map street name and city” and it brought me to the county crime map. I typed in the address, and was shocked to see 70 police calls for service in the preceding six months many involving theft, robbery and burglary.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay there.
Once you have the local bases covered, you may want to check out international threats. You can check out the ISIS propaganda magazine, easily available for download online at the Clarion Project.
The magazine, called DABIQ, is a wealth of information of jihadi thinking & planning for world domination. It tracks what their “soldiers” have been doing throughout the world and teaches readers specific tactics to follow.
In a recent issue, the picture on the front of issue 15 was quite clear. Their aim is to break the cross, and in this issue they do it through spreading anti-Christian propaganda, as well as violent means. It is a great primer and excellent resource that gives valuable insights into the mindset and methods.
I gained insight and valuable information from the issues I have read.
You can download it at the Clarion Project or by clicking here.
Gathering intelligence can help your team in their weekly responsibilities and it can help you train for possible contingencies. As always, stay safe and thanks for what you do.