We receive a lot of questions through our contact form and answer many on a one on one basis. If you are a member of CSA, I know you are already pretty serious about the safety and security of your church.
We are encouraging churches to take a look at their safety plan. The majority of churches probably don’t have one beyond an escape route in case of fire or a shelter in place should a natural disaster strike.
Reading our blog, sites like Carl Chin’s, and many others illustrates crimes do occur against the faith community, and while playing the numbers might seem like a good idea, it is probable your church may at some point be targeted by a criminal.
The questions I have is, who is your point man or woman if/when something happens? With pastors’ busy schedules, it might make sense to appoint or delegate the responsibility to a volunteer who has a heart for safety.
I recently received this question from a concerned man, “What is the best way for me to persuade our deacons and pastor to train a security team?”
I thought it a great question, so I decided to share my response here:
Thanks for your question, it is a good one. Safety and security are a hard sell because most people don’t think about security and safety beyond calling police if there is a problem. People are reactionary and not proactive.
When the topic comes up, it is usually because something bad or dangerous has happened at the church or close to the church. Sometimes a high profile incident happens, and the pastor or elder board are forced to examine their security plans.
It is good to understand how your decision makers think.
Church leaders are concerned about 3 things when you begin a discussion about “security.”
1. What people will think.
2. What will it look like.
3. What the cost vs. liability will be.
What People Will Think
Pastors are sensitive to what the flock believes about the safety of their church campus. If you have security, the perception is there have been problems in the past, and maybe the church isn’t a safe place to be. Whether we want to believe it or not, churches are political places, and nothing gets done without agreement from those in power.
The first place to start is to find allies with influence. It is much better to approach a church board with those in agreement. If the pastor is on board, it will get done. If the pastor or elder board believes influential people would like to see security measures put in place, he or they may be more quickly brought on board.
Of course, the process is so much easier if the pastor brings the idea to you then you having to bring the pastor to it, but not everybody has that luxury.
If there are alot of kids in your church, the best place to start may be with the moms. Moms get stuff done in the church! With your wife, approach one or two moms who have influence, their view on the safety of the children’s area. Be a fact finder, ask a lot of questions, ask them for suggestions to make the child area safer.
When you have this information you can enlist her help and can say, “Pastor, Mrs. Smith and I were talking and about the children’s area and she had some recommendations to improve safety, do you have a minute?”
What Will It Look Like?
If you can paint a picture for those who have no idea what you are talking about, you will be ahead of the game.
If you say the word security, the pastor/elder board may instantly visualize men dressed in black, wearing mirrored sunglasses, and talking into their sleeve. They may see men carrying Tasers and guns leading them to believe the open worship concept they envision would be in jeopardy by the church security team. This may also cause them to worry about the first point, “What will the people think?”
I can guarantee that if you walk into the office talking about “hard targets” and “soft targets, “executive protection,” and “church lock down procedures” to a man or woman who is your basic nice person who believes people in the world are all like them, you will probably lose any chance of improving security.
If you are trying to do general security improvements, it is a good idea to start small and watch your P’s and Q’s. If you have an usher ministry, you might want to start with an “Eyes And Ears” ministry. Ushers are usually out in the lobby area and see most of what is going on.
When I was a boy, I remember our church parking area had regular thefts. Marty Pearson, Howard Franklin, and my dad Ron Evans regularly served as ushers. They had an idea that one of them would sit out in the lobby and watch the parking lot. Sure enough, their efforts paid off, and they were able to catch the kid and call the police. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a few guys who cared and took extra measures to serve the faith community/church better.
The idea is to start small, and increase as you gain trust. Implementing anything new is often an uphill battle. You may have to tackle small projects before you gain their trust to build your security efforts over the course of time.
Make suggestions to improve simple lighting and locks, counting money, bank drops, access to the children’s ministry or anything that needs to be improved. These efforts will lead to broader discussions.
Church security is about offering great customer service to people entering your church. Everyone wants to feel welcome, and a smiling person greeting those who come in, can point people to where they need to go and keep an eye on things at the same time. Having members of your team in the parking lot directing traffic, or pointing parents to the nursery is a great way to keep an eye on people without them even knowing what is happening.
If your idea of church security is a group of men standing off in a corner, suspiciously giving the evil eyeball to everyone entering, it will be a losing proposition.
The reality is you don’t want people to even know you have security in place. It should be seamless.
What Will The Cost vs Liability Be?
Your pastor/elder board will want to know who will be doing the work, what it will cost, and whether it will leave the church liable for anything that happens.
If you are volunteering to oversee the effort, to do the work, and to build a team to accomplish very defined goals, your pastor/elder board may be more inclined to entrust the project to you. Everybody is busy, but if you have a gift to administrate and efficiently use scarce resources to make the place safer, you may win the trust of the leadership team.
The last thing your pastor wants is more work or more meetings. If you can convince him or her that you will be doing the work with their oversight, you may win an ally in your efforts.
This is a Biblical concept. If you are faithful in the small, you will be rewarded with trust to handle more.
My guess is the church will want to spend little money on the project at first, especially if they don’t see a need for any improvements. Many of our members have purchased our materials as a gift to their church and even buy equipment over time out of their own funds as a sort of tithe.
If the pastor or board have talked to a lawyer or insurance company, they may have been dissuaded from pursuing a security team of volunteers. However, if you have a few police officers in your church or former military men who are willing to keep an eye for things out of place, and you go together to the pastor, this may help him know experienced people will be involved and things won’t get out of hand.
The last thing anyone wants is to be sued. However, having a policy and procedure in place combined with training is often the best way to avoid a law suit. Volunteering to write a policy and procedure manual for the child care area, or for counting money and training those people responsible for these things will go a long way in actually securing your facility while reducing liability.
If you save a church volunteer from being accused of child abuse or prevent a robbery while dropping off the money, then in my view your efforts will have been worth it.
The bummer about security is we never know if our efforts prevented anything. If nothing ever happens, it is hard to point to what we have done as a preventive measure, but that is really the goal. We don’t want anything to happen because when bad things occur, good people get hurt, and our efforts are all designed to keep this from happening.
That is why this ministry takes the heart of a servant. It is thankless and should be a low profile service ministry.
Planning for church security is a big job, but the person who is put in charge of the effort really has to be a humble person who really loves people and wants to protect them, even if they don’t know they need to be protected.
This is why we started Church Security Alliance. We wanted to assist people just like you with information to get the conversation started with great information and tools to assist you to save time.
I am not a big salesman, but I would be remiss in not telling you about our Starter Kit, Ebook, and membership. It will assist you in doing everything that I mentioned above.
The ebook is a great thing to share with your pastor or board. It can be emailed to them easily. The Starter Kit has presentations already done for you, as well as policy and procedure manuals and a whole host of items to make this job easier.
Good luck, this process to get people to understand preventative measures is a tough sell, but presenting it humbly and with a servant’s heart may pave the way to gaining permission to start upon small projects that lead to something even better.
I hope this helps!