By Raul Rivera, Start Church
How do we keep our churches safe in a world where evil exists?
After recent strings of mass shootings, including the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last fall, many pastors are asking what steps they should take to make their churches safe.
The truth of the matter is that most churches do not have safety plans, much less safety teams, in place. And while it may not seem like a big deal, it usually isn’t until one is needed.
This blog isn’t about how to respond in active shooter situations, but rather, I want to use this blog to give guidance on why your church needs a security team and how you can strengthen security at your church.
Before I address that, however, let’s look at why you should take a more active stance on security at your church sooner than later.
Why security at your church matters
Whenever I speak with pastors about church security, I usually end up referencing how David protected his flock.
In 1 Samuel 17:34-35 we read, “But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth.’”
Although God is our protector, just like David was responsible for protecting his flock, as a pastor, you too are responsible for protecting your flock.
It is important to note that security teams not only help make your church a safer place, but they can also help activities run more smoothly.
For instance, many churches host large outreach events such as fall carnivals, Easter egg hunts, and more. Such events generally draw large crowds.
While your security team can help ensure everyone has a safe and fun time, they can also help the flow of traffic.
Church security teams can also be beneficial should anyone become disruptive during your church service. Simply asking someone who is being disruptive to leave may not be enough.
As a result, your church’s security team should have protocol on how to respond in such situations.
How to start a church security team
When building a team of any kind, it is vital to have a process to chart an effective course. I have broken the process down into five clear steps that can make it easier for you and your church to create a security team.
Step #1: Assess your needs
We cannot go too far to protect the body of Christ.
Whether your church has twenty congregants, or five hundred congregants, there is a need for security!
Your needs may differ depending on the size of your church and the budget available.
Make a list of what you believe is needed before you start your team, be it ten volunteers, walkie talkies, local law enforcement or more.
Step #2: Ask for volunteers
I once heard somebody say, “It is amazing what people will do if you just ask.”
The key is approaching a potential team member that you truly feel fits the role.
Lay out what you are recruiting for and talk about all aspects of the position, so they are aware.
It is highly recommended to have a screening process for potential team members. This should include an application that will reveal if they are a good fit, a criminal background check, and a reference check.
You may know of current or retired law enforcement officers, emergency medical professionals or military veterans at your church who may be good candidates to head-up the team.
Or, simply having volunteers who have a heart to serve and protect others would be great assets to the team.
Step #3: Provide training for your team
Another aspect of great importance when creating the team is proper training. Nothing dampers a person’s enthusiasm for a job more than putting them in a situation without proper training.
There should be a clear set of policies and procedures that the team can turn to that establish consistency and give the volunteers confidence on how to respond in any situation.
You may want to implement group and individual activities that covers a wide range of scenarios.
There may be individuals in your congregation who work or have worked in the medical field or as emergency personnel and would be willing and glad to hold a training session.
If not, consider reaching out to local law enforcement in your community to hold a training for your team. They would be thrilled to know of individuals passionate about providing extra safety and security at your church.
Step #4: Put it into action!
Action plans are a necessity for a church or ministry of any kind.
This can range anywhere from how to respond to natural disasters, medical emergencies, fires, etc. Medical emergencies occur more often than you might think.
Being prepared for a medical emergency is important.
Statistically, you have a 3,000% greater chance of facing a serious medical emergency in a church than an act of violence.
Consider having a first aid kit accessible at all times. It is best practice to have a first aid kit in each room during a Sunday service.
It is also wise to have individuals serving on the safety and security team to be CPR & First Aid certified, in case of emergencies.
Step #5: Manage
Managing your team requires effort on your part. Showing the team you value them will reap a reward in the way they serve on the team.
It’s also important to know that as the church grows, there may need to be changes on the team. As the number of congregants increases, your security team will most likely need more volunteers.
Policies tend to change and develop over time as pastors and leaders learn more about what works best for their church. It’s important to update your team on new or adjustments in existing policies.
It is also good practice to hold an annual training, which can be a refresher for existing volunteers and another opportunity to cast vision and bring in new volunteers.