When I was young, I remember church being a place where the door was always open and visitors were welcome anytime of the day or night. It was a safe refuge for those who just needed some time in prayer and reflection. Church security was unheard of.
Over the course of the last couple of decades that trend has changed and most churches have scheduled times when their doors are open and the building is available for public prayer.
However, most recent acts of violence toward pastors and church members has brought about a new focus on church security.
In 2016, 65 violent deaths—defined as homicides, suicides, and aggressors killed in action—took place at churches or ministries. As well, a disturbing 25 percent—were killed as the result of domestic spillover.
The most disturbing thing about these numbers is many of these violent acts were between people who had some relationship with the church and/or its members/employees.
Most of these attacks happened when church was not in service and church employees and volunteers let their guards down.
The statistics are alarming and warrant a closer look at how churches safeguard their members, volunteers and employees.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
8 Tips to Tighten Church Security
1. Have a Church Security Plan
Planning is one of the most important first steps you can take to tighten church security.
This involves writing a plan that answers the question “what should we do if…..” any given situation.
This plan should be developed by key church leaders and added to a policy and procedure manual that can be updated as needed.
Use your local law enforcement to consult and give advice for tightening campus security.
2. Develop Church Security Ministry Team
Find church members who may have a public safety background and develop them as part of a volunteer security team.
Schedule them to be available anytime there are church services, events or people on campus. Provide them with specialized church security training so they can help respond in the event of an incident.
3. Church Global Security Training
Take advantage of the eyes and ears of all church members to report suspect or unusual behavior and help them understand their role in church safety.
Train employees and volunteers about the church security plan.
Employees and volunteers should understand this plan so they will know what to do in any number of situations that may threaten the church or its members.
Part of this training should include spending time explaining why a plan has been created and how members can partner with church leaders to help ensure church safety.
4. Controlled Hours of Operation
Make sure your church buildings have designated public hours of operation times and that someone is in the building anytime the doors are unlocked.
Try to avoid putting employees or volunteers in situations of being alone in an empty building – there is safety in numbers.
5. Keyed Entrances
Church campus buildings are used by so many different people that it is sometimes difficult to control who is entering a building and who has keys to the building.
Volunteers sometimes end up with building keys and may leave and forget to lock the door behind them.
Make sure all doors have a keyed or swipe card entrance that locks automatically when closing. Change the locks on doors that unlock automatically with a key.
6. Lock-down Procedures
Develop lock-down procedures, especially in children’s areas. Determine the best approach to protecting church members in the event of a threatening or unsafe situation.
7. Communicate with Members
Have a church communication plan in place to make church members aware of new security measures.
Make these communications public so that if there is anyone sitting among the flock, who intends to do harm, they are made aware that lots of eyes are watching them.
There is a lot of power in prayer so be diligent with praying for church safety. Use your prayer teams to cover church safety.
“The suspect walked into the church in a calm fashion,” said Cpl. Kay Lester, a Fulton County police spokeswoman. “He walked in, opened fire, and left as calmly as he came.”
The world has changed in the past few decades making it important to think strategically about church safety. The bible says we should not have a spirit of fear, but we should use common sense and wisdom in our approach and planning for the unexpected.
What church safety measures do you have in place?