Our country experienced yet another senseless mass killing this week. The massacre in Orlando is yet another example of how vulnerable we have all become and the importance of providing a safe church for members.
Those who are driven by hate prey upon gatherings of people with the intent to do harm when they least suspect.
Churches have long been a place of refuge and historically a place when doors were never closed. Things are different today. Churches lock their doors when not in session to guard against vandals, theft or harm to others.
We are vulnerable because we feel safe in a crowd, particularly when we are with other believers. However, as we saw in the Charleston Church Shooting or the pastor who was killed at an Illinois Church Shooting church is not always a safe place to be.
Church shootings happen often enough that there is now a national database that house statistics on church shootings.
“The National Church Shooting Database recorded a total of 139 shootings in churches between 1980 and 2005. In all, 185 people died, including 36 children. These numbers don’t include other types of violence that don’t involve guns, such as bombings..”
So how can a church balance the safety of its members with its desire to welcome the public?
5 Things You Can do to Keep Your Church Safe
1. Have a Plan
Planning entails having a conversation about a topic, and developing a plan to respond to any number of scenarios. Emergency management plans look at the – who, what, when and how an organization will respond to any number of unforeseen situations.
In the same way a church should identify their safety vulnerabilities and think about how they would respond if an armed intruder entered their campus, church or children facilities.
2. Delegate Eyes and Ears
Oftentimes these church shootings involve domestic disputes that the church may not even be aware of. Have a team of trained volunteers identified to watch for unusual behavior and people who don’t belong. This is sensitive because church is where we want the hurting to come so it can be difficult to decipher the two.
Train these eyes and ears to notify the appropriate person(s) if they see any questionable behavior.
3. Partner with Local Law Enforcement
Would be perpetrators prey on the vulnerable and aren’t interested in having to deal with law enforcement. Partner with local police and hire an off duty policeman to have a presence at your church before, during and after any church gatherings.
Ask them to park a patrol car on the parking lot as a visual deterrent. There is an expense to this, no question, but this type of deterrent can be invaluable if your church were the target.
4. Train on Response
Another advantage to having a police officer on campus is that they are trained on how to respond to any number of incidents.
Use these professionals to help train your usher or security team for handing someone who is acting out.
A well trained team will know what to do but more importantly what NOT to do when confronted with someone who has the intent to do harm.
The response to a person like this can dictate the outcome so responding appropriately is crucial to keeping everyone safe.
Believers understand the importance of prayer and the critical role it can play in keeping us safe. Make a commitment to continually pray for the safety of your church, members and visitors. Ask God to give wisdom and discernment if and when the time comes that your church is forced to deal with someone whose only intent is do harm.
It is easy to succumb to fear when it seems like there is daily news about mass casualty assaults. Christians know not to live by fear but by faith. Those of us in church leadership understand our responsibility to care for those in our charge and to prayerfully have a plan, trained team members and a coordinated response should that day ever come.