By Bruce Conley
Recent events have caused a flurry of questions in local churches such as, “How do I protect my church family from an unexpected assault or attack?,” “Can a church truly be ready for such atrocities?”, and “What can we as leaders do to prepare for the ‘unpreparable’?’”
There are no simple formulas or answers to these questions. It does seem that we live in a world where innocent people are targeted almost daily – and that focus all too often is directed to churches where people are gathered to worship God, study His Word, and plan strategies to reach a lost and dying world with the grace that only flows from the cross of Jesus.
Romans 8:36 reminds us that we should not be surprised when faithful followers of God are martyred while practicing their faith. It says: “As it is written: ‘For your sake, we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’”
As a former Police Chief and law enforcement professional, I do believe, however, that there are things we can do to plan ahead for the unimaginable – an attempted slaughter of our own church family members. People who we love …. and care deeply about.
I felt compelled to write an article with some pointers on how your church can start the dialog and process of developing a specific plan as you think through the process of church security. Many of these points have been implemented in churches I have worked in and for in the past, and they served the churches well. This is not an exhaustive list, but will help you as you get started:
- ENLIST THE HELP OF LAW ENFORCEMENT PROFESSIONALS IN YOUR CHURCH
I remember being a policeman and having to wear a gun every day of the work week. The last thing I wanted to do on Sundays as I went to church with my family was to strap that iron on again. But now, you need to challenge those who are able to legally carry a firearm to – if at all possible – carry their firearms to church when they go. Whether or not they do could mean a matter of life or death for the flock.
- ASSEMBLE A SECURITY TEAM AND TRAIN THEM
Keeping an eye on entrances, watching the behavior of new people walking into the building, parking lot security, and many other aspects of church security must be addressed by a team of volunteers. Give them training on what to look for, how to be vigilant, what to do if something looks suspicious, and how to connect with other team members on site, or contact law enforcement off-site if something goes awry. Programs like Zello can be loaded on cell phones and can be used by your team in a talk group, working like a walkie-talkie for any and all security concerns while the church is in operation. It’s also easy to load 911 or the local dispatch center phone number to make a quick call for assistance. My old church paid to have FRS or GMRS portable radios in chargers with earbud microphones for communication among your team. Choose the options that work best for you.
- CHECK ON YOUR LIABILITY INSURANCE
Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society, but if one of your members is in law enforcement and has to take action against an intruder who means harm – your church could be sued … especially if you asked him/her to carry that weapon. A check-up of your liability coverage for security volunteers and their work is definitely a good idea.
- USE YOUR LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT OR SHERIFF’S OFFICE FOR GUIDANCE
Many departments have police professionals who can come and do a premise crime analysis for building security issues, and in some cases, can help train your people in how to perform security duties to protect the church. Move through various agencies until you find the help that you need. Start with the town, city, and municipal police departments. If you don’t find the assistance you need, then ask the county and the state. If you still cannot find help, contact your politicians in government and ask them to help you find someone to come. Persistence and diligence pay off. 1 Cor. 15:58 tells us: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Pray for a hedge of protection around your church and sister churches. Almighty God can and will protect us from the enemy in many cases, and He can bless the efforts of those who serve to protect the local church family. Pray without ceasing, and ask for help when you need it.
May God protect us all from the forces of evil.
Bruce Conley is Director of Missions for the Blue Ridge Baptist Association and a former Chief of Police in Maryland. He also does security consulting work for three companies in Maryland.