Editor’s Note: Regardless of your personal religious beliefs, the issue of church security is one that impacts all our communities, and the solutions apply to a variety of public settings. Whether you attend a place of worship regularly or not, I encourage you to read this article and think about how the ideas within it might affect your own thoughts on personal and family safety.
No matter who quotes statistics, they must vastly under-report the information because of one very important reason: no agency is required to collect data of attacks against ministries. The agencies that do report do so voluntarily and I would submit to you that most ministries don’t file charges for fear of appearing to the public as “ungodly.” Several years ago, I submitted a copy of my book to the Crystal Cathedral after I discovered they had no security in place to protect their members. To me this was insane, and soon I found out that someone had made their way into the sanctuary and committed suicide. Of the various sources you can review, trends indicate crimes against the ministry increase 15% every year, but this again is based on available information. So more and more we have seen the rise of attacks, and the violence of these attacks has escalated. Which brings us to the next question: why?
What’s Going On?
- Scandals: The heavily publicized shortcomings of pastors starting with Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart revealed to the general public that people in the pulpit are human beings. With the removal of this false sense of holiness in the public’s eye and the criminal eye as well, attacks against ministries were no longer taboo.
- Alternative lifestyles: With the promotion of alternative lifestyles and non-traditional relationships, we see the development of intolerance and sometimes persecution against those who openly express their faith.
- Radicalism: The expansion of radical Islam has provided us with a firsthand view of the massacre of Christians throughout the world. In many countries, alternative methods of worship are often punishable by death.
- Indifference: The public is no longer concerned about what occurs in churches because they themselves don’t go.
How Do We Combat the Trend?
- 1. Train: The hardest thing to get a ministry to do is commit to a training program. After years of scandals, they are sensitive to the public view and often err on the side of appearance’s sake. Remind them it is their duty to protect not only the spiritual man and woman of those who come in their doors, but also to be responsible for their physical wellbeing.
- 2. Connect: As a Christian, I have been commanded to show kindness and compassion to my fellow man. This is both strong doctrine and good policy. As you make yourself known throughout the community your church is established in, you will make your congregation safer.
- 3. Observe: I teach observational psychology to all people who attend my seminars. Learning how to actively see or hear in your environment is a skill that everyone must have to avoid danger.
- 4. Prepare: Present real-world scenarios to those who undertake this task. It is impossible to react effectively to something you have never anticipated.
- 5. Plan: If you have not prepared an effective plan, you can expect chaos and major damage within your ministry in the event of an attack.
- 6. Public Relations: Establish a communications protocol and an official spokesperson to handle inquiries from the media. The public view must be managed carefully after an incident.
- 7. Consider: At the very least, review the possibility of an armed option within your ministry. Establish a training program that emphasizes the physical aspects of removing an intruder/trespasser from your ministry grounds.
What is MOD?
We actively train in the areas of observational psychology, servant leadership, hand-to-hand combat, crowd control, CPR/AED, communications, and crisis management. We also train other things that are specific to our ministry and, for those who request it, I provide firearms training. I also determine the level of service based on the needs of the people attending the church. I have female team members to interact with the female members and visitors of our church. They provide a level of coverage and can enter women’s restrooms and assist in other ways that make them less conspicuous than the male team members. I have a team member who is a member of our deaf ministry. His sole function is to provide information and crowd control to those visitors with impaired hearing. In addition, I have trained non-team members to be my eyes within the ministry, to see potential problems before they develop and to understand how to communicate their concerns to the team.
What Does the Future Hold?
Protecting a ministry is much like protecting anything else. It requires a lot of thought and consideration before attempting to undertake it. You must learn how to negotiate your position with those who will never fully understand their need to tolerate you in the first place. You must develop the ability to be both a warrior and a priest. You must be invisible as to be unobtrusive to those who are passing through the church doors. It is important for you to be the ever-vigilant sheepdog of the shepherd, because wolves are out there.