Church Security Guidelines -Creating a Safe and Secure Worship Environment
On June 17, 2015, 21 year old white supremacist Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina attended a Bible lesson for more than an hour and then systematically murdered nine people in a racially motivated shooting. On Sunday, November 5, 2017, 26 year old Devin Patrick Kelley entered the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and in less than seven minutes killed twenty-six people.
Mass shootings inside a place of worship are a worse case scenario, but there are other security concerns as well. Following will be a few guidelines you can think about for your place of worship. In late 2016 I approached my Pastor about implementing a few things to make our church more secure. The Lord had placed church security on my heart.
Over the next few months we worked on some things and developed a ministry. We called our volunteer men and women, “Watchmen” based on scripture. The Watchmen’s ministry was born. These church security guidelines are simple steps that can make a difference. We cannot foresee every circumstance, but we can take precaution to minimize the chance of someone being seriously injured or killed in our church.
The Need for Creating Guidelines
No one wants to think about the possibility of violent confrontations in church, however the reality of this day and age is churches are increasingly under attack. In 2015 there were 248 violent incidents in churches in America resulting in 76 deaths. These incidents range from active shooters to family violence. Church Security researcher Carl Chinn said that since 1999, more than 542 people have died a violent death while they were on a church property.
There are an estimated 400,000 places of worship in the United States. More than 150 million people participate at activities held at religious facilities in the US. Implementing security guidelines in church is concept whose time has come.
Being Vigilant is Biblical
While we know God can protect us from attack, there are numerous occasions in the Bible where God admonishes us to remain vigilant.
- Isaiah 62:6– I have set Watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night.
- Nehemiah 4:9 – Because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
- Nehemiah 4:17-19– Those who built on the wall, and those who carries burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other hand held a weapon. 18Everyone of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
- Romans 13:4– For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
- Chronicles 9:21-24- 21 –Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was the gatekeeper at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 22Altogether, those chosen to be gatekeepers at the thresholds numbered 212. They were registered by genealogy in their villages. The gatekeepers had been assigned to their positions of trust by David and Samuel the seer. 23They and their descendants were in charge of guarding the gates of the house of the LORD–the house called the Tent. 24The gatekeepers were on the four sides: east, west, north and south.
- Judges 7:21– And every man stood in his place [Gideon’s 300] all around the camp; and the whole army [Midianites] ran and cried out and fled.
- Psalm 127:1– Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the Watchmen stays awake in vain.
- Hosea 4:6- My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
- Luke 10:19-Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.
- Luke 22:36-…and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
- 1 Peter 5:8- Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
- Proverbs 18:10– The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
- Ephesians 6:11– Put on the whole armor or God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Steps to Take
If you are looking to start a security ministry in your church start by developing a relationship with law enforcement in your community. Invite community relations officers or your neighbor hood officer to tour your facility, Most agencies are happy to tour your church and give you a safety assessment. Do not call yourself security. Most states have laws regulating security. We used Watchmen Ministry.
Make a plan. “Most people don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.” – John L. Beckley. Develop a plan that includes security, emergency response, communications., weather, medical emergencies, unruly people and active shooters. Create a chart showing clear evacuation routes.
Find those in your congregation who are like-minded in the desire to provide a safe environment. Police officers, retired officers and former military make excellent volunteers but that is not mandatory. A willingness to serve is paramount. Set a schedule and train.
- Have men or women in the church dedicated to providing a secure and safe worship environment. This can be done very discretely. Your intent is to provide a safe environment, not a threatening presence.
- These men and women that are actively being “Watchmen” should have some form of communication (earbuds or radios) on a different frequency than the Audio/Video team.
- 15 minutes after church services begin lock the outside side and rear doors if you have them restricting access to the main entrance only.
- Close the balcony if possible and have it as over-flow only.
- Lock all doors to Children’s church. Keep a church volunteer stationed at the door to children’s church to allow parents access. Do not allow anyone to enter Children’s church without proper identification. Many churches give parents a numbered card matching the sticker for the child.
- Have one person go outside and walk the perimeter at least once during service.
- Have at least one person stay in the foyer and hallway and monitor who comes and goes.
- In the event of an unruly or disruptive person in the sanctuary, quietly and quickly remove this person from the sanctuary and attempt to calm them. There are “deescalation” methods that are effective.
- In the event of an “active shooter” communication is critical. The person who confronts this threat needs to communicate this to the other three to four. One of these needs to call 911 immediately and as calmly as possible give as much information as they can (race, sex, age, clothing description, number of shooters, etc.). If possible lock all doors to the sanctuary and notify the pastor. The reaction for an active shooter is “avoid, deny, defend.” (avoid the shooter, deny access to the sanctuary and defend as last resort.) If possible eliminate the threat, but don’t become a target.
- In the event of a medical emergency, there are medical professionals in the church trained to provide care. We should contact 911 with pertinent information and provide support (clear aisles, help keep on-lookers back, etc.)
- In the event of a family violence confrontation quietly remove the aggressor and attempt to calm them again using deescalation techniques. If an actual assault has occurred call 911 and hold the suspect until police arrive.
- In the event the church needs to be evacuated (fire, explosion, etc.), have one of the “watchmen” notify the pastor immediately and the others assist the crowd in safely exiting the church.
There is no way to prepare for every situation possible, but hopefully these guidelines will assist in limiting injuries or deaths in an emergency. In the end, pray and believe for God’s divine protection, but remain vigilant.
Doing nothing could be catastrophic. Most people think that something like Sutherland springs will never happen to them. The people of Sutherland Springs probably thought the same thing. There are resources available. Take advantage of them.
The US Department of Homeland Security has some very good information available on their website regarding security for public place and places of worship.
- DHS Active Shooter Preparedness https://dhs.gov/active-shooter…
- “If you see something, say something” campaign. https://dhs.gov/see-spmething-…
- Resources to protect your house of worship https://fema.gov/faith-resourc…
Use whatever tools you need to make your place of worship a safe environment. The time to act is now.