Once upon a time, churches were considered safe havens that were untouched by the
violence of our world. The recent mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina has again reminded us of the need to be prepared for the unthinkable. First Thessalonians 5:3 cautions us about the false thought that violence or hate will never come to our church, “When they say, ‘Peace and Security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains come on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” No one can completely protect themselves from senseless violence, but the church that seeks to be proactive with preventative care can greatly reduce their risk.
While deadly shootings in churches has increased in the last decade, there are many other types of threats that are more likely and often much more preventable. Physical or sexual abuse, theft of property, and vandalism are realities that the church cannot ignore.
Bob Perkins, a twenty-three year law enforcement veteran and disaster relief leader, identifies 10 facts every church should know:
- It can happen to your church or school.
- Crime is increasing across America.
- The church is no longer immune.
- Every church should identify their most likely risks and vulnerable points.
- Churches should develop good relationships with local law enforcement.
- Every church, regardless of size, should develop a security plan.
- Churches should conduct background checks on staff and volunteers, especially those working with children and youth.
- Churches do have increased liability when they have not conducted due diligence.
- Security plans should include written policies and procedures.
- The church must never compromise ministry with undo security measures. We must maintain an “open door” for ministry and outreach, as we seek to lessen our vulnerability. Security must always be carefully balanced with ministry,and should never interfere with our ability to reach people for Christ.
With these key facts in mind, let me share six vital areas of security for every church to consider:
- Background Checks
- Check-in System for Children
- Friendly Awareness
- Trained Safety and Security Team
- Emergency Response Kit that Includes Reflective Vests, Flashlights, Emergency Radios, Building Maps, and A Good First Aid KIt
- Facility and Ministry Risk Assessment