It’s Not Over When It’s Over
In the Bible
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham." (Luke 19:8-9)
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. (2 Corinthians 2:6-7)
A Real Dilemma
(Based on reported situations)
Chuck Brown, who has been diagnosed as bipolar, began attending Eastside Community Chapel. As the old song says, "When you're up you're up, and when you're down you're down," he was up, down, and all around. He would either begin talking out loud at inappropriate times and doing things on his own, or be mum and glum. One Sunday morning when he was glum, he reacted badly to Joe Smith asking him how he was. "Why do you want to know?" he retorted, and began to chew Joe out.
"Hey, Chuck! Chill out!" Joe said.
Well, that got Chuck really going. Tom Bowers of the Safety Team came over and calmed Chuck using verbal de-escalation.
While discussing the incident with Brad Barton, the Church Safety Director, Tom said, "Chuck told me he'd been asked to leave five or six other churches already. I'd hate to see that happen again. He really needs help. What can we do?"
It's Not Over When It's Over
We've stepped in and defused a potentially explosive situation using verbal de-escalation. It could be just a one-time thing for the person or persons involved, but most times another incident is possible because of any number of underlying issues. As a Church Safety Ministry, we are interested in preventing another incident or making it less likely. We also want to be prepared in case it happens again. There are a number of options, depending on the incident and the issues.
Incident Report and Evaluation
The first item of business after defusing a disruptive situation, the Incident Report, is a function of the Safety Team and the responsibility of the team member(s) involved. The Church Safety/Security Volunteer Academy says, "Any time that the security team is involved in any non-routine action, an incident report should be thoroughly completed" . Incident Report forms should be available, ready to be filled out. The Safety Director should also have a master for copying and/or a file for printing. Later action is recorded in a Follow-Up Report.
The Incident Report form has several fields. These include the date, time and place of the incident, the type of incident, persons involved, who was notified, and the Safety Team member involved.
A situation requiring verbal de-escalation should be evaluated by the Safety Director, and - if needed - the Safety Committee, the Threat Assessment Team, and the pastoral staff. The reason is that disruptive incidents may be repeat experiences if the underlying factors are continuing situations. The purpose of an evaluation is to answer these questions:
- "How well did we handle this?"
- "How could we have a better response?"
- "Can we keep this from happening again?"
- "How can we be ready for another incident?"
- "How can we help the person(s) involved?"
Evaluation of a potentially disruptive incident should be a confidential process, since this is a discussion of someone's personal life and issues.
What we do as a result of the evaluation falls into two overlapping categories: Prevention and Intervention.
If we can, we would like to make a disruptive incident a one-time event. At the least, we want to keep tensions from becoming disruptions. At best, we want underlying issues addressed.
The easiest way out may seem to be to ask the disruptive party to not come back. If this was a violent incident requiring police response and resulting in an arrest, "Do not return" would be prudent for the safety of all. If deadly threats were made and deadly force was a concern, this may call for a protective order from a court. In that case, the Safety Team should be alert for that person after he or she is freed.
If the subject is not a dangerous threat, perhaps they will submit to some restrictions and monitoring. This may be a valid option for those who have problems controlling their behavior, exhibiting symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, Tourette's Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, etc. For some people, coaching and accountability may help condition them to expressing themselves appropriately. This is normally a function of counseling staff and the pastoral team, although church members with a personal interest may become involved. Besides helping the person, this helps to prevent another incident, or at least to make it less likely.
There may be other opportunities for ministering to that person. Questions like this demand discernment and discretion.
Intervention is actively trying to help disturbed or distressed persons. Educational and healthcare professionals have developed means of intervention to help students and patients who've been disruptive. In Gal. 6:1-2, Paul urged us to "restore" those who have sinned and to "Carry each other's burdens."
If the disruptive person is stressed by circumstances, such as loss of a job, the death of a loved one, family issues, health, etc., the church may be able to help or find help for the individual. It may be a mental health issue or substance abuse. Many people, even including Christians, have a problem managing anger - Paul said, "In your anger do not sin" (Eph. 4:26a (NIV)). The subject may be referred to an anger management program.
The needed help may include temporary financial assistance, help in finding a job or housing, grief counseling, overcoming addiction, help in finding medical assistance or mental health care. Through all this is care for the soul - spiritual help, leading them to salvation, to a deeper relationship with God, to trusting Him to walk with them through the hard places in life. Some disrupters can be led through Bible study to grow in Christ and overcome daily challenges as well as sinful attitudes and habits.
Counseling, mediation, and other forms of intervention are largely out of the hands of the Church Safety Ministry, but the ministry be involved in some way. The Safety Director can keep in touch with the pastoral team, following the progress of the intervention. The Safety Ministry does have a legitimate interest in this, since it affects their job of protecting the flock. They can encourage the pastoral staff as they minister to these persons.
One way Safety Team members can be personally involved in helping distressed persons is to be kind when meeting them. Show concern for their well-being. Let them know you care. This will help them develop their confidence in you, which should make it easier if you need to step in again to defuse a developing situation. On a higher level, it develops our love for those we minister to.
There is more
This series has other articles concerning what causes disruption, how to see the need for verbal de-escalation, approaching the subject(s) and initiating de-escalation, and being in control.
- 1. Sheepdog Church Security, TrainingCourses, "Dealing with Disruptive Persons using Verbal Deescalation"
- Online Training [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/dealing-with-disruptive-persons-using-verbal-deescalation],
- Training Materials [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/dealing-with-disruptive-persons-using-verbal-deescalation-training-bundle].
- Incident reports are covered in the Sheepdog Church SecurityTrainingCourse, "Church Safety/Security Volunteer Academy" -