Showing Your Church Why It Needs a Safety Ministry
Proposing and Starting a Church Safety Ministry
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it (Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12).
Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do ... (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Does your church have a safety or security ministry (whatever name it goes by)? If not, it has a lot of company. A few years ago, over 75% of churches did not have plans to meet emergencies or provide security. During the past couple of years that has been changing, thanks to widespread and intensive coverage of mass shootings and other shocking crimes in churches and other places of worship. Yet most churches are still without plans to protect the congregation from crime, severe weather, and other risks.
A Risky World
This world has been a risky place ever since the first couple risked eating the forbidden fruit. Whether or not we are constantly aware of them, there are hazards around us in the home, outside, at school or work, in our recreational activities, etc. - wherever we are - even where we worship.
Facing the Risks
Some people try to pretend that all is well, that there is no risk, figuratively hiding their heads in the sand. But that is not a reasonable response. The saying, "What you don't know won't hurt you," is simply not true. What you don't know can hurt you, but you may be able to protect yourself if you know it. The Bible verses above speak of "knowing the times" and "hiding" from danger.
Knowing the Risks
"Knowing the times" includes knowing the risks. You already know some of the risks you face now or are likely to face. For example, the risk of being hit by a vehicle when crossing the street or a parking lot, the risk of falling when going up stairs or climbing a ladder, and the risk of getting burned when taking a dish out of a hot oven. Besides risks we already know about, there may be others. Therefore, it is wise to examine our situation to identify risks and evaluate them for (1) likelihood and (2) potential severity.
Preparing for Risks
Hiding from danger includes preparing for risks. We prepare for risks in two ways. One way this is done today is through insurance policies. We get automobile insurance because of the risks of driving. We get medical insurance because of the risks of injury and disease. Homeowner's insurance covers the risks of fire, injury to a visitor, and (with some exemptions) storm damage. Similar policies are taken out by businesses and organizations (such as churches).
Insurance companies don't like paying out claims for damage and injuries which could have been prevented. They require business clients to practice risk abatement - reducing or eliminating certain risks. This can be by maintenance to keep facilities safe. It can be certain business practices to guard against robbery, burglary, and embezzlement. They may offer to lower storm damage premiums for an organization or business which makes its buildings more weather worthy.
What Risks Does the Church Face?
The safety and security risks faced by a church come in three categories: natural disasters, technological disasters, and criminal activity .
The risk of certain natural disasters varies by location. The most common are severe weather, fires, earthquakes, landslides, and disease epidemics. Types of severe weather are determined by the geographical region - blizzards are more likely in the north and on the Great Plains; tornadoes across the middle of the country, hurricanes in the Southeast, and nor'easters from New England through the Mid-Atlantic states. The risk of floods and landslides depends on local terrain. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are more likely on the Pacific Coast and in Hawaii. Disease epidemics and pandemics mostly depend on population factors. Add individual injuries and medical events to the above list.
There are many potential technological disasters. Most of these are in the categories of traffic accidents, explosions, power failures, computer failures (such as viruses and equipment breakdown), and hazardous materials (from leaks and spills). This could also include structure failure.
Criminal activity is a symptom of our fallen human nature. The specific kinds and methods are in large part socially determined, but the categories have been around since the Fall: vandalism and arson, theft, hate crimes, physical violence, and sexual abuse and assault. This is the security side of safety & security.
Criminal activity is also the kind of risk least thought of in relation to churches. It is often dismissed with, "That won't happen here, in God's house." Really? How about sexual harassment by Eli's sons at the Tabernacle in Shiloh (1 Sam. 2:22)? How about the murder of Zechariah in the Temple (2 Chron. 24:20-22)? Other crimes not explicitly described, such as theft and fraud, also took place in God's House.
Every week, some criminal activity in or related to churches makes the news. A commonly reported offense is sexual harassment and abuse. Not as frequently reported, but more common than we want to think about, is embezzlement. A study conducted by LifeWay Research in 2016 showed that known instances of embezzlement have occurred in about 9% of churches . If we account for undiscovered instances, this could easily surpass 10%.
Discerning Risks for the Church
For a church to establish a safety ministry, they need to see the need. This means we must show them the risks. To do this we need to discern what risks that congregation faces. One tool for this is a Church Security Assessment (CSA) . This is the first step of putting a Safety Ministry to work. It can also be a tool for demonstrating the need for a Safety Committee and Team. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, security assessments should include identifying threats, developing goals and objectives, developing courses of action, planning, implementation, and review .
Risk Discernment as Part of a Safety Ministry Proposal
Proposing a safety ministry to a church should not be a solo effort, but the product of a team put together to prepare and make the proposal. It is this team which conducts a security assessment. After identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing the risks, they present their proposal. This takes into consideration the traditions, viewpoint, and temperament of the congregation, helping them to see the need to organize for safety.
Sheepdog Church Security, Training Bundles, "Turnkey Church Safety Ministry Proposal Kit v3" [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/safety-ministry-proposal-and-starter-kit].
- Sheepdog Church Security, Church Security Guide, "Turnkey Church Safety Ministry Launch" [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/ministry-launch/].
- B. Smietana, "LifeWay Research: 1 in 10 Churches Has Had Funds Stolen", LifeWay Research, August 03, 2017 (Time of survey: Aug-Sep 2016) [http://lifewayresearch.com/2017/08/03/1-in-10-churches-have-had-funds-stolen/].
- Sheepdog Church Security, Church Security Guide, "Church Security Assessment" [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-assessment].
- FEMA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "Guide for Developing HighQuality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship", June 2013 [https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Developing_EOPs_for_Houses_of_Worship_FINAL.PDF].