Plan for Safety
In the Bible
But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands (Isaiah 32:8).
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3).
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty (Proverbs 21:5).
In the News
Dewey, Oklahoma, March 2019 – Following years of high-profile news accounts of shootings in places of worship, churches in this small town near Tulsa, OK, talk about how they can plan for safety and security. The owner of a security provider stressed the importance of churches writing down plans.
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, November 2017 – Matt Rinaldi, a state legislator who supported the change in Texas law to allow armed volunteer safety team members in churches, said that one goal was for churches to have “coordinated plans” for protecting congregations.
Dallas, Texas, January 2019 – A retired police officer from Dallas says that churches wanting to improve safety need a “comprehensive and customized plan.” He also went on to say that severe weather is more likely than an active shooter to impact a church .
Denver, Colorado, May 24, 2017 – In the decade since the YWAM-New Life shootings, places of worship – churches, synagogues, and mosques – were developing security plans. The shooter in the Arvada and Colorado Springs attacks in 2007 was stopped by a Safety Team member at New Life Church, saving many lives.
Some of the safety leaders said their plans for certain situations were secret, apparently so would-be attackers would not know how to bypass them.
“It’s in the Plans”
Scenario: During the annual business meeting, a church member asks if the church leaders know what to do in a certain situation. The board member at the podium answers, “Yes, we do. It’s in the plans.”
The book of Proverbs mentions plans several times. The importance of careful planning is emphasized in Prov. 21:5. Working carefully and paying attention to detail pays off in success, while (as the saying goes) “Haste makes waste.” Also, seek counsel in planning (15:22) and seek the Lord’s guidance (16:3).
"It's in the Plans"
Scenario: During the annual business meeting, a church member asks if the church leaders know what to do in a certain situation. The board member at the podium answers, "Yes, we do. It's in the plans."
The book of Proverbs mentions plans several times. The importance of careful planning is emphasized in Prov. 21:5. Working carefully and paying attention to detail pays off in success, while (as the saying goes) "Haste makes waste." Also, seek counsel in planning (15:22) and seek the Lord's guidance (16:3).
The article "Sanctuary" covered the many kinds of threats churches face and the need of having the means to mitigate those threats. This is the role of a Church Safety Ministry.
A ministry like this does not just happen. Someone has to have some kind of idea what it will be and how it will work. It requires coordination and agreement on how things are done, even if it is just two persons. Even just one person should know what to do in a situation. This means planning. Plans were in each of the news stories above. In the first story, the security expert said plans should be written down.
Those of us who have worked in fabrication, assembly, and construction know the importance of a detailed drawing of what we are making. It is called a "blueprint."
The blueprint first shows the overall outline of the item. More intricate items have additional drawings with details of sections and/or components of the larger item. For instance, the blueprint for a 16'W x 35'L x 14'H air handling unit can have about a dozen pages, each one a detailed drawing.
Why a Blueprint?
There are a number of reasons we need a detailed blueprint of a Church Security Ministry, even if is small.
- The first is effectiveness. Safety Team members need to know what to do in different situations and to know who leads.
- The second is accountability. The Safety Ministry is accountable to the congregation and its leadership. The ministry first has to be approved by the congregation, then it needs their support,
- Another reason is legal liability. In Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, the apostles urge respect of authorities and obedience of laws (as long as it isn't disobedience of God's law). We want our Safety Ministry to operate within federal, state, and local laws. We certainly do not want to face criminal charges. Therefore, we plan to be legal.
- Then there is the issue of civil liability. People can and do sue for several reasons, even more so now in this litigious - "sue-happy" - society. The blueprint for the ministry should help us avoid giving them a reason to sue.
- Finally, we want to help, not hinder, the church's testimony in the community. How we conduct our business affects our testimony to a watching world. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:40, "But all things should be done decently and in order."
What's in the Blueprint?
At the top of a product blueprint is the name of the item, the name of the project, and the names of the engineer(s) or engineering firm, producing company, and customer. Following this are descriptions, drawings, lists of components and parts, specifications, and any other relevant details.
This is a loose analogy for the blueprint of a Church Safety Ministry. The description below is geared for proposing the ministry. It can be refined by the Safety Committee during and after implementation as they formulate policies. For now it needs to be more concise and easier to understand and explain.
The blueprint for a Church Safety Ministry begins with the name of the church and the name of the ministry (it does not have to say "safety" or "security" but should indicate its mission role). This is more important than some may think. The name of the ministry can influence the level of acceptance by the leaders, the congregation, and even the district or denomination. Since we are proposing this ministry to the church, the name should aid in its approval.
Objective - Mission
Next is the statement of purpose for the ministry. One sample mission statement includes "promoting the safety and well-being of the members and guests of the ____ Church." Basically it means "protecting the flock."
Next, briefly describe the organization of the Church Safety Ministry. Keep it as flat as practical with short lines of command and responsibility (this is not a major federal agency). Have only three levels: Safety Committee, Safety Director, and Safety Team.
This is the governing body of the Church Safety Ministry. Members should include the Safety Director, one or more of the pastors, and leaders of other ministries in the congregation. They formulate policies, providing input from different ministry perspectives.
The Safety Director makes procedures for carrying out the Safety Ministry's policies. He recruits and trains members of the Safety Team, schedules their turns, manages the ministry budget, and directs their activities.
This is the face of the Safety Ministry. They are there to help members and guests, respond to emergencies, and make safety inspections, etc.
Handling Initial Safety Concerns
A church does not always go full-bore into establishing a safety ministry. Most of the time one or two safety concerns are the reason a team is set up. It could be fire safety: conducting a fire drill and fireproofing the church. It could be access control following a burglary. Perhaps a heart attack or serious injury has alerted the congregation to the need for a medical response team. A sexual abuse incident may create a call for better child protection. Whatever it is, focus the initial blueprint on meeting felt need(s). Other safety concerns can be considered once the Safety Ministry is in place.
Propose and outline a few of the policies. These should include team member qualifications and basic policies for the initial safety concerns.
Drawing the Blueprint
Begin with seeking God's guidance through Bible study and prayer. Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." This passage goes on the say, "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (v. 9). Our heart is for the safety and wellbeing of God's people. He may lead you to include less, leaving more for later. On the other hand, He may lead you to propose more. God knows the needs and the mind of the congregation better than we do, and he also knows what lies ahead.
Bring together a few like-minded individuals to plan for the Church Safety Ministry and draw up the blueprint. People with backgrounds in law enforcement, the military, security, and emergency services are usually the first participants. These persons will most likely be the core members of the ministry. Include others in the church who agree to participate in the planning. Their input will give them a stake in the project and generate more support.
Now go ahead with naming the ministry and the team (this should be a matter of prayer). Then fill in the blanks of organization and the initial safety focus. Consider the traditions and views of your denomination or fellowship group, as well as the viewpoint and temperament of the congregation and the community. Also factor in-laws. Seek advice from your insurance company, local law enforcement, and fire departments.
Once the safety ministry blueprint is drawn up, it can be presented to the church
The purpose of the "Church Safety Ministry Proposal" is to get the team approved and started. With this in mind, keep it simple. Don't propose too much. First of all, you want to have the support of the congregation. Second, get the team working successfully, then see what else can be done.
There Is More
Other articles in this series are "Sanctuary" (Making the Church a Safe Place), "Presentation" (Propose and Persuade), and "Implementation" (Setting Up a Safety Ministry).
- Kris Moloney, "Safety Ministry Proposal and Starter Kit," Sheepdog Church Security [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/safety-ministry-proposal-and-starter-kit].
- Maureen Wurtz, "Small churches discussing safety options after church shootings," 8abcTulsa, March 25, 2019 [https://ktul.com/news/investigations/small-churches-discussing-safety-options-after-church-shootings].
- James Barragán and Charles Scudder, "After Sutherland Springs, here's how your small church can keep you safe," The Dallas Morning News, November 2017 [https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2017/11/06/small-churches-beef-security-sutherland-springsshooting-thanks-new-texas-law].
- Bill Bumpas, "Security expert: Churches need well-rounded safety plan," OneNewsNow, January 15, 2019 [https://onenewsnow.com/church/2019/01/15/security-expert-churches-need-well-rounded-safety-plan].
- Emma Gibson, "Churches Develop Armed Security Plans in Response to Shootings," Public News Service, May 24, 2017 [https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2017-05-24/community-issues-and-volunteering/churches-develop-armed-security-plans-in-response-to-shootings/a57804-1].