Black and white Sound Cloud icon Black and white YouTube icon Black and white LinkedIn icon Black and white Facebook icon

Have a Safe Holiday Season

Stay Safe this holiday season! Keep a lookout for these holiday hazards.

santa hats laying flat on a read background

Holiday Safety in the Church

Most of the Safety Member Certification training modules touch on this topic.[1]

From the Bible

These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations ... (Leviticus 23:37).


We hope that in all the celebrations and activities of the holidays, we don't neglect safety. With three major holidays in a 5-week period, there's a lot of distraction.

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the Christmas season is in full swing. In our churches, we have dinners, concerts, programs, and other get-togethers. There may be groups traveling to other churches or events. We'll have visitors. Some churches will have candlelight services for Christmas Eve and/or New Year's Eve.

Top all of this with winter weather. It may be mild, but it can also be stormy, snowy, or icy, even stretching into the South. Winter safety concerns don't end on New Year's Day but continue until spring.

Whatever the season or the weather, it is our duty as sheepdogs to make and keep the church a safe place for the flock.

In the News

Several unfortunate incidents in the news involve churches during the holiday season. Some notes refer to training modules.

- Theft:

North Tonawanda, New York, December 25-26, 2011 - Sometime after 1 pm on Christmas Day (Sunday) and 1 pm the next day, a thief or thieves broke into a church. They smashed their way into the office, and ripped the door off a closet. They took a bin with the Christmas money collected for charities. It had not yet been counted, but the loss was estimated at $25,000 with $4,000 to $3,000 of it in cash and the rest in checks.[2]

* Note: The money should have been counted before everyone left the church, and it should have been put into a safe or take to the night deposit at the bank (see "Cash Offering Security" in Safety Team Fundamentals). Additionally, alarms on doors would have alerted someone while the thieves were still there, and cameras would have shown what they were doing.

- Extreme Snowfall:

Buffalo, New York, December 22, 2022 plus a few more days - During the Blizzard of 2022, snow piled up in Buffalo, New York, the hardest-hit city of that winter storm. The pastors of a church found out that they were the only ones in their part of town with electric power after helping a few on their street get out of stuck cars and into the church. After helping a few others, they checked their supplies. There was a lot of food and other items which had been purchased for a reunion that was canceled. They posted an invitation on Facebook for those without power to come to the church for shelter. They took in 154 persons who otherwise had no place to go to keep warm, eat, and sleep.[3]

* Note: Refer to Storms and Disasters about dealing with winter weather and being ready to serve as a shelter.

- Attacks:

Cairo, Egypt, January 7, 2022 - On Orthodox Christmas (Jan. 7 on our calendar is Dec. 25 on the Julian calendar used by the Orthodox churches), the Egyptian government posted security at Coptic churches to guard against attacks by Islamist extremists, who are known to attack churches and synagogues on Christian and Jewish holy days. The President of Egypt attended the Christmas service at the main cathedral in Cairo.[4]

* Note: Anti-Christian extremists in this country are starting to threaten churches on Christian holidays. Refer to Active Shooter Response.

- Food Poisoning:

Norfolk, Virginia, December 21, 2019 - A community Christmas dinner held by a Norfolk church did not end well. Several persons became ill with what was diagnosed as food poisoning. These included many in the community who were not members of the church. After many years of holding the community dinner, this was the first incident of this kind.[5]

* Note: Always adhere to food safety practices.

- Fatal Fall:

Cincinnati, Ohio, December 17, 2008 - It was the first performance of a Christmas musical drama. An actress about 25 feet above the floor slipped out of the harness and fell. She died the next day in the hospital, and the rest of the performances were canceled. The police report said the harness failed. The coroner ruled 10 days later that part of her costume kept the clasp from locking.[6][7][8]

* Note: Equipment safety includes teaching people how to use it safely.

- Church Fire:

Gastonia, North Carolina, December 25, 2022 - Three hours after the Christmas service, a fire was reported at a church in Gastonia, NC. No one was in the building, which was a total loss. It took four hours to bring the blaze under control, and a firefighting crew stayed through the night. The cause may never be known because the damage was so extensive. Fortunately, the congregation found another location in less than a week.[9]

* Note: The timing of the fire makes me think that a heat-producing item may have been left on or not extinguished at the end of the service. See Arson and Fire Safety.

- Shooting:

Thornton, Colorado, December 25, 2022 - A married couple, both former members of the congregation, died on the parking lot of a Jehovah Witnesses Kingdom Hall in a murder-suicide. This was about 9:00 am on Sunday, December 25, a half hour before the scheduled morning service. According to witnesses, one of the two threw three pipe-bomb style incendiary devices through windows. None of them exploded, and the only damage was broken glass.[10]

* Note: Domestic discord is a leading factor for deadly-force attacks in churches. See Active Shooter Response.

Holiday Hazards

Several online sources, including insurance companies and ministry publications, have advice on keeping places of worship safe during the holiday season. This is because of known holiday hazards:

Simon Says

Simon Osamoh, founder and leader of Kingswood Security Consulting and Worship Security Academy, and editor of Security Connections (a Worship Facility newsletter) posted an article on, "Church Security at Christmas: 10 Tips for Holiday Protection." I'll just list six of the concerns and let you read the article yourself for the tips and the details:

As usual, Simon draws on his extensive law enforcement and security experience to boil the subject down to doable practical advice. As an example, here's a sentence from the article:

"Assess your current security measures and adjust them based on the expected rise in holiday attendance."

Now how many of us would have thought of that without prompting? Many, I'm sure, but some may need that nudge.[11]

For a deeper insight to Simon's thinking, listen to his interview with Kris on the Sheepdog Church Security Academy channel.[12]


Amid the activity and celebration this holiday season, enhance church safety and security.

Training Notes

Three kinds of training are available at Sheepdog Church Security:

Church Security Guide

Of the nine articles in the Church Security Guide, seven have applications for holiday safety:

These articles can be used to prepare for related training classes and to review the subjects later on.[13]

Sheepdog Church Security Academy

On this YouTube channel, Kris discusses the topics of articles (especially Lessons Learned from Deadly-Force Incidents), interviews guests, and covers special topics. Show Notes are available for articles that are covered. Audios of the videocasts are in Church Security Roll Call podcasts on SoundCloud.[14][15]

Safety Member Certification

The eight training modules in this program cover several aspects of church safety & security. There are three training formats to choose from:

Each format has its own advantages. The 2023-24 Online Events school year is in the second quarter.





Training Module


Sep 10

Nov 12

Jan 28

Mar 24

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 17

Nov 19

Feb 4

Apr 7

Active Shooter Response


Sep 24

Dec 3

Feb 11

Apr 14

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 1

Dec 10

Feb 18

Apr 21

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 8

Dec 17

Feb 25

Apr 28

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 15

Jan 7

Mar 3

May 5

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 22

Jan 14

Mar 10

May 19

Storms and Disasters


Nov 5

Jan 21

Mar 17

Jun 2

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Each Church Safety Team is encouraged to have all its members trained and certified. The certification is for two years. Why only two years? Recertification is recommended because it not only refreshes the training, but includes updates and new information. This is especially important where laws may change, such as for the use of force (module #5) and child protection (module #4), and new equipment or methods are available (module #8).[1]


  1. Kris Moloney, Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Staff Reports, "Thieves steal $20,000 in Christmas donations from church," Niagara Gazette, December 28, 2011 [] .
  3. Amir Vera and Justin Gamble, "Buffalo pastors rescued more than 100 people and housed them in their church during the historic blizzard," CNN, December 29, 2022 [] .
  4. Anon, "Egypt's Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas amid tight security," Middle East Monitor, January 7, 2022 [] .
  5. Brett Hall, "Norfolk Church promises changes after Christmas meal causes suspected food poisoning," WAVY, January 11, 2020, Updated: January 13, 2020 [] .
  6. UPI writer, "Student killed by fall during church play," UPI, December18, 2008 [] .
  7. News Staff, "UPDATE: Cincinnati police point to harness in fatal fall," Fox 19 Now, December 18, 2008, Updated December 19, 2008 [] .
  8. Associated Press, "Coroner: Clothing kept harness from locking before performer's fatal fall," Texarkana Gazette, December 27, 2008 [] .
  9. Derek Dellinger, "A Fresh Start: Gastonia church finds new digs after Christmas Day fire," Queen City News, January 31, 2023 [] .
  10. Sam Tabachnik, "3 incendiary devices recovered following murder-suicide at Jehovah's Witnesses hall in Thornton on Christmas," Denver Post, December 25, 2022, Updated December 26, 2022 [].
  11. Simon Osamoh, "Church Security at Christmas: 10 Tips for Holiday Protection," Security Connections, Worship Facility. No date listed [] .
  12. Kris Moloney with Simon Osamoh, "Special Interview with Simon," CSRC 326, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, November 11, 2021 [] .
  13. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security [] .
  14. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube [] .
  15. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud [] .