On Patrol

Church Security on the Move

Security guard giving directions But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony. ~ Numbers 1:53 (ESV)


Talk about security for a place of worship! Levites other than priests were to serve as security guards for the Tabernacle in the wilderness. This was not a security team of 20, 50 or 100 members. It was literally thousands – more like about 8,600. Most churches today do not even have a membership that size, let alone a security detail. But then, our local church is not the sole worship center for a whole nation.

360 degree diagram

Hundreds of years later, Levites guarded the Temple. It was these guards that Jehoiada used for security when he crowned the boy prince Joash as King of Judah in the court of the Temple. So, by biblical example, armed security was provided for the place where the Lord God was worshiped.

Thousands of years ago, in ancient times, guards did not always stand in one place. Often they moved from place to place, walking along the top of the wall, walking through the streets, traveling from the city to and through surrounding villages.

From then until now, it has been understood a place is more secure when the soldiers or guards are on patrol. The reason is obvious. While some stay on station to guard a gate, door, or other vulnerable spot, the moving patrol can cover places not seen otherwise. Would-be intruders can figure out where they can’t be seen by the stationary sentry, but they can be surprised by a patrol. Also, while guards are patrolling, they might discover evidence of an attempted or planned intrusion.

How does this work out today at churches, Christian schools, and parachurch ministries? There has always been the potential of crime at and against houses of worship and institutions affiliated with them. But in recent years, they have become more frequent, especially as society has become not only more secular, but also more hostile to people of faith. Statistics illustrate this. Burglaries of churches have become commonplace. So has desecration. And violence is more of a threat. A few examples:

2016 – A Baptist church in Gainesville, GA is burglarized.

2005 – One shooter kills people at a YWAM center and at New Life Church in Colorado.

2015 – Nine people are shot and killed following a mid-week study at a church in South Carolina.

Also, in New England a burglar is caught in the act by someone checking out suspicious activity in a church.

Add to this numerous cases of vandalism.

The church in Georgia has security cameras, and took pictures of the thief. Someone was keeping an eye on the church in New England. There was no security for the class at the church in South Carolina. But there was a trained security team in place at the New Life Church, and the shooter was stopped before any more people were killed. Stories that did not get into the news include many where church security actually prevented a crime from taking place.

Effectiveness of a church’s security team depends on several factors. A key factor is training, such as the Safety Team Training through the Church Security Academy of Sheepdog Church Security. And this training covers procedures for patrols.

Patrolling the premises of a church may actually deter burglars, vandals, arsonists and other intruders from their intended crimes. This is especially true if the times and routes are randomized so they are not predictable, and patrolling both inside and outside. This includes doubling back occasionally, catching the perpetrator unawares.

Moving about is also important during services, classes and events. The security personnel at New Life Church were moving, not just standing at a few points. They were alert for any sign of trouble, and they kept in touch with each other.

Patrolling in the local church actually begins with checking in when you show up for duty. The security lead for that time needs to know who is there and where they are. So check in. Be dressed for the job. Put on your badge or security team name tag. Pick up your two-way radio and other gear. Know where you are assigned for this time, and what areas you will patrol.

Let key people in the church know you are there. In a large church, you may have to identify yourself: “I’m Joe Smith, member of the Safety/Security Team. I am on duty for this service [or event]. You may contact me if you need help or have any questions.”

When patrolling your church, walk around watchfully, aware of any activity. On your way, check out any spaces along the route: closets, rooms, alcoves, entry/exit doors, stairwells, etc. Outside, pay attention to any potential hiding places (such as shrubbery), all doors and windows, parking lots, playgrounds, gates, out buildings, etc.

Be aware of what’s around you at all times. This means 360 ° horizontally and 180 ° vertically. Look up, down and all around. Be alert to anything that looks unusual. Listen for sounds. Check out anything suspicious, such as an unlocked door, a package left hidden or in an out-of-the-way place, etc.

If you encounter someone, greet them in a friendly yet cautious manner. Be ready to call for help or law enforcement if their behavior or manner is suspicious.

Patrolling also helps spot safety problems and fire hazards. We usually do not hear of the fires that did not happen or the people who were not injured, and that’s a good thing.

Being on the move, on patrol, helps your safety/security team to cover more area. It also keep you alert, engaged in the business of protecting. During a service or event, you will meet more persons this way. One of these people may take the opportunity to tell you something they have seen or heard that you need to know.

There is more detail on patrolling and other security measures in the Church Safety / Security Team Academy v.2 training bundle available at Sheepdog Church Security.