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The Community Climate - Part 2

Evaluating the Opportunities and Risks of Your Community

From the Bible

In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare:
but the righteous doth sing and rejoice (Proverbs 29:6).

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).


Once we know the social climate of our community, we can plan to protect the church and its members. Plan the 3 P's: Preparation, Policies & Procedures, and Practice.

On the Web

Various websites have advice about protecting places of worship.

Denominational Guidance

United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tennessee, March 31, 2018- United Methodist Communications produced a video featuring persons from several congregations sharing their views and concerns about church security. This was released almost a year before the November 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, and the transcript was posted four months after that tragedy In the video, "Facilities manager Joe Prin [of Boise, Idaho] advised churches to seek help from members who are firefighters, police officers, or have a military background.[2]

Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri -The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Doug Clay, conversed with AG legal counsel Dr. Richard Hammar and the President of AGFinancial Insurance Jerry Sparks about planning to protect churches from active shooters. Their concern was the "best practices" to follow in this venture. Though the article is not dated, it referred to the Sutherland Springs church shooting as "recent." At the end of the article are links to risk management resources and the Church Risk Management Guide.[3]

Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Salt Lake City, Utah - In the "Church Policies and Guidelines" of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, Section 38.1.1 includes advice for attendees to "avoid disruptions or distractions contrary to worship" and for leaders on how to handle "inappropriate behavior" and "Persons unwilling to follow these guidelines." Section concerns "Persons Who Have Been Convicted of Crimes."[4]

Seventh Day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, March 14, 2017 - In the Adventist Risk Management article "How to Prepare Your Church for an Active Shooter Situation," Anna Bartlett asks, "What would we do if a mass shooting happened at our church?" This question is extended to preparing "members, children, and visitors." The answer is outlined as -

  1. Plan
  2. Practice
  3. Prevent

Her advice for preventing is:

  1. Train Your Staff
  2. Create Barriers
  3. Prepare Your Building
  4. Hire Armed Security[5]


Pew Research Center, Washington, DC, October 26, 2015 - A study by the Pew Research Center found that half of the church fires in the 20 years before October 2015 were caused by arson.[6]

Church Executive Magazine, Phoenix, Arizona, January 2, 2015 - In a Church Executive Magazine article, Eric Spacek asks, "Is your church vulnerable to arson?" In answer, he notes that (at the time of his writing, 2015) the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) said the leading cause of fires in this country is arson. He also noted that places of worship are "easy targets," listing five reasons why:

  1. During the week buildings are unoccupied most of the time;
  2. Predictable activity schedules;
  3. Unlocked doors and/or windows;
  4. Lack of security systems;
  5. Beliefs [and practices] of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples [as well as race or ethnicity] make them targets for arson and vandalism. *A current example is the attacks on Catholic facilities by Jane's Revenge following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Spacek goes on with a lengthy list of measures to reduce the risk of arson under three sub-headings: External Security, Internal Security, and General Precautions.[7]

Burglary and Theft

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, Fort Wayne, Indiana - Insurance companies recognize that it is to their benefit as well as that of their clients' to practice risk abatement. This means doing whatever is practical to reduce the risks of whatever the client is insured against. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company (BMIC) is no exception, so it is natural that they (and other insurers of religious institutions) advise churches on how to reduce the chances of burglary and other forms of theft. BMIC advises central alarm systems (they alert a police or security firm). Also recommended are motion sensors, cameras, and secure landscaping (no hiding places). There are other key components.[8]

ConsumersAdvocate, Dorado, Puerto Rico, August 17, 2018 - ConsumersAdvocate is more geared to home security, but what they say applies to churches. In a 2018 article, writer Claudia Rodríguez says that burglar alarms reduce crime both on a property and in a neighborhood. How and why? She cites prison interviews revealing criminals' way of thinking. When they see that a property is being monitored, they often conclude it is not worth the risk and look for less risky targets elsewhere. She concludes, "To get the maximum security, you should combine a burglar alarm system with proper locks, protective windows and doors, and camera surveillance." [9]


Voss Law Firm, The Woodlands, Texas - Vandals range from pranksters to serious destroyers. Whatever the level of damage or motive, it pays to take measures to deter vandalism rather than invite it. In "Five Ways To Help Prevent Church Vandalism," Voss Law has a five-point outline of how to discourage vandals:

Violent Attacks

Smart Church Management, April 4, 2023 - "Mass Shootings - 6 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Church Safe" was written during the week of the Covenant School shooting in Nashville. In it, Patricia says, "Those who are driven by hate prey upon gatherings of people with the intent to do harm when they least suspect it." I can summarize the "6 Things" here, but will instead encourage you to read it yourself. It's not too long (only a 5-minute read). She does add at the end, "Do Not Be Led By Fear."[11]

The 3 P's

The 3 P's of planning for the church's safety and security in light of community risks are Preparation, Policies & Procedures, and Practice


This can be preparation of the facilities to protect them from local crime.

First of all, no matter where you are located, it is important to have secure doors and windows. In a high-crime area, consider wrought iron bars for ground-floor and basement windows. Consult with local building inspectors on how to make them safe for evacuation.

Shatter-proofing glass doors and large windows is another security preparation. It will then take more than a few shots to open the glass enough for an attacker to enter. This buys time for the security response.

Surveillance and warning systems are another key asset. Someone needs to be able to monitor them when no one is in the church. Thank God for smart phones.

Landscaping is an exterior preparation to (1) eliminate hiding places, (2) remove highly flammable shrubbery from next to the building, and (3) eliminate trees that can be climbed up to second-floor windows.

Finally, prepare people to protect the flock. If your church does not have a church safety team, start one. Consult the Church Security Guide article "Introduction to Church Safety and Security" and get the free download Practical Steps to Start a Safety Ministry.[12][13][14]

Policies & Procedures

Policies and procedures are like menus and recipes. Policies state what we are to do, and procedures outline how to do it. These should be tailored for the community the church is in and serves.

A secure entry policy may state that all unlocked doors are to be attended and that only one or a few outside doors will be used during services and office hours. The procedures will say which doors at which times and how they'll be attended. In certain neighborhoods, this will be more restrictive, even while being open and welcoming. We try to have a balance. A lot of this depends on the size of the church as well as its setting.

Procedures will include the frequency of patrols, how they are logged, etc., as well as how to report conditions or handle incidents.

Some procedures will cover the use of force in keeping with local and state laws. Akin to this is addressing problem behaviors using verbal de-escalation. This may be touchy in areas with gang activity and a culture of violence.


"Practice" is used in two senses here.

The first sense is putting the policies and procedures to work. This is the only way they will be effective.

The other sense is rehearsing what to do. The safety concerns for a church should be covered in training. Then Safety Team members practice different responses (medical emergency, fire, severe weather, active killer, disruptive individuals, etc.).


Knowing the social climate of our community, we can plan for the best way to keep the church safe while still ministering to the community.

Training Notes

Get your Church Safety Team trained and certified through the eight Safety Member Certification training modules.[1] There are three ways to participate:

Team Certification (church-hosted classes) is the original training format. It is ideal for the initial training of a new team. It is also an excellent way to re-certify the team every two years.

Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction) is the quickest way to train and certify a new member of an existing team. No waiting months or a year for classes to start. It can also be used for a class the member has to miss for one reason or another.

Online Events (live Zoom classes) is the newest format, and becoming more popular. The season (school year) has four repeating quarters. An enrollee can start during one quarter and finish during the next. We are currently in the 2023-24 season. Here is the schedule:





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


  1. Kris Moloney, Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Joe Iovino. (media contact), "Keeping Churches Safe and Welcoming," United Methodist Communications, Video posted November 23, 2016, transcript March 31, 2018 [].
  3. Doug Clay with Richard Hammar and Jerry Sparks, "Creating an Active Shooter Policy for Your Church," AGFinancial Insurance, undated [].
  4. Council and Staff, "Church Policies and Guidelines," Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, undated [].
  5. Anna Bartlett, "How to Prepare Your Church for an Active Shooter Situation," Adventist Risk Management, March 14, 2017 [].
  6. Aleksandra Sandstrom, "Half of all church fires in past 20 years were arsons," Pew Research Center, October 26, 2015 [].
  7. Eric Spacek, "Preventing arson: Is your church vulnerable?" Church Executive Magazine, January 2, 2015 [].
  8. Staff, "Take Steps to Protect Your Church from Crime: Reduce the threat of burglary, arson, and vandalism," Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, undated [].
  9. Claudia Rodríguez, "Burglar Alarms Have Proven To Reduce Crime (And Limit Loss)," ConsumersAdvocate, August 17, 2018 [].
  10. Staff, "Five Ways To Help Prevent Church Vandalism," Voss Law Firm, undated [].
  11. Patricia, "6 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Church Safe," Smart Church Management, April 4, 2023 [].
  12. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  13. Kris Moloney, "Introduction to Church Safety and Security," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  14. Kris Moloney, "Practical Steps to Start a Safety Ministry," Sheepdog Church Security, © Copyright 2019 [].