It IS a Risky World
You may have seen this statement several times: It’s a risky world.
Is it true? Some persons may deny it outright. Some may say it’s an exaggeration. But most of us know or have the feeling that it is true, that the world has its dangers.
The common caricature for those who deny the reality of danger is an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand – they’re just refusing to see what’s really there.
In Proverbs, Solomon portrays the person recognizing danger and preparing for it as “prudent” (wise, cautious). In fact, the very same verse in chapter 22 is repeated five chapters later, stressing its importance. Those who ignore danger are “simple” (naïve). Since there are risks – it’s a risky world, indeed – it is wise to acknowledge risks, identify risks, and plan and prepare to prevent them or deal with them. One thing we have to admit – whether or not we like it – is It CAN happen here.
Biblical writers spoke of dangers, peril, and risk. For instance, Paul wrote that Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila “risked their necks for my life” (Rom. 16:3-4). He asked the Corinthians, “Why are we in danger every hour?” (1 Cor. 15:30). And he listed many of the hardships and dangers he had already faced: beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, adrift at sea, crossing rivers, robbers, plots against his life, dangers of the city, of the wilderness, of the sea, and betrayal by close friends (2 Corinthians 11:26).
Risks we face should not be a surprise. First, we face the same risks as those around us. Jesus said that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Later he told his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
The Sheepdog View
In “Turnkey Church Safety Team Proposal Kit v3”, a Training Bundle by Sheepdog Church Security (SDCS), Kris Moloney, the founder, begins with two “risky” questions: “What risks does your household face?” and “How do you address those risks?” After stating, “Risk exists at home AND at church,” he goes on to ask, “What are the risks?”
Asking and answering these questions is part of Risk Assessment. The Safety Ministry protects the flock through Risk Management. And when risks are prevented or reduced, insurance companies call it Risk Abatement. When considering a likely risk, we must ask, “Are we ready for this?”
A Shared View
Kris is not alone in holding that churches face risks. Others, such as insurance companies, technological support centers, denominational agencies, and security consultants share that view: It’s a risky world not only for the world itself, but also for the church.
In his book, 6 Foundational Steps to Starting a Security Ministry, Paul Benne begins with recognizing risks. The Amazon description of the book says, “As the author clearly states in Step #1: Recognizing the Need, many churches still do not take the threat seriously, thinking that criminal activity or physical assaults simply can’t (and won’t) happen there”.
Writing for The Church Network (formerly National Association of Church Administrators), Matthew Gilstrap writes, “Preparation is the key to significantly reducing the chance that events such as these [shootings, assaults, domestic disturbances, and child custody battles] will occur in your church.” He attributes these dangers to Satan’s work in the world. He also believes that these are being used against the church: “Prepare for and frustrate the enemy’s plan to disrupt the work that God has called you to do.”
In “Starting a Safety Ministry”, GuideOne Insurance states, “The Starting a Safety Ministry section provides a beginning point for church safety and risk management at your church. Starting with motivating factors for church safety and risk management, this section provides a simple, values-based approach to viewing safety as ministry and undertaking basic steps to get your church on the road to becoming a safer place.” [italcs mine]
For Amy Scott-Lundy, the motivation for writing about establishing a church safety committee on the website of ACS Technologies (consultants for church computer systems) was personal experience: “Living in Charleston, I’ve witnessed the Emanuel AME Church tragedy’s local impact”. This tragedy is a well-known example of a risk not foreseen, not prepared for, and not recognized until too late.
And Brotherhood Mutual, a church insurance company, says in “Put Your Team to Work”, “As the issues that plague the world make their way into churches, more and more ministries are forming safety and security teams to help protect their people, property, and ministries.” This page has a video by Bob Johnson, a church safety consultant in Phoenix, AZ. It is 68 minutes long, but worth watching.
What are the Risks?
In the “Turnkey Church Safety Team Proposal Kit”, Kris Moloney lists three categories of risks: Natural Disasters, Technological Disasters, and Human-Caused Disasters. Each of these has several types:
- Traffic accidents
- Power failures
- Hazardous materials spills
- Computer failures
- Crimes Against Property
- Crimes Against Persons
- Crimes Against Society
- For Human-Caused Disasters, each type has sub-types:
- Crimes Against Property
- Crimes Against Persons
- Crimes Against Society
- Weapons law violation
- Pornography/Obscene material
- Identification of the risk,
- Planning to deal with the risk,
- Recognition of the risk, and
- Diligence in preventing or countering the risk.
As is noted in the Church Security Article “For Them, No Place Is Sacred: Armed Robbery in Places of Worship”, churches used to be off-limits for most criminals, but that is no longer the case. Crimes against and within churches have been increasing in recent years, including violence. The “Turnkey Church Safety Team Proposal Kit” has a chart, based on data collected by church security researcher Carl Chinn, numbering homicides in religious organizations, including churches:
The chart shows a sharp overall increase of killings in churches and other religious organizations beginning in 2005. Nine of those in 2015, the year with the highest number, were in the Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC, on June 17. Chinn predicts that the figure for 2017 will be higher.
Many times higher than homicides and other acts of violence is the incidence of embezzlement and fraud in churches. It is estimated by some that “‘Christians’ stole $39 billion in church fraud in '14”. This estimate is based on the reported cases of embezzlement and fraud, and taking into account the estimate that about 80% of cases are not reported. So theft within the church is a very likely risk deserving the attention of the church’s leadership and the Safety Committee.
To these we may add risks of accidental injuries and death, as well as non-injury medical emergencies. The “Safety” side of “Safety & Security” is really an issue of responsibility on the part of both the church as a whole and its individual members. Taking these kinds of risks seriously leads to preventing the preventable and preparing to treat the inevitable, a key role for the Church Safety Ministry.
It is in this area that starting a Safety Ministry is financially responsible. Eliminating safety hazards and being ready for fires and severe weather is liability abatement. It reduces the likelihood that the church will be sued, and as a result may keep insurance premiums down.
Risk assessment (being aware of and identifying risks the church faces and their likelihood) makes us aware of the need for meeting them (risk management) in an organized manner. It motivates us in setting up a security ministry in the congregation, and educating parishioners on these risks increases support for the ministry.
Having an effective Safety Ministry in place benefits the flock by providing for their well-being through risk abatement. It also benefits the congregational organization financially by maintaining and protecting the property while reducing liability (liability abatement) and reining in insurance costs. It will also benefit the church’s witness in the community by showing responsibility and building relationships with community leaders and emergency responders.
Paul Benne, 6 Foundational Steps to Starting a Security Ministry (Published December 19th 2013 by Paul F. Benne), as listed on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Foundational-Steps-Starting-Security-Ministry-ebook/dp/B00H7IGQSS
Matthew Gilstrap, “How to Start a Security Team at Your Church” (no date) The Church Network, http://www.nacba.net/resource_national_day/LA_25_3_41_How%20to%20Start%20a%20Security%20Team%20at%20Your%20Church.pdf
Center for Risk Management, “Starting a Safety Ministry” (no date), GuideOne Insurance, https://www.safechurch.com/safeministry/Pages/default.aspx?cat=Starting+a+Safety+Ministry
Amy Scott-Lundy, “The Dream Team: Establishing a Church Safety Committee” (March 12, 2016), ACS Technologies, http://www.acstechnologies.com/blog/ministry/dream-team-establishing-church-safety-committee
“Put Your Team To Work” (no date), Brotherhood Mutual, https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/webinars-on-demand/church-safety-security-put-your-team-to-work1/
Carl Chinn, “Ministry Violence Statistics” (Updated 7/19/17), Security!? In a church?, http://www.carlchinn.com/deadly-force-statistics.html
“Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church” (last update, July3, 2017), Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_African_Methodist_Episcopal_Church#Shooting
Sharefaith Team, “18 Shocking Facts About Church Embezzlement” (September 30, 2015), ShareFaith, http://www.sharefaith.com/blog/2015/09/18-church-embezzlement/
Sheepdog Church Security, http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/index.html
* Church Security Guide, http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-guide.html
- “Safety Ministry Launch” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/ministry-launch.html
- “How to Conduct a Security Assessment” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-assessment.html
- “Fire Safety and Evacuations” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/fire-safety-and-evacuations.html
- “Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/child-and-vulnerable-adults.html
- “Severe Weather Preparedness” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/severe-weather-preparedness.html
* Church Security Articles, http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles.html
- “It CAN Happen Here” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/it-can-happen-here
- “Are you ready for this?” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/are-you-ready-for-this
- “Whole Lotta Shakin Going On” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/whole-lotta-shakin-going-on
- “For Them, No Place Is Sacred: Armed Robbery in Places of Worship” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/-for-them-no-place-is-sacred-armed-robbery-in-places-of-worship
- “Damage Control: Preventing and Responding to Vandalism” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/damage-control-preventing-and-responding-to-vandalism
- “Using a Church Security Assessment in Protecting Churches from Burglary” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/using-a-church-security-assessment-in-protecting-churches-from-burglary
- “Embezzlement in the Church” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/embezzlement-in-the-church
- “The Great Offence: Child Abuse and Molestation” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/-the-great-offence-child-abuse-and-molestation
- “Child Kidnapped from Church: Preventing and Responding to Child Abduction at the Church” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/-child-kidnapped-from-church-preventing-and-responding-to-child-abduction-at-the-church
- “Treating Injuries: Using First Aid as a Responder” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/treating-injuries
- Caring for Sudden Illness: Responding to Non-injury Medical Emergencies” http://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/caring-for-sudden-illness
* SDCS Store, Training Bundles, https://www.sheepdogchurchsecurity.com/shop/bundles/
- “Turnkey Church Safety Team Proposal Kit” https://www.sheepdogchurchsecurity.com/shop/bundles/proposal_kit.html
* The Church Guardian (monthly newsletter), https://app.convertkit.com/landing_pages/119413?v=6