Introduction to Church Safety and Security
The Need for Church Safety: Nothing New
Throughout history, churches have been both places of safety and the targets of vandalism, anger, violence and even outright hatred. When the Vikings first invaded England, it was the churches and monasteries that initially attracted their rapacious interest. The Vikings put to the sword, stole church treasures and burned buildings to the ground.
Violence against the Church is on the rise. Just look at newspaper headlines from the last decade:
“Church Shootings Happen Often Enough That There’s a National Church Shooting Database” The Pacific Standard, June 19, 2015
“Churches Boost Security as Violent Incidents Grow” USA Today, July 7, 2013
“Violent History: Attacks on Black Churches” The New York Times, June 18, 2015
“Violent Incidents at Churches Are Rising” Christianity Today, June 7, 2016
Threats to churches are increasing, so it’s important to put church safety and security at the forefront and make sure that we are making our houses of worship safe for all. There have been well over 1,500 deadly force incidents at houses of worship across the US since 1999 and the time of this writing. Nearly 800 people died during these incidents with many others wounded.
Types of Threats
When we talk about church safety and security, we’re talking about two types of threats: human and natural. Outsiders who put the Church at risk are more easily recognized and stopped.
But threats are not just from outside the church. Wolves lurk within the congregation. They masquerade as sheep and seek to devour and destroy. As sheepdogs, it is our responsibility to be vigilant, to stand guard, to identify wolves both without and within and safeguard the sheep so that they may serve God.
This is where a Church Safety Team comes in.
What is a Church Safety Team?
A Church Safety Team is a group of church members called to minister to the flock. They are a vital asset. Members of this ministry are members and regular attendees of the church, are able to perform the functions of the team without physical limitation and be people of good character, honesty and integrity. They improve the church daily by streamlining processes, improving visitor experiences and increasing overall safety for everyone on the property.
The name Church Safety Team is two teams under one umbrella: a safety team and a medical team.
Ideally, fill these teams with people with experience in related fields. Look for congregants with backgrounds in law enforcement, armed forces experience or professional security. Their training and experience in access control, patrol techniques, emergency response and perimeter control is invaluable. The medical team, on the other hand, is best served by those with medical, first aid and similar training. Team members will be trained in CPR, use of automated external defibrillators and basic first aid.
Volunteers are not required to have these professional backgrounds but those with it are often given preference when seating the team.
Why Do We Need Church Safety Teams?
Carl Chin, a security consultant and Christian, has tracked church-related violence across the US in great detail. His work is more comprehensive than the oft-cited National Church Shooting Database, which only contains information from 1980-2005. Chinn has found:
From 2000-2017 there were more than 1500 "deadly force incidents" within churches across the US.
Chinn looked deeply at the data to figure out the causes. These triggers show the need for greater safety mechanisms in churches as the root of many of the problems are personal and stem from congregants.
- Over 200 were domestic violence situations.
- Over 150 were personal conflicts between two or more people not from the same household.
- 400 of these incidents were related to area crime: robbery, drugs, gangs.
- 100 stemmed from bias against a specific religion.
- 150 were related to mental illness.
- 200 were labeled as random.
No community is free from domestic violence, drugs, or mental illness. A safety team is the first line of defense of mitigating these risks.
Learn more about this topic and several others with our Certified Safety Member Course. It is available as an online video-based training that can be taken anytime and from anywhere using your own computer. Each section ends with a short test to demonstrate an understanding of the material. Once you've completed all 7 sections, you will be certified for 2-years with Sheepdog Church Security.
Team Structure and Organization
The Church Safety Team is part of a larger Church Safety Ministry consisting of at least three entities: The Church Safety Committee, Director of Church Safety and Security and The Church Safety Team. Each has important roles and responsibilities.
The Church Safety Committee members
- administer develop policies and procedures
- assess church activities for risks
- negotiate and have oversight on the part of the ministry budget used for capital improvements, training and equipment
- facilitate training for staff and volunteers
- act as liaison between church leadership and the church safety director
The Director of Safety
- reports to the CHurch Safety Committee
- develops emergency response plans
- ensures Church Safety Team members' compliance with policies
- manages the budget, including equipment purchases
- leads the Church Safety Team (including recruitment, training and scheduling)
- oversees drills
The Church Safety Team members
- report to the Director of Safety
- conduct safety and security inspections
- participate in all training
- report and correct procedural violations by other members
- conduct patrols
- respond to emergency situations
- monitor church facilities
- maintain equipment
This structure is tried and true and allows for a much easier time developing a Church Safety Team. There is no reason to reinvent the rule.
In our next post, we’ll go into exactly how to build these teams to better protect His flock from human and natural risks as well as handle any medical incidents that arise during worship or events. If you have questions about instituting a Church Safety Team, contact us today.