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Securing the Living Church

June 12, 2023 jill Blog
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By Kelly Clemens

I grew up in a one-story ranch, just the four of us, one bathroom and a tomcat. The sun would shine in through my window, and I would cautiously slide my foot out from under the warmth of my covers to test the temperature of the hardwood floor. Nope, too cold. However, today is Sunday, and it was time to get ready for church. Out of bed I jump and off to my closet for my Sunday best: pretty dresses with delicate rosebuds and ruffles, white tights, and those black patent leather shoes with the tiny buckles. I’d jump up on my parents’ bed and wait as my dad tied his tie and then struggled mercilessly with the gold buckle on my shoes. We’d pile into the Buick, Bibles in hand, and drive off towards the steeple. Sunday School, then church, paper bulletins, hymnals and organ music, passing of the offering plate, and a final benediction before going out into the world.

Today’s church looks a lot different. Now, I wear my “good jeans,” a faith t-shirt, and read today’s Bible verse off my phone. I go to the website to sign the register, sing the praise choruses, and look out at the vast auditorium with comfy seats and wonder where all the pews went. The truth of the message is the same, but the benediction seems more specific to our current circumstances, and security staff now walk late attendees to their seats.

Deacons and elders hold meetings to discuss access control, in-ear monitors, and whether or not we should conceal and carry. Security teams are now part of volunteer sign-up, along with coffee service, and we walk a fine line between welcoming new members and securing the brethren.

Church security has changed a lot in the past two decades, but some of the best practices that we adapted 20 years ago are good to remember today as new policies are being developed.

One of the best reasons to get back to the basics of security is to give us a litmus test for what we are currently doing to see if it is still effective. Go to the three Rs: reassess, reevaluate, and refresh.


When you first started your security committee, what were some of your main assessments from your first review? As security solution providers, our first question to churches and schools is, “Do you know who has keys/access to the building?” Ask yourself this question and then see if the solutions you have put into place help to achieve this goal.

Access control solutions are effective in tracking access, automatically locking doors, and securing outside doors, but if too many fobs have been issued, and not returned, it is time to reassess. Taking control of your key/fob distribution is a simple step to safekeeping access to your building.

Take a look at your original goals set from your assessment and make sure that steps have been taken to effectively achieve those goals.


Did your church install cameras? Do you have a training program for your security? Are you running background checks on staff and volunteers? If so, how are these programs working for your current situation?

As churches grow, you may have added a new wing or acquired a new building. If your facility looks different than it did 20 years ago, reevaluate your systems and make sure that they are growing with your environment. Many security systems will integrate across multiple platforms to give your organization a better overall view of your facility.

Make sure that you are current with upgrades and evaluate systems for age and replacement. If you haven’t replaced the server for your access control or key management system in 20 years, maybe it is time to upgrade. Decide what you need to budget for and what can be achieved with sweat equity.


We repaint the common areas of the church, change out the landscape, and take down the wallpaper boarder in the women’s restroom, but when was the last time you refreshed your security policies? Or, has someone joined your church that has a background in security that would be a good addition to your committee?

A new perspective on established policies can always help you perfect your processes. As you refresh, maybe there is an area that was never addressed in your original assessment. This is a great time to introduce a new policy or replace equipment that is underutilized.

Churches have also become multifunctional facilities that host community meetings, basketball leagues, and schools. Make sure to involve your point of contacts for these different functions and meet their security needs, as well.

Effective key/fob management is very important when working with outside contractors and a simple fix to maintaining access to your building. Evaluate your security systems and policies to ensure that they are working together to help your church function.

For those of us who remember the rosy-cheeked Reagan era, talking about church security seems contrary to the purpose of a church: a place for all to come and worship. We are now the deacons. We are now the elders. We are now the pastors.

For some, the way we worship has changed, and the introduction of phrases like “hate crimes” has presented us with new challenges and security risks.

We are now responsible for creating a worshipful environment that is also safe. Security needs have changed in the last 20 years, but our goal and purpose has not. The Bible is filled with stories of overcoming adversity, and, in this, we too shall overcome.

Kelly Clemens is a security professional with Hoffman Security Solutions and works with churches, schools, and a variety of other markets providing asset and key control,