By Dwayne Harris
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
— Acts 20:28
Is church security an option or a mandate?
Many pastors are fully aware of the various threats and hazards facing our churches and have taken proactive steps to help guard their flocks from harm.
However, many question if they have done enough to properly prepare their congregations and volunteers to respond in a time of crisis.
It is for this reason that every ministry, regardless of its size, should have designated members who are willing to be trained, prepared, and ready to assist and watch over the local body. This is not only our rightful obligation, as shepherds, but a necessary role within our ministries.
The following guideline can assist you in the development of a security ministry and serves as an outline for established security ministries already in operation.
Formation and Oversight
It is suggested that church security ministries organize and operate under the following structure:
An Oversight Board / Pastor’s Council: The selected members, along with the pastor, should identify and address any present safety concerns and then work to develop and design the policies and procedures for a security ministry.
The board should meet regularly and work directly with the appointed security director to ensure the practices and policies of the church are adhered to.
A Security Director: This position should be selected by the pastor and the governing board. The director should be a member of the body with clear evidence of spiritual maturity and discernment. Although law enforcement or military training is preferred, it is not a required prerequisite.
The director should oversee the overall operations of the security ministry and be able to train, monitor, and faithfully oversee the security team members.
Church Security Team Members: Teams should consist of active church members who are spiritually sound, qualified to serve, and physically able and willing to respond and assist the local body in the event of crisis or critical incident.
Selection of Team Members
Once you have established the internal policies and procedures for the church security ministry, you should begin to identify and solicit those members from within the body who model godly characteristics and those who have demonstrated self control and spiritual maturity.
The pastor and the oversight board should pre-establish the criteria and/or disqualifying terms for those applicants wishing to serve in this role. You should conduct criminal background checks on all candidates and take into consideration any prior criminal histories, nature of any previous offenses, and the time frame in which they have occurred. You should guard your ministry from allowing persons to serve who have previous offenses involving sexual misconduct or offenses against minors.
Those persons whom are presently being treated for clinical diagnosis of mental health disorders or those presently prescribed psychotropic medications for mental health conditions should not be considered.
The greatest concern is the overall well-being of the person in question and the liability issues arising while acting on behalf of the ministry.
There are many ways in which people can serve within the local body. However, the security ministry should remain tightly monitored and the selection process thorough. The goal is to ensure the very instrument used to guard the body is not facilitated to cause it harm.
Operations and Training
Once you have assembled your church security team, you should hold an orientation and cover the overall vision, purpose, and established protocols for the ministry.
Every church security ministry should hold regularly scheduled meetings to develop proficiency with the established procedures and action plans. They should become fluent on evacuation protocols, lock-downs, responses to medical emergencies, and disruptive members.
They should also familiarize themselves with pre-service checks, service time protocols, and the specific roles and assignments.
Security team members should be required to be active in the participation of biblical training and worship. Spiritual emphasis and are keys to effectively discerning and responding to the enemy’s tactics and attempts to disrupt and harm the body
Considerations – Documentation and Forms
Churches can come under great scrutiny for their failure to have adequate screening processes in place, especially for persons having access to minors or financial resources.
You should make it a common practice to have all volunteers complete a volunteer application and provide a copy of state issued identification. It is highly recommended that background checks be completed on all volunteers.
Churches should also document any incident that occurs on church owned property within an Incident Report. This includes allegations and claims of misconduct. This documentation should include: dates and times, locations, persons involved, a summary of the event, and services or actions taken.
Equipment and Supplies
Operating a church security ministry can be done with very little out-of-pocket cost. In fact, most ministries already own the majority of items needed to operate a security ministry team. Some basic examples are: 2-way radios, identification, flashlights, traffic safety vest and traffic control devices, training materials, surveillance and access control, software, etc. Keeping costs closely managed is critical.
Dwayne Harris is the chief executive officer of Full Armor Church, which provides the information needed to effectively train, equip, and operate a viable church security ministry, www.fullarmorchurch.com.