As I prepared to write about church security, I was reminded of the simple but wise motto of the Boy Scouts – Be Prepared. The news headlines remind us each day that we are beyond the point of discernment if we need to develop and implement effective church security policies and procedures. Church staff and leaders must act to ensure that each of our churches have developed a comprehensive policy and procedures program that responds to the unique security needs of our faith community.
Churches are often placed into the category of “soft targets”. The implication of this label is that we have not implemented adequate security measures to ensure the safety of anyone who is present in our churches. This includes staff, members, ministry recipients and visitors.
As I work with parish staff and leaders, I find there is still a hesitancy in many churches to honestly address this growing concern. I will often hear that our church is in a safe area of town and so we don’t have any serious security issues. In teaching a risk management course at a local university to faith-based organizations, I found I had to open their eyes to the current reality. Basically, I had to present enough information to scare them into taking action. Given recent events at churches and schools, I hope our church staff and leaders are beyond that point of discernment.
If you have not begun to create a security plan, here are a few suggested steps:
- Form a Security Committee – This committee should be composed of staff and church members. When recruiting members, seek those that have security training and current knowledge of security issues in your region. These might include local law enforcement, school leadership, city or county staff, property managers, or others whose work accountabilities include security issues.
- Assess or Update Security Risk Profile – As with any project, it is important to start with the facts – not assumptions. The committee should seek information that accurately describes potential risks within your area. The committee must be honest in recognizing these risks and establishing a priority for addressing them with your plan. A simple but powerful tool to gather and evaluation security issues is called a Risk Analysis Grid.
Using this grid, security issues are separated into four quadrants defined by two characteristics:
- Impact – If the issue occurs, how injurious could it be to one or more people present?
- Probability – What is the likelihood that this issue might occur?
By using this analysis, the committee can prioritize the identified security issues and establish timetables for their respective plan development and implementation.
There are many sources of high quality information that will guide the development of your security policies and procedures. Here are a few examples:
- Local officials
Local city & county law enforcement (information, training and site visit)
Local city and county governmental agencies (information and training)
Local school district administration (information)
- Your current property-liability insurance company – Check if your insurer has security resource information available to your committee. Also inquire if they will send a qualified security resource person to work with your committee.
- Other national church insurance companies
- Other organizations
- Develop and implement a current security Policies and Procedures Manual – Develop a Security Committee action plan and timetable for the creation or updating of your security policies and procedures. Be sure that your action plan includes effective training, testing, evaluation and periodic updates of these policies and procedures to ensure that they are effective and remain current as conditions change.
As church staff and leaders, we must take the initiative to understand and address security issues affecting our churches. By following the recommended steps above, you will improve your efforts to provide a safe environment for your church facilities, members, ministries and guests.
[Note: The Center for Parish Leadership can provide relevant consulting and facilitation for your staff and leadership development and spiritual nourishment. Please contact us to explore how we can support you on this journey.]
The Center for Parish Leadership