Henrico county – just a rock’s throw from my front door – was the location of an aggravated battery on a local pastor, James Bullock.
8am on a Saturday… quiet study time for many pastors… there is a knock on the church door. Two men looking for assistance (so they claimed) attempted a strong arm robbery once Pastor Bullock let them in. When he wasn’t able to produce any money, they stabbed him multiple times. Pastor Bullock was discovered later and rushed to the ER. Thankfully he is expected to make a full recovery (read story here).
Pastors – we are seen as easy marks… turn the other cheek and all of that. We HAVE to think about security. We are the shepherds of the sheep. Protecting the flock from wolves. And I don’t know about you, but this pastor would rather be a SHEEP DOG than a SHEEP any day!
Think about it – crimes in churches are increasing faster than any locale in this country the last two years (see NCIC). During a weekend, for example, most churches have almost everyone facing the same direction, away from the door, with often no security in place. Any drunk or disorderly person with a grudge (against his girl from the previous night’s fight, against the pastor for the counseling his wife received, or against his neighbor for the property dispute) knows exactly where to find their intended target, can walk up on them without a second look and without the target being aware. They are fairly sure no one in a church will put up any serious resistance. And most of the time experience has shown the police can’t even be called or respond in time to apprehend the subject while still on scene.
Pastors – protect yourself. Protect your people. Here are some basic ideas to get you started:
- If legal and you feel justified, arm yourself. If you cannot or are not willing, make sure you keep the doors locked when in the church by yourself.
- Someone at the door need help when you are in the building by yourself? Be sensible – have them wait while you call another leader to meet you at the church.
- Light your parking lot (this should go without saying – but take a look around!!). Escort anyone leaving after dark to their vehicle if leaving by themselves.
- Recruit off duty police officers in your church to form security teams for your weekend gatherings. It can be as simple as attending one service with their family, and a second service by themselves “on-duty”… sitting by themselves, in a back corner of the room where they have tacitical superiority. Ask them to wear their duty weaon and/or radio discreetly and use their police eyes, not their church-attender eyes. Empower them with the critical task of safeguarding that meeting.
- Give the local police department (especially if they have a tactical team) the architectural drawings to your building BEFORE they need them.
- Mark the exterior doors clearly with large reflective numbers that are visible from the street or parking lot (tell the 911 dispatcher to meet you at door #2, for example).
- Have an evacuation/shelter-in-place plan established and practiced with your leaders.
- Pre-designate someone in your auditorium to call 911 should the situation arise.