I have told the story, in person or on the podcast, in the past about an encounter I had while at a church association’s annual conference. I had a man come up to my table to talk with me. He wanted to let me know that he was a former Marine as well as a pastor and that he felt that God would protect the people in his church from violence or evil. That there was no need to do anything else. I told this pastor that he had a very interesting but not original thought on the subject, and, in fact, I could come up with more scriptures to support being prudent in the security of our churches than he could with his stated belief. I do not think this is what he expected, and he just stood there staring at me for what seemed a very long time. I was not sure if he was processing what I said or if he was offended that I challenged his thinking. Then he actually surprised me when he finally spoke and said, “You know what, I believe that you are correct and I will have to give a more serious look at the security of my church.” I went to that conference for a couple of more years and never ran into that pastor again. I would have loved to just see where he was in his thinking.
Obviously, by the title, I am referencing Proverbs 22:3 that says “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” I am absolutely amazed nearly every day at what God has written in his word and how applicable it is to our lives thousands of years later. I could take the rest of this blog and unpack this verse in a variety of different directions on how to apply it to our lives, but I won’t. Nor am I going to put a variety of scriptures in here to support church security, but I could. But I am going to keep it rather simple as this verse relates to the ministry of security in our churches.
Hopefully, we can agree that evil is an anytime, anyplace threat that we must deal with as followers of Christ. Recognizing that evil is bent on doing harm in a variety of ways personally in our lives, in our marriages, and in our families, what are you doing to take precautions? If Satan can take us out of the game in any of those areas, then he knows that we are ineffective in serving in ministry in our churches and thus opening the door for him to have his way. So, from a strictly spiritual sense, Proverbs 22:3 tells us what we can expect if we don’t heed the wisdom. There will be consequences. I don’t imagine that the pastor I encountered would want to take a chance on that based on his “belief”. Yet we have church leaders all over the country that are acting as the simpleton in this verse. I honestly don’t get it. So, let’s change gears a bit.
I had a totally different idea on the direction that I wanted to go for this blog/newsletter. As many of you probably noticed, I missed sending one out last month and for maybe obvious reasons. Life has changed for nearly all of us and canceling seminars might seem like an easy task but logistically there is a lot there. We intentionally try to make our seminars as much hands-on as we have time for and yet nearly every survey we get back, there are always people that wish that there could have been more training. Once people get a taste of what training could look like for them and their church, they are hungry for more and that is ultimately our goal, to hopefully help kickstart some thinking on how those attending can do it better.
Well, here we are. I’m not doing training seminars and you aren’t training. So, what are you going to do with your time? At our seminars, and you probably have heard me mention it on a few podcasts, we talk about the total team concept when it comes to the safety and security of our churches. There is no shortage of people telling me that they are trying to provide a safe and secure place of worship, but they don’t have enough people to do it. This is exactly why we invite ushers, greeters, children's and youth workers, church staff or anyone that is serving in the church to our seminar. The security of the church should not be only left up to the few men and women that have been called to that ministry. They are not able to be everywhere all the time. The other ministries need to have some basic skills to be able to recognize/handle situations until the security persons can get there.
You can’t assume that those serving in other areas of the church or on staff are going to know how to handle a variety of situations. So, now is a great time to plan out what the rest of the year is going to look like for training. Keep in mind that none of us have “arrived” when it comes to knowing everything and you aren’t expected to know it all either. I tell people that if I ever say that “I’ve arrived” in knowing everything, there are some serious issues starting with my heart posture. So, don’t assume that you have to be the one that knows it all or has to provide the training.
About a month ago I was sent an email from a church security leader that was bringing a request to his deacon board to allow some of the security guys to open carry their weapons while serving. Wisely, one of the church elders was requesting that this person reach out to people in the security networks to get various other input on this subject. I did not respond with an answer right away but asked two questions. What was the purpose of wanting to have an open carry? What training and certification process was there to reduce the liability to the church regardless of how the weapon was carried.
I got back a 3-point response and a description of the training and qualifications he would have.
I rely on God to bring the monthly blog/newsletter subjects to me each month. Sometimes it’s not until the last minute that happens. This one I have been sitting on for a couple of weeks but still waited until now to put it together. With the shooting that happened this weekend at the church in Texas, it just adds to what I wanted this month’s subject to be.
There is a lot of “noise” going on around this weekends events and I pretty much wait at least 72 hours before I really dig in or venture any kind of comment. Fortunately, we have a video from the live feed that was streaming at the time the killer acted and the responder took him out. But there is a lot that happened in that video that shows how untrained and unprepared they were right from the beginning. This is why our seminars are for not just the security teams of the church, but for ushers, greeters, children’s workers, staff, etc. Security must be a total team concept. We can and have been asked and are adjusting our seminar schedule in order to be able to answer questions and to give a preventative perspective on the events.
So, what do I mean by “Beware of the Sheep”? Let me start with a story from my own church that happened early on in the establishment of our security team and then I will tell you of the lessons learned. We had a medical incident that was happening outside the auditorium and near the front door area of the church. We were handling it as we had been trained to at that point. We had a man come up to us and identify himself as a doctor and wanted to help. We let him know that whatever it was, that it was minor and thanked him but we had it under control. This same man then went up the side ramp that led to the stage and handed the pastor a note in the middle of his message that stated that there was a medical emergency in the entry way and that the family member needed to come out.
With Christmas just a short time away, let me start with a bit of a story that happened at least 8 years ago. We were having our annual security Christmas party for the security team at my church. Every year we do a white elephant gift exchange. This particular year someone was trying to get a box open or get the ribbon off the box. Either way, the person asked for a knife. There was a slight chuckle in group as all you could hear was the click, click, click etc. of knives coming out of pockets and being flipped open. It was one of those moments that you had to be there and every year since that time there is always someone that asks that nostalgic question again. It wouldn’t be the same if someone didn’t ask it.
I would venture to say that most of you may not be aware at how often a knife attack happens. I am betting that most of you carry a knife of some sort on yourself. We call it Colorado Bling here because it is an accessory that many men in this state carry. If you do, do you train on how to deploy and effectively use it? Do you know how to handle someone that would want to do harm with a knife?
There are a few things in my life that I have to check to see where my heart is. Like I talk about in our seminars, if our heart is not right with God in our personal life it will come out as we serve. It takes a lot of energy to keep our masks on and when a situation arises that our adrenalin gets going, we will often respond poorly in either dealing with the situation or with those around us. Often times it comes out in frustration, defensiveness, and anger.
One thing that I check is checking to see if my life is a reflection of the Fruit of the Spirit. Since this is direct evidence to my relationship with God, am I exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to those around me and in the various situations that I find myself in. If not, what am I allowing to control my life instead of my relationship with Christ?
I am on the road doing seminars, trainings, assessments, etc. a lot throughout the year. I often miss the training that happens at my church each month. Sometimes it would really easy when I am in town to disregard the training and be home for a weekend. But it comes back to being thankful. I should be thankful for the opportunity that I have to be able to get training. And don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the opportunity to train alongside the men and women that I get to serve with.
Over the years and around the country I encounter people that often have questions about having the right people serving. They recognize that for a variety of reasons, they may not have the right people serving in a security role. This can be a tough issue to handle without causing some hurt feelings. I hopefully want to address ways to help avoid this in the future.
Many churches have employment applications, and these can often be a great use for serving in ministry. If your church doesn’t, there are plenty of choices that you can get online as examples. I would recommend that you have an application that asks for personal and professional references. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions of those that know them best on the type of temperament they have when they aren’t at church. People can be good at putting on a mask around those that they go to church with, but family, friends, and co-workers will know the person the best.
Now, I know that what I am about to say might not fall in line with some of the church’s beliefs, but for those that do, I would want to know about their relationship with Christ. How are they growing and are they doing life with other men/women in their lives? I could go a whole lot deeper here, but I don’t want to make this a theological discussion. Simply put, a person who might be a believer but not a follower of Christ in his/her life will often have an issue with authority and will display anger in stressful situations.
I was talking with a good friend of mine that also speaks around the country to churches about security. He deals more with the WHY it’s important and leaves the HOW are we equipped to do it to me. We often talk about the alarming trend that we see of churches responding in fear of an mass murder event happening at their location and forgetting that although we are warriors called into service of protecting the church, many churches only are training for these events and neglecting the other tools of ministry in security that they need to have in order to properly serve the hurting and the broken.
Something that I stress during our training seminars is that we have to put aside our pride and arrogance in order to have a heart of service. I regularly hear of church security members responding poorly to situations because either they don’t train how to handle a variety of situations or the only tool, they have is a gun. A friend of mine says that if the only tool we have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. I always enjoy teaching churches how to handle a variety of situations. They come into a situation and realize that they have not been equipped to respond properly. By the time they are done, they are hungry to train more and in additional areas beside just the worst case.
If you have ever had the opportunity to attend a Sheepdog Seminar or one of ours recently, something that Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says during the Sheepdog seminar and restates it at the end is “Sometimes the greatest love is not to sacrifice your life, but to live a life of sacrifice!” What a powerful statement! How often can we say that we are truly living a life of sacrifice. Most of us are selfishly focused on our self. Our needs, wants, and desires.
Some of the greatest men in the Bible and throughout history understood what living a life of sacrifice really means. I absolutely love talking with people that truly understand what living a life of sacrifice really means. These people are humble, not arrogant and are looking for ways to better serve and sacrifice for those around them. One of the greatest warriors in history was Jesus Christ. As I am going through the Gospels again and reading it in a different version, I am gaining greater clarity to the character of Christ. If you think or have thought of Jesus as a mild-mannered man that allowed people to take advantage of him all the way to the cross, then you really don’t know who he truly is. Someone that is a not just a believer, but a follower of Christ gets this, and it is evident in their lives when you meet them.
These are the people that you want serving in your ministry. These are the people that are going to advance the Kingdom of God because they have a heart of sacrifice and service. They aren’t serving in a ministry for a title or for their own ego. They understand the role that they have been given in the service of the great Shepherd. This is evident in their personal life as well. How they are around their wife, kids, co-workers and others that come into their life. I have been that person in the past that could really care less about engaging with people. I lived life out of selfishness instead of sacrifice. Jesus had to really work on my life and change my heart over the nearly last 6 years.
Ok, maybe I am being a bit dramatic here. I do find myself with the perception that churches in America have come to the realization that there is a need to have a security component in their churches list of ministries. Then I talk with people either at a conference or after they find out what I do for a living and realize how wrong my perception really is. I want to go into a conversation or situation optimistic and usually I go into a conversation overly optimistic. I want to believe that with everything that has happened over the years, that there would not be the denial that is still seen in churches around the country. Then there are people that are encouraging and thankful for what we are doing for churches all over the country. My perception is a misplaced optimism that God reminds me of regularly. That he has me doing what I do for a specific reason. To help equip churches and ministries.
I do get the opportunity to talk with people that do understand the need for security. These people or churches are at a variety of levels in their security development but with the same understanding that it needs to happen. Many of these security minded people are looking for information and training on how to recruit, training, motivate and lead the people in their security ministry.
There are the other people that are in complete denial that anything will happen or if it does then it must have been God’s will. They are usually charged up by their emotions with little ability to rationalize what they are communicating. They feel that securing and protecting the people that are coming to worship is not necessary. I often get to a point to where I Just listen and understand that they are just going to believe what they want to believe. I sometimes can provide scripture reference going back to David regarding security for the church. I have also challenged people to find scripture that supports their belief to which they realize that they can’t. I fight the urge of bleating like a sheep to them. I know that would not be a proper response of course, but it does bring me back to the reality that Jesus used sheep for a reason. Like a friend of mine would say that you will never see a sheep act at a circus for a reason.
Near the conclusion of each seminar we hand out a survey for us to get feedback. I have to say that overall the feedback we have received has been very positive and helpful as we continue to develop our seminars into an experience that equips people to be able to serve better in their churches. But even as I read the feedback, it can be easy to get defensive when there is a “negative” comment. I’m not talking about that rare individual that is just a negative person throughout an event and then leaves a not so surprising feedback that is negative and reflects that they did not understand the point of the training. I am referring to those people that actually have good intentions with their honest feedback.
If I get defensive in my review of the feedback, then I might miss out on the opportunity to rethink and modify how something is presented. I have to realize that if I don’t get feedback then I am just assuming that what I am doing is working. In the field of church security, it is not a stationary target that I can consistently hit. I have to constantly be growing, learning, observing and then presenting to others how to do this church security ministry well.
So, lets take that same thought down to the church level of training. Let’s start at the top with the person that has either volunteered, was voluntold, or by default of their position on staff have found themselves in that leadership role over a security team.
Over Easter I was approached by one of the elders in the church who was serving as a greeter that day. He stated that he was very thankful for what our safety team does for the security of the church. He said that he notices how well we all communicate and seem to just move and flow around the parts of the church meeting and greeting different people and just helping when needed. He said that it is evident that we all work well together. He is not alone in sharing his appreciation for our service to the church
I know that many of you have shared with me around the country how your church appreciates what you are doing. Appreciation is good and I also recognize that many of you are struggling to get going and have the support of your church’s leadership. I have had conversations with some of you at conferences and even some on our own security team that may not feel that things are going the way they want, that leadership is not doing this or that, that there is no appreciation for what they are doing but they feel like it is constant resistance. One thing that I regularly communicate is by asking a question that I have had to ask myself. “WHY AM I SERVING?” I serve because I am called in my heart to protect the sheep. No matter what, I am there to protect the sheep. If I was there for any other reason, then I would have to quit.
Nothing comes easy and honestly for our church and team to be where it is at has been an 11-year adventure of training and equipping that never ends. For security reasons I won’t give specifics about my church here, but I can say that we have a great group of selfless men and women that have a desire to serve the people that walk through our doors. With 4 campuses we have a rather large team serving and I can confidently say that I don’t know one person that serves with any sort of pride or arrogance, but with a heart for the people they serve.
I regularly tell people that there are more things that can happen at your church then someone coming to cause harm with a weapon. One of the things that regularly happens at churches all over America are medical incidents. A medical incident could be a variety of situations from a skinned knee in the children’s department to a heart attack in the worship center and every other incident that you can imagine. Here in Colorado we have often seen visitors pass out in the service because they are not used to the altitude and have not stayed hydrated.
I was involved in a medical emergency this last weekend at my own church. We have trained well on what we need to do, how we communicate with each other, and what we need to do to get EMS to the incident as quickly as possible, if necessary. There is some training that should be mandatory for everyone serving on the team, and medical emergency is one of those trainings. You can’t prepare for every instance that may happen, but if you have a foundational plan of action you can be better prepared and have the right mindset of what needs to happen regardless of the medical emergency that happens.
For many churches in America today, they know why church safety and security is an important ministry for their church. Churches are realizing that ignoring the facts regarding church security is negligent on their part. Even as that is true, many churches are not sure how or what to do with the information. I regularly talk with churches that wisely are asking for help to move them from the WHY to the HOW.
Throughout the country there are many people that are focused on the armed response for something that is not highly likely to happen. Yes, you prepare for it, but it should not be the focus. People with the narrow view that their security focus needs to be on the armed response or that because they have concealed carry persons (I call certificate holders) in their congregation don’t truly understand what church security is about. These churches are putting their “church” and church security as a whole in a huge liability situation.
For any of us that have been in church for any length of time have always been told to bow your head and close your eyes to pray. If you grew up in a Christian home as I did with a sibling that would check to see if I had my eyes closed and head bowed at the dinner table and then report to mom and dad if I didn’t not. Moments later realizing the “head smack” moment that was about to happen as they are called out on not having theirs closed.
I have done some reading to find the origins of bowing our heads and closing our eyes. No one is really sure where it comes from. Some people point to Medieval times and the greatest consistent belief that it was a religious act put into practice by the Catholic religion. Regardless of where it originated from it is a religious act that man came up with that has no bearing on the relationship with Christ that He desires to have with us. I did find one church denomination that actually was pointing out that effective prayer had to happen with our heads bowed and eyes closed. Since there is nothing Biblical to support it, it is just a religious act that has no impact on how we communicate with God. In fact, the Bible has examples of just the opposite in prayer. It is really our heart posture that is most important.
With all the traveling that I do, I know that I need to make time for my own training when I can. I will never say that I have ever “arrived” when it comes to church security. I would hope that there isn’t anyone on your teams or serving in your churches that thinks training is something they don’t regularly need. That they have all the training and knowledge they need. For me it would be a prideful statement to think that I did not need my own training or that I had all the skills necessary for not only my job but for serving my church.
Whenever there is a tragic shooting at a church in America, there are a lot of people that all of a sudden want to step up and serve. Serving in our churches is so very important for our own walk with God and to be able to serve others in theirs. For many of them they feel that because they might have a concealed carry permit for their state, that they are ready to serve. You may have heard me refer to these people as “certificate holders” that have just enough training to get their certificate but have not invested in furthering their training. But, before we get into this hot topic, let’s look closer at what training is necessary.
Here is one of the least favorite topics to discuss in a church setting. Relax, we aren’t going to tackle this topic like you might think either. We’ll leave that to your church leadership. What we do want to talk about this month is the offering. As I have had the opportunity to either do assessments with churches or to just observe how they are doing their offering, there are several processes that have come up in my observations that create a security issue for the church.
I have heard it said by people in church leadership positions, that if someone wanted to steal from the church, whether that is the offering, equipment, or anything for that matter, that they must have needed it worse than the church did. I haven’t found a single verse that would remotely support this way of thinking. Instead there are verses that support being good stewards of what we have been given. I understand that many churches take their offering differently so, this is not meant to be a comprehensive document on what to do in each situation. Primarily I will be addressing this subject from the standpoint that offering is collected in some manner and will touch on offering that is put into a box or similar device.
Nearly every month I wonder what I am going to talk about for the blog and monthly newsletter. I received an email this last week where the subject was regarding situational awareness and personal safety. Although I talk about this a lot with people around the country and no matter what I might be teaching or leading a seminar on, this subject is vital to nearly every aspect of church and personal security.
We live in a society that that has so many distractions, that it is easy to lose sight of being situationally aware of what is going on. People don’t realize that being situationally aware has to take place all the time. There are activities where hopefully we are doing it naturally. One example being when you drive your car. But first, let’s define what situational awareness really is. The Army Field Manual defines it as: “Knowledge and understanding of the current situation which promotes timely, relevant and accurate assessment of friendly, competitive and other operations within the battle space in order to facilitate decision making. An informational perspective and skill that fosters an ability to determine quickly the context and relevance of events that are unfolding.” I have highlighted some of the key points in this definition.
Many people think that they are already good communicators. If they are married, asked the other person in that marriage for their perspective. When I conduct a verbal de-escalation training it is always encouraging to hear from people who say that they have forgotten how to communicate well in their own families let alone in ministry. Nearly every law enforcement officer that I know or have an opportunity to talk with around the country, agree that having good verbal skills is key to the job that they do. They also believe that it is the foundational piece for ministries in the church. This goes beyond the safety and security ministry and impacts every ministry in the church. Being able to communicate well with everyone that comes through the doors of our church creates a welcoming environment and can set the tone as they head in to worship.
Before I get too far into this subject, I do want to say that as I am talking with churches around the country I have been encouraged lately with the number of churches that are becoming more aware of the need to be proactive in protecting the people attending their church. With that being said, let’s talk about the different denials that nearly every church is experiencing in some way or another. First, a definition of denial from Merriam-Webster would be a good place to lay a foundation.
DENIAL: Refusing to admit the truth or reality of something unpleasant.
I have to admit that I have often used this word but don’t know if I have every really looked up the definition. I was actually surprised at the definition that Merriam-Webster gives for this word.
1: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies when it comes to safety, complacency can be dangerous.
2: an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction
Even though I work with churches around the country regarding safety and security, when I first think of complacency what comes to mind is how so many people who profess to be a Christian have become so complacent in their belief and walk with God. They are the ones that are not “picking up their mana” daily and are starving as believers. They don’t really have a relationship with God, or understand what that is, and only talk with God over a meal or when they need something. These are the people that think they know what the Bible says because someone else has told them what it says or doesn’t say in a message or on the screens on Sunday mornings. These are the people that are quick to pass judgement without really taking a look at what the Bible has to say and are relying on their own “wisdom” or “feelings”. I know this person because I was this person at one point. I grew up in church and believed I knew all the answers and could just live life like I wanted too and was complacent about what God truly has to say and the relationship that he desires with me. The definition above, that complacency can be dangerous could not be truer as I saw firsthand how my complacency nearly destroyed my marriage years ago.
I recently was writing a proposal for a church in Iowa and the staff member that I was in communication with asked a very good question. This church is just getting started and are looking to the future of having an armed component. The question that this staff member asked was "What prerequisites do you recommend and liabilities should we consider to help determining who qualifies as a good candidate for armed carry?"
Before I share my answer to his question, I want to stress that the likelihood of an active shooting incident happening at your church is very remote. BUT, that does not mean that we don't prepare for one. There are way too many companies out there that are focusing on training active shooter response and forgetting about the prevention and the ministry of safety and security.. I tell people all the time that we can't lose the focus that the church is here for the hurting and the broken. Let me share a note from a pastor at my church after dealing with a couple of situations this past weekend. "With each person - security made appropriate and relational contact. What I observed is the security team approaching each gentlemen in an intentional, genuine, and relational manner - not in an "we have our eyes on you, buddy..." There was genuine care and concern - they wanted to do what they could for the gentlemen -the security team was warm, friendly, and even smiled when talking to the guys :) :) - but you could tell there was a deeper intentionality in why they approached these gentlemen. It was great work."
In the past few months there has been a great reporting of students who have made threats against their schools by students. Look how many people were aware and identified the killer in Florida before the dust cleared. Because they knew through social media and personal testimony that this killer was not mentally healthy but failed to say anything to anyone. There are safe avenues for our students to report suspected behavior and as a result violent attacks have been stopped.
SO, WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCHES……
A domestic dispute that happened this last weekend prompted me to ask the question about a church being a safe place to tell. In the incident this weekend people were aware that there was and had been issues but it appears that the church did not have any response to be able to help protect the victim. This was also the case in Southerland Springs, TX. According to statistics by my friend Carl Chinn, since 1999 there have been 207 DEADLY FORCE INCIDENTS AT FAITH BASED ORGANIZATIONS IN THE U.S. DIRECTLY IDENTIFIED AS DOMESTIC SPILLOVER. These incidents are ranked number two behind robbery. One major difference is that Domestic Spillover is identifiable and has a greater chance of prevention.
The number of mass shootings in general, including school shootings specifically, has significantly increased in the recent past. Tragically, the public outcry to stop these massacres rose to a level demanding attention only after a recent a rash of shootings murdered and wounded students, teachers and others in schools; police officers and sheriffs deputies; concert attendees; church members and other innocents. We have reached a point where school officials, law enforcement professionals, parents, students and others in communities across the country are beginning to take seriously the need to respond and develop plans to prevent future mass shootings.
The outcry focuses on gun rights, gun ownership, restrictions on who can buy, keep and bear arms, cries for outlawing certain classes of weapons, especially military assault weapons, and other firearms-related issues, which are mostly long-standing controversies. Anything that reduces the risk of another massacre must be considered, and reasonable policies made and implemented.
CV Ministries is committed to the prevention of everything that threatens the safety and security of our churches. Our Mission states, CorrValues exists to transform individuals, organizations and society. We provide prevention, restoration and educational services that lead to individual and organizational growth, health and prosperity. Our efforts are focused on church, college and correctional entities and systems.
In this month’s newsletter, I want to take the conversation about security in a direction that maybe you haven’t considered. I realize that by tackling this subject there may be some of you who choose to ignore or don’t what to hear what is truly threatening the security of our churches. All too often, as Christians, many of us fail to be real and don’t want to believe that what I am addressing is happening in our churches.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.