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.
A COUPLE OF CONTRIBUTING FACTORS
- All too often, we Christians are often concerned of what people might think of me if I show that I have a sin or weakness. There might be some shame or guilt associated with whatever might be going on in someone’s life or relationship. Religion is based on outer appearances and looking like we have it together. But, religion is what Christ came to do away with and to offer grace, forgiveness, and restoration to those that need it (by the way, that is all of us!). Someone should be free to be real and share life’s struggles with a select few in the church without fear of judgment or rejection.
- When something is brought to the attention of people in the church, the church does not know what to do with it. I have talked with many pastors that realize that they have not received the necessary training to properly deal with security situations like Domestic Violence or Mental Illness. So, there has been a mentality for decades that says “Oh, he or she is just joking (or venting or something similar). They really don’t mean it. Everything will all work out.” And there might be some scriptures given or prayers to pray. We should know by now that these excuses or this reasoning does not work any longer in the society that we live in. Satan is not sitting back thinking that the Christian thing is just a fad. They will snap out of it soon. Neither should we.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Victims and others that know of situations that are happening in their church that could be a security risk need to know where they can go in confidentiality to make the necessary people aware of the situation without fear of rejection or judgment. As I train church’s, I stress that THE CHURCH IS HERE FOR THE BROKEN AND THE HURTING. We as believers can’t lose sight of that fact.
I realize that every church structure is different and there can’t be a “cookie cutter” response to security situations. So, with that in mind here are some things to consider for your church to create that safe space.
- Have a select few that are aware of a potential security risk that could spill over to the church property. This could be a church counselor that it was told to, a pastor, the security director if there is one, head usher, receptionist etc. Regardless of who these people are for your church they need to be the type of people that are going to act in the best interest of the person reporting the security concern.
- Get as much information as you can to include restraining orders that will outline the restrictions in place. Pictures of the person that is believed that could possible do harm to include the vehicle that they drive. The more information that is available the better the chance to identify and prevent a violent act.
- Ideally you would have trained security volunteers in your church that would get a briefing and shown the information before services. It would be easy to get off on a different subject here regarding the type of persons that should be serving on your teams and where they should be serving, but let’s just say that they should be some of the most trusted and discerning men and women in the church that understand the role they play in protecting the flock and that role starts in the parking lot.
PREVENTION THROUGH TRAINING
- For the pastors, know that you have an incredible big job to do and I am sure you know who you answer to if you aren’t doing that job well. Get the necessary training on how to deal with domestic issues and mental illness in the church. These situations are not going to get better on their own, you are going to need to take charge and lead your church in developing the necessary skills to help those hurting and broken and to be able to recognize the security risks.
- For the church volunteers that are standing on the wall for the protection of the flock and so the important work that your pastor is doing to reach the lost can get done. Never stop preparing.
- Get good verbal de-escalation training. The likelihood of an active shooter is slim (see previous blog). That does not mean that you don’t prepare for it but more importantly know how to handle and de-escalate the situations that will more likely arise. The foundation for any security operation is knowing how to properly communicate. This would include knowing how to deal with people who have mental health issues.
- Get some defensive tactics training. If the verbal skills are not working there will come a time that you may have to go hands on with someone. This can be particularly true in a domestic situation. If you don’t have this training and the only answer you have is a gun you may have other issues to deal with when the situation is resolved.
- Make sure that you are receiving reality/scenario based training. This is the only way that you can truly be prepared for a variety of situations. DON’T THINK THAT YOU WILL RISE TO THE OCCASION BECAUSE WHEN IN A SITUATION YOU WILL SINK TO THE LEVEL OF YOUR TRAINING.
As I prepare this monthly newsletter my mind reels about all the different things that I could say on so these subjects and so many others. So, if you find that your mind is reeling as well, feel free to contact me to further discuss any of the things mentioned here this month. Let me leave you with a few important things that can easily get overlooked when we get busy with life and with serving.
- Don’t neglect to pick up your “mana’ each day. Like the Israelites found out, if we don’t take time to “eat” we will go hungry spiritually and can easily be drawn to eat from something that is not meant for us to eat. Don’t give Satan a foothold in your life or your ministry. I try to do a chapter of the Bible a day. Then to help hold myself accountable and to be that leader to my family, I send an email to them on what I read and how God spoke to me through it. Intentionally make God a priority in your life.
- Don’t do life alone. God did not design us to do life alone. Get with others that you can take time to have the “iron sharpening iron” time with. That can challenge you and hold you accountable in your life. The people that you serve with at church is a good place to start.
- Pray together as a ministry team before you start serving.