15 Aug 2019

Alabama Church Creates Police Force

Stevonne German

In recent years, we have seen many deadly mass shootings. And unfortunately, some of them have occurred in churches.

As a pastor, you want your church members to feel safe, but how do you do this? 

Many churches have toiled with the idea of creating a security team, but very few have actually taken action on those thoughts. 

One church in Birmingham, Alabama, however, has decided that they are going to create their own police force. Briarwood Presbyterian Church and School is planning to put their thoughts of better security into action to ensure their church members and students are naturally protected if a situation arises. 

Let’s look at how they intend to execute this plan and how you can successfully establish a security team for your ministry.

Why security matters

Over the past few years, there have been a number of shootings in churches. There have been several reported incidents where individuals have walked into a church and opened fire for no reason. 

In 2015, there was a shooting in Charleston at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church; in 2017 there was another shooting in Sutherland Springs; in 2018 there was a shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. These are just a few of the incidents that were publicized in national news. 

It is understandable that many churches are considering instating a security team that is equipped to handle these sort of situations. Unfortunately, most churches do not have safety plans, much fewer safety teams, in place to handle such situations. And while it may not seem like a big deal, it usually isn’t until one is needed. 

Some churches have a Ministry of Defense. On the surface, they may seem like the people who walk into the church and hold the pastor’s personal items, but in reality, they are the first line of defense if something were to happen that required a security response.

Protecting your church

In the next few months, Alabama plans to pass a law that will allow leadership of certain organizations to hire individuals that act as law enforcement. Alabama Code, Title 16. Education § 16-22-1 states that they can “appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to keep off intruders and prevent trespass upon and damage to the property of the college or university or of the institute.” 

As mentioned before, Briarwood Presbyterian Church and School’s decision to create an actual police force would be in line with the laws in that state and would give families some reassurance that the church is thinking both spiritually and physically about how to handle any scenario related to security needs.

Whenever we speak with pastors about church security, we usually end up referencing how David protected his flock.

In 1 Samuel 17:34-35, we read, “But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth.’”

Although God is our Protector, pastors are responsible for protecting their flock, just like David was responsible for protecting his flock. It is important to note that security teams not only help make your church a safer place, but they can also help activities run more smoothly.

For instance, many churches host large outreach events such as fall carnivals, Easter egg hunts, and more. Such events generally draw large crowds. While your security team can help ensure everyone has a safe and fun time, they can also help the flow of traffic.

Church security teams can also be beneficial should anyone become disruptive during your church service. Simply asking someone who is being disruptive to leave may not be enough.

As a result, your church’s security team should have a protocol on how to respond in such situations. 

Recently, I spoke with a pastor who called StartCHURCH to ask how her church should handle a woman that was making threats towards one of the church’s members. She gave me the history of their relationship, and the details raised a few red flags. Immediately I recommended she try using StartCHURCH’s Attorney Network services because her church’s situation may require legal assistance to draw up the necessary paperwork in case the disgruntled member should do something that could potentially endanger the pastor’s church members. Secondly, we discussed the importance of the board of directors implementing policies that the church can enforce as well. 

If you would like a copy of a Disruptive Person Policy, call us at (855) 229-9809, and we will be happy to send you a copy for free.

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How to start a church security team

Of course, not every church has the need, people, or money available to create their own police force. But every church can still implement the necessary steps in to make sure that members feel safe during services. 

When building a team of any kind, it is vital to have a process to chart an effective course. Below are five steps that will make it easier for you and your church to create a security team.

Step #1: Assess your needs

Can we ever go too far to protect the body of Christ? Whether your church has twenty congregants or five hundred congregants, there is a need for security!

Each church’s needs will vary, of course, depending on the size of the church, the location of services, and the budget available.

Make a list of what you believe is needed before you start your team. These items could include a certain number of volunteers, walkie talkies, local law enforcement, or more.

Step #2: Ask for volunteers

If you simply ask people to help, or volunteer, you’ll be surprised at how many people will willingly say, “yes!”

The key is approaching a potential team member that you truly feel fits the role.

Layout the positions you are recruiting for and define your expectations so that they are aware.

It is highly recommended to have a screening process for potential team members. This process should include an application that will reveal if they are a good fit, a criminal background check, and a reference check.

You may know of current or retired law enforcement officers, emergency medical professionals, or military veterans at your church who may be good candidates to head-up the team.

Also, simply having volunteers who have a heart to serve and protect others would be great assets to the team.

Step #3: Provide training for your team

Another aspect of great importance when creating the team is proper training. Nothing dampers a person’s enthusiasm for a job more than putting them in a situation without proper training!

There should be a clear set of policies and procedures that the team can turn to that establish consistency and give the volunteers confidence on how to respond in any situation.

You may want to implement group and individual training activities that cover a wide range of scenarios.

There may be individuals in your congregation who work or have worked in the medical field or as emergency personnel and would be willing to hold a training session.

If not, consider reaching out to local law enforcement in your community to hold a training for your team. They would be thrilled to know of individuals passionate about providing extra safety and security at your church. 

According to Church Law & Tax, you should also understand the laws of your state because each state is different. Some states, like California, have gun-free zones. Others, like Nevada, allow everyone to carry a firearm no matter where you are. In Arizona, some insurance companies won’t cover people who are carrying loaded firearms unless they are on the insurance. It is also imperative to run background checks.

Step #4: Put it into action

Action plans are a necessity for a church or ministry of any kind.

This can range anywhere from how to respond to natural disasters, medical emergencies, fires, etc. Medical emergencies occur more often than you might think, sobering prepared for a medical emergency is important.

Statistically, you have a 3,000% greater chance of facing a serious medical emergency in a church than an act of violence.

Consider having a first aid kit accessible at all times. It is best practice to have a first aid kit in each room during a Sunday service.

It’s also wise to have individuals serving on the safety and security team to be CPR and first aid certified, in case of emergencies.

Step #5: Manage

Managing your team requires effort on your part. Showing the team you value them will reap a reward in the way they serve on the team.

It’s also important to know that as the church grows, there may need to be changes on the team. As the number of congregants increases, your security team will most likely need more volunteers.

Policies tend to change and develop over time as pastors and leaders learn more about what works best for their church. It’s important to update your team on new or adjustments in existing policies.

You may also want to consider holding an annual training, which can be a refresher for existing volunteers and another opportunity to cast vision and bring in new volunteers.

How will you protect your flock?

What God has entrusted you with as a pastor is a large responsibility.

While implementing protocols and security to help ensure your church is a safe place, it is also your responsibility to legally protect your church.

I encourage you to take a moment and consider: What steps have you taken to establish a solid legal foundation and protect your church from hostile legislation?

At StartCHURCH, we want to help you to protect what God has called you to lead. Give us a call at (855) 229-9809 to learn more about how you can protect your church. Or, click the button below to schedule a call to have one of our church planting specialists call you! 

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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