By: Paul Foreman
As any good preacher knows, sometimes you got to step on peoples’ toes. No offense is meant, and I hope none is taken. I have been told, “Paul, you are an EXHORTER.” I looked that up. Dictionary.com says exhort means “to urge, give advice, or caution earnestly, admonish urgently.” I exhort you who attend church, and especially Pastors, Priests, Rabbis and church administrators to take note: crimes can and do occur in churches. You can take actions to make your church safer.
Right here in Alabama, there have been crimes, even murders, committed in church on Sunday mornings. Some might say, “Paul, you are going to make people afraid to go to church!” I drove past the bank today, you know, the one which got robbed a couple of weeks ago. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot, people coming and going in and out of the bank. There sure did not seem to be any shortage of customers, even after the robbery.
I have had a number of experiences setting up church security ministries. Two different church administrations asked me to take on the task, and I commend them for their foresight and desire to maintain a safe church. We set schedules so that the volunteers would only need to serve once every 4- 5 weeks. We were given radios, and I held training classes so the volunteers would know what was expected of them, and especially what their limitations were.
I called it “The Prime Directive: Observe, Deter and Report.” I assigned men to watch over the children’s areas, entrances, and parking lots. They were instructed to keep a low profile. The security team was to look and act like a welcome team of greeters, not guards. Procedures were set in place to especially safeguard the nursery and pre-school age kids. There is not room here to cover the dozens of abduction cases I read about occurring across the country. I told the volunteer security team, “You might never know what dangerous event you prevented just by being there, standing by the entrance of the nursery area.”
In another state, a woman with obvious mental issues went into a church nursery saying she was there to pick up little Johnny. The staff refused to give up the child, and escorted the lady from the building. Local police were given a description of her, as well as her car’s tag number. A few minutes later, she tried at another church, but got the same reaction. At the third nursery, she walked right in, picked up a little one year old, and left. Minutes later, the real mother arrived, and they realized the horror of what had just happened. But, due to the well trained security teams at the two previous churches, the child was rescued fifteen minutes after the abduction occurred.
There was some opposition from a few church members. “Don’t you believe God will protect us?” There is a very “real to life” cautionary tale of a flood victim. Rescue personnel were sent to evacuate people as the flood waters rose. One man refused to leave his home, saying, “God will take care of me.” As the waters rose, he retreated to the roof. Rescue personnel came by in a boat trying to rescue him. Then a helicopter was sent. Each time he refused rescue, saying, “God will take care of me.” Well, the man drowned and went to Heaven. St Peter met him at the pearly gates. The man asked St Peter, “What happened? I thought God would save me from the flood!” St. Peter answered saying, “We did try to save you. We sent an evacuation team. We sent a boat and a helicopter. You refused our help each time!”
Just this month in Idaho, a pastor was shot. Pastors have been killed by ex-husbands and jealous boyfriends. Members of the choir have returned to the practice room to discover all the women’s purses missing. Deacons have been accosted as they took up the offering. Cars have been burglarized during church services. How long do we wait before some terrorist walks into a church service, here in America?
Should churches have an armed volunteer security team? If you do consider arming your security team, PLEASE, get them trained properly. I am a Certified Firearms Instructor.
I exhort you, Pastors and church administrators, lease take steps to make your members safe and secure.