It’s a bit unusual to have a room full of religious leaders talking about security, but that’s exactly why nearly one hundred people gathered at Gulfway Church in Gulf Shores on February 20th.
Jimmy Meeks, the leader of Sheepdog Seminars, said their main objective is to get pastors and church leaders to accept the fact that bad things can happen to houses of worship, and they have a responsibility as a ‘sheepdog’ to protect their flock.
“Sometimes churches are a bit more superstitious than they are spiritual. They believe if you have a building and put a cross on top of it that somehow or another that will warrant divine protection. That’s simply not true. Jesus said ‘be on your guard. Men will harm you in the place of worship,’” Meeks said.
For most of the participants, the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina was their wake-up call. Superintendent Ken Draughon, who oversees the Assembly of God churches in Alabama, said he immediately began getting calls from pastors after the massacre
“After that happened, I immediately began to get calls from pastors saying ‘what can we do to protect our church?’” Draughon recalled. “We had already had been sending info out about church safety, but now we want to bring it to another level about church security.”
Church Security researcher Carl Chinn said that since 1999, more than 542 people have died a violent death while they were on a church property. That’s what he and Meeks are hoping to bring to light in an effort to encourage more churches to develop security procedures.
“You can go on and ask a pastor, ‘is your car locked in the parking lot? Is your family at home in a locked house? ‘Of course they are, so why is the church any different? We need to be concerned for the safety of our congregations,” Chinn said.
10 Steps to a safer Church
Chinn said he has 10 tips that interested parishioners or church leaders should look at when starting to develop a security plan:
Get Executive Support. “ You’ve got to start with your church leadership,” Chinn said.
Take a Risk Vulnerability analysis or survey. “A lot of smaller churches just don’t have the budget for a full analysis, but at least, take stock for how ready you are. Where are your vulnerabilities? Do your doors lock and shut when you close them? Is your fire alarm system working right? Are your child Sunday school rooms with outside entries locked?” Chinn said.
Start with what you already have. “You’re going to spend most of your time in de-escalation and hopefully, you’re going to spend most of your time on prevention and preparedness to keep something bad from happening in the first place,” Chinn said.
Keep it Simple. “Don’t over complicate it. Be aware and get your people some amount of training to prepare them,” Chinn said.
Keep it legal. States have varying laws regarding concealed carry inside churches. Alabama statutes leave the decision up to each individual church to determine whether or not to allow weapons.
Know your Insurance. “Know your insurance by first name and your questionnaire,” Chinn said.
Work with your community.
Train and drill. “It’s just sad that a lot of praise and worship teams practice more than safety teams, and safety teams are responsible for the protection of human life,” Meek said.
Develop policies and procedures.
It’s like Jazz. “When you’re planning security, you’re not planning every move that every person on your security team will make if this happens because however you viewed it in your mind, it’s not how it’s going to go down when it actually happens,” Chinn said.
Part III airs Wednesday at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.