We live in a day and age where a church security plan isn’t a “nice to have” but a “must have.” Active shooters, medical emergencies, security threats, and even general vandalism are all risks for houses of worship. Having a church security plan can make the difference between the safety of your church members and dealing with tragedy striking your church.
In my time in ministry, vocational and volunteer, I have personally had to deal with child predators, cyber attacks, and mentally unstable individuals creating security concerns and even security threats on church members and the church building alike.
In this article, I am going to define a church security plan, security team, how to create a church security plan, and general safety tips. By the end of this article you will have the ability to go and create a church security plan that will encompass security training for key members of your church, working with local law enforcement, and define action plans for specific situations.
What Is A Church Security Plan?
First, we need to define what we mean when we discuss a church security plan. A church security plan is a living document that lays out how your church has decided to handle threats. Typically, your security plan will list all roles, tools, and skills required to address threats that might arise.
You’ll notice the key phrase is that this is a living document. Team members and church leaders should be reviewing your church security plan annually, adjusting for recent developments at other places of worship, daycares, schools, first aid facilities, etc. and implementing best practices from a variety of industries.
The security needs of your church and, therefore, the security measures you are going to need to take are going to be different than the church down the street. Your church safety practices are going to look different based on whether there are shootings, a violent person in the congregation, or a weather-based emergency.
One final thing to keep in mind is this: while you cannot possibly plan for everything, you can plan for most things (which should go in your church security manual) and then grant your security team the freedom to make decisions on how to handle extra situations.
What Is A Church Security Team?
According to Lifeway Research, roughly 81% of lead pastors say they have some kind of security plan in place. However, 54% of churches polled rely on someone in the congregation being armed. If you have armed individuals in your congregation, then you need to ensure they are the right people and have been vetted and part of your church security team.
A church security team consists of church leadership, church staff, ushers, parking lot team members, and possibly security guards or law enforcement officers who help review, update, and implement security policies at your church.
At the end of the day, church security team members are there to make sure there is an emergency response plan in place for any situation where the health, security, or safety of church members are in danger. Rather than living in fear, though, we should see if there is a good reason for having a church security plan in place at all.
Why Does Your Church Need A Security Plan?
God has a lot to say on the topic of protecting human life. The Bible also has a lot to say about caring for those in need. However, those answers only matter if you are concerned about security at all. Having a church security plan in place is a different matter entirely.
Recently, at my own church where I serve and volunteer, we have tackled the idea of having a more permanent security plan as well as a safety and compliance team. It is better for the church building to be seen as a safe space in more ways than one, so that means having a plan for every local and even national event that we think might be relevant.
If you can create a church security plan that covers lockdown procedures, cooperates with police departments in investigations, works closely with first responders for local disasters, or overall is known as a place that takes emergency action seriously, then you are able to create a space where people know they can rely on you to help them, love them, and serve them.
This sounds a lot like the mission of the church in action to me. The question is, “how do I start creating a security plan for my church?” Let’s dive in and outline some best practices for creating a church security plan.
How To Create A Church Security Plan
A security plan is much more than throwing some responsibilities on your church board members, buying a few security cameras, and calling it a day. There needs to be a process for risk assessment, implementation of best practices, and regular reviews of what to do in specific situations.
The steps below will allow for a comprehensive approach to assessing where you are currently at in terms of safety and security, where you need to be, and how to start meeting your goals of building out a living church security plan.
1. Recruit a Security Team
Before you begin implementing or making any changes to any current security plans that may exist, you need to make sure the responsibility is not falling on solely one individual. Again, as I mentioned earlier, you are going to want to make sure you have the right people on your team.
2. Identify Gaps
The next phase of creating a church security plan is identifying where you don’t have any plans in place at all. If you don’t have it typed up in a document that can be easily accessed, distributed, and reviewed, then this would be a gap in your security plan.
3. Review Your Risk Management Plan
Check with your staff members and see if there is a risk management plan in place that can be used as a jumping off point for your church security plan. A risk management plan will typically include much of the same information you will need for a security plan minus key roles, responsibilities, and action items such as what to do with your security system.
4. Fill In the Gaps
As you have now been able to identify the gaps in your security plan and have a risk management plan to use as a solid starting point, you can now begin to fill in those vulnerabilities in your church security plan.
In this stage, make sure you are accounting for physical security options, access control systems to determine who has access to what within your church, run drills and walk people through processes, and overall just go through every scenario and take note of anything and everything.
5. Implement Security Systems
Many churches have begun to implement alarm systems in their churches, but that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to implementing security systems. Video surveillance can go a long way to reducing the risk of needing a church security plan because, according to the Economic Journal, a video surveillance system alone deters 575 crimes annually.
While there are other great features to consider when looking at a security system, finding one that includes a direct line to local law enforcement, video surveillance, and an alarm system goes a long way to making your church far safer.
6. Finalize and Review Your Church Security Plan Regularly
The final step to making a church security plan is to regularly review your plan; run through scenarios; learn from incidents globally, nationally, and locally; seek to improve your church security; and keep improving every year. In fact, make it a goal to make a minimum number of positive changes to your security plan every single year.
10 Expert Tips For A Safer Church
Every church and congregation will be different on how they handle their church security plans and protocols. However, there are some general truths to consider when looking at putting together a security plan and a security team.
- Carefully weigh your options on having armed security team members. This is a tricky conversation and one that needs to be navigated carefully with your team, your local community, and, of course, your congregation.
- Consider having security team members professionally trained for how to handle situations involving guns. While it isn’t fun to consider someone having a gun in your building and threatening people, it is better to be prepared than caught off-guard entirely.
- Practice lockdown procedures for your children’s ministry monthly. It is typical for schools to practice lockdown protocols and procedures at least once a semester. You should do the same for your children’s and youth ministry, keeping parents in the loop when they are happening.
- Simple maintenance fixes can prevent an emergency response situation. Part of having a church security plan includes preventative measures. Routine maintenance on doors, windows, etc. can prevent injuries and reduce the chances of those items becoming a hazard if an emergency situation arises.
- Work with local law enforcement to patrol your area. Reaching out to local law enforcement officers and asking for extra patrols at times when you are having big events can prevent or deter a lot of criminal or malevolent activity. Also, some officers will work “off-duty” as a deterrent by just being around for a fee.
- Security systems are always a worthwhile expense. Investing in a good security system pays off in so many ways. It is worth the expense for the peace of mind it brings as well as the many benefits for your security plan.
- Talk about your security plans often. Simply sharing that your church leadership is taking safety and security seriously creates a sense of peace for your congregants. Talking about it often encourages people to stay updated on policies and procedures.
- Clearly define and enforce policies for weapons of any kind. As a quick story, I once had a lead pastor tell me that there was a member of the congregation who kept a handgun in a hollowed-out Bible at all times on Sundays. You need to decide if this is okay and be incredibly clear on how those situations will be handled and then communicate that with your church.
- Risk assessment, security plans, and church crisis management should always be considered together. Having a church risk assessment process, locking in a church security plan, and maintaining a church crisis management strategy are key to creating an overall safe and prepared environment for your flock.
- Have a plan for church crisis management. In the event of a situation such as an active shooter, you need a church crisis management plan for what happens following those events as well as during the event. A church crisis management plan will help you plan for what to do after these kinds of incidents.
You can also consider using our church security checklist here, or create your own using the example.
Take Your Church Security Into Your Own Hands
We are not called to live in fear, but to stand by and do nothing is not an option when shepherding our flocks. We often forget that shepherding means we are willing to put our own life on the line for our sheep, our people that God has entrusted over to us.
Take your church security into your own hands and protect the people God has placed within your sphere of influence. Subscribe to The Lead Pastor newsletter to help you manage everything you might need to know about being the best you can be for your local church.