Your church’s security depending on your size may be thriving, dismal or non-existent. However, we are living in precarious times and it’s a topic that every church no matter the size, has to be discussing and planning for. 

familiarity creates environments where people become relaxed.

If you look at the word familiar up above, you’ll see the word family is in it, and every church (no matter their size) is looking for their members to become familiar with one another, to ultimately become like family. Brothers and sisters in Christ that can be there for one another and bear each other’s burdens. 

Such connection is a perfect and ideal goal. If this is happening your church is on track. However, when this happens, churches can also become relaxed, perhaps even sloppy or haphazard, and this, however, is not ok.

At all times, someone must be being vigilant, so that other people can have the privilege of being familiar. The only way your church can safely operate within familiarity is if there are systems in place. A LOT OF SYSTEMS, that are being maintained and monitored week in and week out. 

This isn’t the first we’ve talked about this topic. I talked about the child I once lost here, I talked about why your check-in procedures need a refresh here and we had an entire podcast with Jim Wideman about security here.

This is a topic that’s really important to us at, because we believe both the safety of children and the safety of the entire family matters. If you believe that the safety of the people in your congregation matters you will painstakingly reassess your procedures to make sure there aren’t safety gaps.

This single article isn’t going to transform the safety of your church, because every church is different, with different layouts and different people groups and different parking lots and differently sized congregations. When I regularly attended a 10,000 person church, it didn’t seem irrational for them to do purse and backpack checks before you entered, however if your family church of 200 did that it might be silly, and it also might not be silly, you know your people. If you want help creating the ideal security plan for your church, our CEO TK Dennis has a masters in counter-terrorism, and he’d love to consult with you on this topic. 

five things to remember when planning for security 

  1. don’t worry about being offensive. worry about keeping people safe.

    It’s really easy when you have that super awesome “familiar family” thing going on for people to get easily offended. People will assume they are the exception to every rule. That locked doors don’t apply to them, that showing badges, licenses and ids don’t apply to them, and you just have to keep the priority on keeping people safe. Systems and protocols will be rejected and bucked in the beginning, but in one year’s time, people will hardly remember how things were “before.” 

    Senior and Lead Pastors, you especially may feel like the rules don’t apply to you, but imagine if you actually upheld the rules, how much more everyone else would be inclined to follow them and with a great attitude too. You set the tone, don’t forget it.

  2. if you don’t have anyone that’s trained to do security then train them.

    If you don’t have police officers, state troopers or security guards that attend your church to naturally volunteer in a similar capacity. Train someone who fits the bill. They may not have years of experience to back them up, but they can learn to follow protocols, to look for red flags, and to keep people safe. No matter the size of your church, you need people in every building that are performing the role of security. 

  3. check your exits. 

    I’ve had way more conversations with people about the “safety of their exits” than is probably healthy. For children’s ministry ideally, there is one entrance and exit to easily control traffic. If this isn’t the case, after service starts lock doors, put up scansions, offend people in the name of safety. There should be two people at every door where people are passing frequently to keep an eye on the whole scene. 

    For your adult worship area, there should be both greeters and security watching the incoming traffic throughout the entire service. Even if you have a small church, with a small volunteer force, at least one person should be on security. 

  4. have exit plans that every “need to know” person is familiar with.

    God forbid a crisis arose, how are you getting out of your different environments? Do you have a place where people can quickly take cover? Is there a place children can quickly take cover? Are your staff and key volunteers familiar with your plan? 

  5. if something feels off, trust your gut. 

    You can call it the Holy Spirit, intuition, discernment, trusting your gut, or all of the above. Sometimes something just doesn’t feel right. If someone is giving you a weird vibe, follow them or find your security team and have them do it. Ask questions. Get answers, don’t be afraid to call the police when necessary. Churches SHOULD 100% be safe havens for broken people. But broken people sometimes also need real mental health treatment, real treatment programs, and no-one should be scared to move beyond the bounds of “praying with someone” is something is off.

    As ministry leaders and pastors, it’s our job to do due diligence to our congregations by putting protocols and systems in place that will keep them safe. Tragedies will happen, but when they do, you want to know that you did everything within in your power to prevent them. 

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.