Update: June 25th, 2015: Since the recent tragedy at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June —the racially motivated massacre of 9 people at a Wednesday night church service–I’ve received over two hundred requests for the free material I distribute. Since 2007 I have distributed over 25,000 copies of that material and have added other items to go with it. I use the material as a foundation for the six hour safety and security seminars I present. These seminars are well-balanced, illustrated by case histories, and very practical and realistic for any church.
I continue to emphasize whole-church safety and security for a wide range of things that can cause harm to a place of worship and the people in it: Fires, vehicle accidents, playground injuries, thefts, burglary, vandalism, threats, sexual improprieties and criminal sexual activity, embezzlement, misuse of church resources and property, AND violent acts of any kind, with or without a weapon. When a church keeps a safety and security focus in every activity, there is increased alertness all the time and perhaps an increased ability to take quick protective actions (although there are some situations where the events unfold too quickly for that, and I believe that was the case at Emmanuel AME). All-the-time safety and security efforts can also prevent or reduce other life-threatening situations.
Let me know you want the material and I’ll send it to you by email, in Word documents from which you can copy and paste if you wish.
The 156 page bundle contains:
1. How To Conduct a Thorough Safety and Security Assessment
2. The Role of Greeters and Ushers in Church Safety and Security
3. The Role of the Platform Team in an Emergency
4. How to Develop an Emergency Medical Response Team (Even Without Medical Staff)
5. Brief Thoughts on Developing a Security Team
6. How to Plan for a Special Event
7. How to Develop a Security Plan
8. A sample security team document–This isn’t a plan for a security team or a template, it’s a helpful few pages from a document sent to me by a security team.
Background about Church Safety and Security Material
At the end of 2007, after the tragic events in Arvada, Colorado and at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, my intent I wrote a 23 page document on the role of greeters and ushers in church security, to assist a few pastor friends who had asked me for suggestions. Then, I wrote a lengthier document on how to assess the safety and security of a place of worship, based on my experiences assessing courthouses, government buildings and facilities–including a nuclear site–as well as churches and church schools. Later I added three more short documents, one which is really just an edited response to someone who asked me about how to develop a church security team. That one is not all-inclusive by any means, but apparently has assisted many churches in their efforts.
8,000 16,000 25,000, so far! Who was to know that word-of-mouth advertising, viral marketing and a great price (they’re free!) would accomplish so much? Probably the fact that they were free added a great deal to the popularity of the material! However, I know that hundreds of churches are using the material. I have spoken at many conferences and meetings in which attendees have commented on how helpful all of documents have been. Several other websites also distribute it and it is given out regularly by police departments and sheriffs offices, denominational groups and at various conferences. As a result, the material has been distributed in North America, Great Britain, Europe, China, Japan, several countries in Africa and in Mexico and Central and South America. I’ve enjoyed the whole experience tremendously!
Why is the material so helpful? I think there are three reasons the material is helpful–and isn’t because of my expertise (although you can believe that too, if you want!).
1. The focus is on both safety and security.
2. It is adaptable to any place of worship in any setting.
I have tried–I hope not to excess–to keep a wide variety of situations in mind. Storefront prayer rooms and cathedrals have similar yet very different problems. An urban church and a one room church in a remote rural location have similar and also different worries. A mega-church with programs going almost continuously has potential problems that a corner church in a small town does not–and the reverse is also true. However they both can be harmed in similar ways.
Whatever material you read, consider the principles and concepts and work around the fact that the church being described is different than yours.
3. Anyone who takes it a step at a time can apply the concepts and suggestions. Conducting a security assessment of a place of worship doesn’t require an expert. In fact, a moderately trained church member or team can probably do a better job than a stranger in most cases. For one thing, the church member can be present at various times to assess a wide-variety of programs and processes. This aspect of assessing is at the heart of my material. To be thorough you must assess in various situations throughout the year. That can’t be done by the local police or a hired consultant.
One of the biggest misconceptions about security is that law enforcement personnel know more about it than a lay person might. In truth, most law enforcement officers, even community resource officers, have never received specific training in how to conduct a thorough assessment of any facility or to make recommendations about it. They are often not accustomed to the limitations, requirements and restraints involved in making a church safe and secure, compared to a bank, a courthouse or a home. They are willing to do it and will certainly apply their knowledge, skills and intuitive thinking–which can be considerable. But, they are usually only available on a limited and one-time basis and their abilities will vary, as with any task.
You may find that the help of the police or sheriffs office is just what you need. But keep in mind that you or anyone else who takes his or her time to do it right, following the guidelines in reasonable material, mine included, can do a very acceptable job.
HOW TO GET THE FREE DOCUMENTS ON CHURCH SAFETY AND SECURITY
You can use the comments section on this or other posts and ask for the material that way. Or, you can go to the Contact Me tab at the top of the site and use the space provided. Or, you can write to me at tina (at) tinalewisrowe (dot) com. That’s the way I’m told to write my email address to avoid spam, but you’d use the regular format instead of the words. If you use the contact or comments sections, I won’t publish your request, I’ll just respond.
Make sure your email address is correct! One out of fifty or so emails come back to me because the listed email is incorrect.
I appreciate attribution if large portions or my material are used or if you do training based on it. But, as I often point out….I probably won’t know the difference! Also, be sure to share the documents with others in your denomination or community. It’s a great outreach to other churches, to show caring and concern.
There is no Eleventh Commandment About Church Safety and Security
Your place of worship is unique in its setting and vulnerabilities, and so are the members and their concerns. You and others can develop a program that grows over time and is adjusted as needed just for your church. There are no rules about it. Starting and doing something reasonable is better than waiting until someone knows how to develop something perfect. Take a leadership role in the safety and security of your church. Volunteer to help. Be a reasonable resource (not a naggy pain in the neck!). The important thing is to get started and keep going. Keep the faith!