May 20th, 2015 Update: Good news! I found Mr. Featherstone! I feel much better!
November 10, 2014 Update: Many people have asked me, “Did Mr. Featherstone contact you again?” Sadly, no he did not.
The reminder still applies: Double and triple check what you put into those little fill-in-the-blank areas on Internet forms. Last week I realized I had written my name as “Tuba Rowe”. It can happen to all of us!
It is very frustrating to contact someone to ask for helpful material and not hear back about it. It is equally frustrating when the person receiving the request sends the material, but it is returned because of an inadvertent error in the provided email address. And I feel badly to think that a very gracious sounding man named Mr. Featherstone will feel that I’ve ignored him.
I have been trying to locate a person with the last name of Featherstone for the last three hours, to no avail. He wrote a very nice note and I want to send him the material, doggone it! LinkedIn, White Pages, search engines, Facebook, repeat and repeat again, but still nothing for the area where I am sure he lives. Finally, I decided to use this headline, in the hopes he wonders why I did not respond and decides to write again. Maybe he will see this and know I really did try!
Make sure you double check your email address any time you fill in a form. It is very easy to transpose letters, show a former email provider or make some other error, especially since website forms are often cramped and a bit confusing. Right now, I am going to try some variations on the email address I have been using, to see if I can figure it out.
You may be wondering what the photo in the article has to do with anything. Mostly I thought it was interesting to see the innovations of 1966. (Although why you would wear a sweater and white pants to watch TV in the sand, I don’t know.) Also, to remind us that technological advances usually are wonderful, but they can also cause a lot of frustration. If you are reading this, Mr. Featherstone, contact me again! Thanks!
Whole-Church Means Everything and Everyone, All the Time.
The theme of all my material and seminars on developing church safety and security plans is this: The most effective programs consider all of the People, Places, Property, Programs and Processes of a place of worship. 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. That means that focusing only on main services or special services or the pastor or children or anything or anyone else, will not be as effective as keeping the big picture in mind. Similarly, focusing primarily on how to thwart or respond to crime, violence, active shooters, disruptive situations or assailants, is also not the complete picture of how to prevent harm.
Any realistic plans and programs can help a church be incrementally more safe and secure, of course. However, I worry when I hear someone talking about their church’s safety and security program and the main conversation is about how they have plans to respond to violent assailants or disruptive individuals. There is so much more to protecting a place of worship than that–as important as that is.
Keep the Big Picture in mind: As you develop plans or procedures for your church, synagogue or temple, please consider the very large picture of what you’re dealing with, even in a very small place of worship. There are people of all ages and conditions, activities on many days and nights, electronics, furniture, money, combustible materials, human temptations, off-site functions and a zillion other things that have or create vulnerabilities.
When you consider how to prevent problems, protect against harm, detect concerns and respond to emergencies, please look at the BIG picture. One way to do that is to have teachers, volunteers and others share the things they’ve worried about. Inspect every aspect of the church, on an ongoing basis, not just one time or in the daytime or in the summer or whatever. Talk to other churches about the things that have been problematic, frightening or resulted in harm. Do some research. Talk to your insurance company. Purposely, consciously keep the whole place of worship in mind.
Church Security Material and Seminars: Ask for my material, using the comment section or contact tab. (I don’t publish the comments for this, so no one is identified.) It’s free and every page encourages expanded thinking. Ask about sponsoring a six hour seminar or working with local law enforcement to do it–be a leader in outreach about Big Picture thinking. I don’t huckster my seminars, but they are tremendously well-received, so I like to mention them now and then.
A good way to consider your efforts is this: Which people, places, property, programs or processes matter? Those are the ones to be concerned about in your safety and security activities.
Sometimes there is a reason the “road less traveled” isn’t used often. Wise travelers have researched it and found it will take you nowhere or it will bypass the very things you need to see or do or it will actually take you twice as long to get to where you need to go–or it can lead to tragedy. Shortcuts and seldom used roads can be interesting but they can have many perils.
*A trainer told me he doesn’t use photos in PowerPoint because the “thumbnail” images he copied from image searches were blurry. I suggested he use one of the free photo sites available and he said he doesn’t have that much time, so he just grabs a thumbnail image. I said, “But, you aren’t using the thumbnails because they’re not clear.” He said, “Yeah, but they’re quick.”
*Recipe sites abound with people who give a recipe one star then list the things they changed about it. One woman on www.cook.com wrote, “This cake stuck so bad it was ruined trying to get it out of the pan! I didn’t have time to do the whole grease and flour thing so I used spray-on oil, but there’s no reason that shouldn’t have worked. Now I’m out a lot of money and time.”
*An acquaintance I knew from long ago told me recently about being fired twice. He said, “You know me, I take the road less traveled and that doesn’t go over well in a lot of these stodgy places.”
*One of the documents on church safety and security that I distribute is about how to conduct a thorough assessment of the status of every aspect of the property, people, places, programs and processes of a place of worship. It involves assessing in each season and at different times of the day and night, in a variety of ways. A security director wrote to me and said, “We used your material and it was a great help. But, we didn’t want to get involved with so much assessing so we just did it on a Saturday and called it good.”
*Last week I was in Salida, Colorado teaching a class for Sheriff Pete Palmer‘s deputies and some officers from the Salida Police Department. As usual I stayed in a motel on Highway 50 and I thought I was seeing most of Salida, a nice little town. It turns out, that is a bypass around the real Salida–which is much lovelier than I realized.
The bottom line: Of course there are useful shortcuts for some things and taking an isolated road can be interesting. However, when you’re learning a new skill, new habit, new process, new recipe or new anything else, do it the complete way, the way you were told, the way it’s described, the tested way. When you’re an expert you can develop shortcuts. Another bit of advice: If you are bound and determined to do your own thing, your own way, in life, work or relationships, don’t complain when the cake sticks to the pan.
This is Highway 50 that skirts the main portion of Salida
Downtown Salida on E Street, South of US 291 and North of US 50. Nice little shops!
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!