Keeping Churches Safe at Christmas

Much like the stable and the manger kept the Christ child protected, and as the shepherds guarded their flocks in the fields by night, churches must now keep their congregations safe.

Many churches are considering safety measures they previously hadn’t thought about after a deadly shooting at a small Texas church last month rocked both that community and the nation. Suddenly, pastors and church leaders are thinking about safety—no matter the size of the church.

The American Pastors Network, the largest national network dedicated to equipping pastors to be a voice for truth in the public square, has been focusing on church security by guiding pastors in the wake of the Texas tragedy.

In 2015, LifeWay Research conducted a study to learn more about church attendance patterns during Christmastime, reported Christianity Today. Historically, Christmastime attracts more visitors than perhaps any other time of the year. In fact, for the survey, LifeWay found that six out of 10 Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. Among those who don’t attend at Christmas, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them.

With these trends in mind, church leaders know they will welcome many visitors through the doors this month. And with church security front and center, some churches need a starting place to keep everyone inside the church safe.

“Over the past several weeks, leaders of the American Pastors Network have had many conversations with pastors who want to make safety a priority in their churches, but don’t know where to start,” said APN President Sam Rohrer. “We live in a time where we now must acknowledge the harsh reality that the church sanctuary does not shield us from the evils of this world. Especially knowing that more people will visit American churches this month perhaps than any other time of year, the American Pastors Network wants to help church leaders as they make plans that will keep churchgoers safe—and so that many visitors will feel welcomed and want to return in the new year.”

After having internal meetings and conference calls on the matter, and while addressing the topic on “Stand in the Gap Today,” the daily radio ministry of APN, leaders developed recommendations for churches to consider when it comes to the important matter of church security.

  1. Understand the biblical and moral responsibility of safety. It is the duty of pastors and church leadership to do all they can to protect the lives of those in the congregation.
  2. Develop and train a security team.Dedicate certain individuals, whether staff or volunteers, to undertake the important issue of security. Train these personnel how to identify potential threats and how to de-escalate potential threat situations. During services or functions, outfit the team in plain clothes.
  3. Perform a risk assessment.Where is the church vulnerable in its facility and grounds? Consider a community threat assessment as well.
  4. Implement security protocols.Consider these suggestions: 1) Lock doors after services begin; 2) Post security team members at entrances; 3) Conduct a regular, annual re-assessment of the security plan.
  5. Install security cameras.Consider video surveillance to document and record potential threats or incidents.
  6. Establish a medical response team.Mobilize medical personnel already within the congregation who can take action if injuries ever occur.
  7. Evaluate the legal parameters for security measures.Research insurance requirements and conduct a liability assessment. Identify state civil laws regarding security measures, which can vary from state to state.
  8. Create an evacuation plan.Be sure the security team knows how to best evacuate churchgoers of all ages and mobility ranges, and consider creating another key team to assist. Practice the plan through drills.
  9. Involve local law enforcement in the security plan.Tell local police departments and other emergency responders about the security plan, perhaps through an evening meeting. They may be able to offer additional suggestions or protocols.
  10. Communicate the new or existing security measures with the congregation.Members will appreciate knowing the church has a plan to keep them safe.

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