Security should exist in several layers, and it involves personnel. Consistent people acting in consistent ways and using consistent procedures builds trust and security within an organization.
- Innermost layer: Teachers in each classroom should be there on a regular basis and should know the children personally. They should also know which parents are allowed to pick up which children. Teachers should also be trained in security procedures such as what to do if a child is lost or taken by an unauthorized person.
- Interior layer: Hall monitors (two per hall) should be present to forbid unauthorized persons from walking through hallways in the children’s/youth areas. Only parents, teachers, and children should be allowed in these areas. Hallways in these areas should not be used as cut-throughs to other areas. Hall monitors are also helpful in fetching supplies for teachers, summoning parents, etc. Their primary responsibility is to be visible as monitors. They should wear name tags to label them clearly.
- Perimeter layer: If a church can afford to hire a police officer to direct traffic at the main entrance, the officer can be a part of the church’s safety and security system. He/she can act if necessary when/if there is a breach of security requiring action (if a child were abducted, the hall monitor or teacher could potentially notify the officer before the offender leaves the church property). A hired officer can also summon backup quickly from other police officers if it becomes necessary. The church should have a check-in system at the main welcome desk/area in order to document which safety officer, doctor, nurse, etc. is “on duty” each Sunday. Mobile numbers need to be readily accessible for these people to ensure a quick response from them when needs arise.
- Comprehensive layer: Every church should implement a Safety Officer Team whose primary function is to protect people in worship services. The team is a great way to give volunteer opportunities, especially to members trained in safety and security (current or former police officers, security guards, etc.). At least one member of the team should be present at each worship service. Offenders who seek to harm individuals often desire notoriety, and a potential attack on platform personnel (particularly the Senior Pastor) is a way to gain that notoriety.
Throughout my life I’ve asked God for signs: what job to take, what woman to date, where to go to school, what house to buy, etc. You probably have done the same. But as I read the Bible, I notice something interesting: almost every “sign from God” is different from the others.
God doesn’t like to repeat signs. God does original things; God is creative.
That’s hard on humans, though. When I ask God for a sign, I’m expecting to see something that I recognize is a sign from God (not from someone or something else). I’ll recognize the God-sign because I’ve seen it before. But that doesn’t work with a God who does original stuff all the time.
How do you know when a sign is from God?
Three ways: you talk with God (a lot!), you talk with others (a lot!), and you think about who you are (a lot!). If there is consensus between all three conversations (with God, others, & yourself), then you should probably do it. But if any one of the three tells you to pause, then stop.
Just remember this: God is all about creation and doing unique things. God made you different than everyone else that has ever existed. God will do things for you that God will never do for anyone else.
The next time you ask God for a sign, you may not recognize the sign. Instead, listen closely to God, your friends, and even your inner voice. Learn to recognize those voices – you’ll recognize them because you know and trust them. That is the best – and most unique to you – sign there is.
Safety measures are most effective when several layers exist (overlapping systems which support each other). Note: Using the term “safety” more often than the word “security” is wise, because “safety” has a positive connotation; “security” has the potential to imply a threat.
Suggested “layers” or systems for safety can include:
- Use biometrics (fingerprint) check-in systems at stations for all children ages birth through fifth grade (preschool and elementary areas). Alternatives like bar-codes or cards can be used, but those are easily forgotten or left at home (not as consistently secure). These systems using bio-metrics can use a parent’s fingerprint to generate a paper stub containing a lot of information pertinent to the child (information initially entered by the parent or a staff member). The church can configure the information according to its needs. Once check-in stations are active, the stub system should be mandatory and used every time preschoolers and children go to their classes for programming.
- Use a beeper/buzzer system for all pre-verbal children (usually birth through age two) to allow parents to be summoned quickly if necessary. Beepers are personal, private, and easy for a parent to hear/see in order to respond. These can also be helpful for older children with special needs who may have communication issues.
NOTE: Investigate smartphone options/apps which might address some or all of these needs. This technology is rapidly developing and should be regularly considered in light of the new options available.
- Install safety cameras to monitor all hallways and exit doors, angled to view people as they leave the church/area. Do not draw attention to them; people who potentially seek to do harm will notice their presence. Average churchgoers might be alarmed or perceive danger if you raise their awareness.
Church budgets have only three categories: buildings, staffing, and programming. The following analogy is not exact (no analogy is) but is useful for illustrative purposes.
- Buildings are the skeleton of a church
- Facilities and grounds contain many, but not all, the activities of the church. This is the place where society expects to find members. This is the place that is considered by everyone to be a safe place, a sanctuary from the world.
- Staffing is the heart and brains of a church
- Personnel are what decide the vision and leadership of the church. The staff guide the volunteers to do more, worship better, reach out to others, learn deeper, and care more thoroughly for others.
- Programming is blood and muscle of a church
- The activities of the church provide the energy and excitement; they demonstrate to the world what the church is all about. The programs, mission trips, worship services, educational activities, outreach efforts are the tools the church uses to attract and retain others.
Too often I’ve seen churches decide to reduce one of the three (typically, programming) without understanding the full consequences of their actions. Reducing programming can leave the church paralyzed. Not having a building can cause the church to lose its relationship with the community because it can meet elsewhere anytime it chooses. And not having staff (or having little staff) could mean having nice facilities & volunteers but they are aimless.
Think about the synergy of all three. They are a tripod which support each other and the purpose of the church. But if one of these is weaker or stronger than the others, the church can get lopsided.
Safety and security policies are critical in the church. Establishing and following these procedures will:
- Take steps toward protecting people (especially children) from people intending to do harm to others,
- Take preventative steps toward protecting people from a natural disaster or event with the potential to cause harm, and
- Help protect the church from potential litigation stemming from incidents in which these procedures are necessary (without such a policy, the church is more vulnerable).
- Unify members and staff in an effort to promote, practice, and provide funding for procedures that ensure peace of mind for all members and guests.
Vanguard is a financial investment company based in Philadelphia, PA. They didn’t pay for this blog post.
In 1997 I attended a conference in Bryn Mawr which is a suburb of Philly. The first evening of our conference there was a reception for the 100 of us at a member’s home. It was a nice, but not large, house but inside was tastefully decorated with original art and sculptures. Before we went, I asked a friend to tell me about the owner of the house. He looked incredulous and said, “John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard.” I was pretty naïve and that didn’t ring a bell at all. Lunch the next day was hosted by the Presbyterian Women. I noticed that the woman who served us the night before was walking around with pitchers of tea and water refilling glasses of the conference participants. That was Mrs. John Bogle doing what she enjoyed, serving others.
In the years since I’ve learned a lot about Vanguard and I now have all my investments with them where they’ve done quite nicely. I also read one of Mr. Bogle’s books. I encourage my family and the churches I consult with to have accounts at Vanguard.
I noticed this about Mr. and Mrs. Bogle is this: they are quite humble and seek to find ways to serve. Even though this couple is worth a lot of money, they are generous with their home and time. My professional experience with Vanguard says that they have instilled those values in the company they founded. Customer service at Vanguard goes out of their way to help.
I’ve worked with other high net-worth individuals and families and noticed the same traits: humility, gratitude, generosity, openness, and rarely seek the limelight. I encourage pastors to minister to high capacity donors because these members have the same human needs as everyone else but too often society sees them only as a checkbook.
If pastors would set aside one hour a week to meet individually with the top 20-25 donors and talk about their pastoral needs, some of those high net worth individuals may do what comes naturally to them – be generous with their church. Pastors should never have meetings with ulterior motives (to gain money), but they must absolutely never avoid meeting with the rich. Many high capacity donors would feel honored to have an hour of the pastor’s time and I can assure the pastor, you’ll learn a lot about leadership by just being with them.
Custodian and Administrator Responsibilities
- Custodians have these primary responsibilities
- Room setup and teardown
- Administrators are responsible for the work done (or not done) by the custodian(s).
- If a custodian is not meeting expectations, the administrator must take action in the form of a meeting or disciplinary consequences.
- Before taking disciplinary action, it is important to learn the reasons for the poor performance. Sometimes a personal matter can make it hard for an employee to focus. The administrator might be able to help with the personal matter and thus retain a good employee.
- If the custodian is just not able to do his or her job, release the employee ASAP. Be as generous as you can with a severance package and recommit yourself to hiring well on the next custodian.
- Administrators are responsible for the morale of the custodians too. A couple of times a year, do something “fun” such as buying them pizza for lunch or hosting a game of pool.
- Custodians are people but too many times they are seen as tools; treat them as people, not utensils.
There are 350,000 types of beetles. New beetles are discovered frequently in the tropics which are still being explored. Some estimate that beetles constitute over 20% of all current life-forms in the animal kingdom. Lady bugs, cockroaches, dung beetles, rhinoceros beetles, etc – there are LOTS of beetles.
Why? Why did nature create so many beetles? Why did God allow so many different types of one animal? I don’t know. It really doesn’t matter to me and probably not to you.
What I do know and what does matter to me is that beetles show how creative God is. I would have been happy to know that we had just 20, 30, or even 100 types of beetles. But God is completely about creativity. Just look around – there have been 8 or 9 billion people on earth and everyone has 10 different fingerprints, retina patterns, face, etc.
God is all about creativity. And we should be creative, too, especially in church. But too often we resort to comfortable patterns and routines. These ruts embed grooves in our brain and in our way of thinking.
Please do not succumb to “because that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. God doesn’t – why should we? Be creative in all you do. Be creative in worship, education (especially with young minds), in music, in office administration, and even in finances (without doing anything illegal!).
There are so many opportunities to “think outside the box” but too often we restrict ourselves or others. Don’t do that. Be more like God – BE CREATIVE and IMAGINATIVE!