The rise of church shootings and other security incidents have served as a sober reminder that evil does not always stop at the front door of houses of worship.  Sometimes, those who intend to inflict harm walk right in.

While churches should always hope that each person who steps onto the church property has only the best of intentions, we cannot assume that is the case.  Jesus Himself said as much in Matthew 10:16.  As he sent out his 12 disciples, He told them: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  In other words, Jesus says that Christians should be wise in our dealings with others.  In the context of church safety and security, Christians should hope for the best from all of those who visit their church property, but should prepare for the worst.

In order to help churches to be better prepared for safety and security threats, a survey was conducted during January 2018 to identify current safety and security practices among churches, with a total of 88 pastors and church members responding to the survey.

The results of that survey can be found in the published report Church Safety and Security: How Churches are Hoping For the Best But Preparing For the Worst.

The survey revealed two general, yet significant observations:

  1. The majority of churches are not as prepared as they should be.
  2. Smaller churches are less prepared than larger churches.

(For the purposes of the study, “smaller churches” are defined as those with less than 100 in worship attendance while “larger churches” are defined as those with 100 or more in worship attendance.)

 

Observation #1: The majority of churches are not as prepared as they should be.

Survey respondents were asked a total of seventeen questions related to their church’s safety and security practices (in addition to a few demographic questions).  Out of those seventeen questions, there were only four questions in which the majority of Senior Pastors answered “Yes”:

  • 91.2% have a First Aid kit available for use on site.
  • 76.5% designate members to serve as safety monitors during weekly worship services.
  • 70.6% lock their secondary entrances during weekly worship services.
  • 64.7% require two adult workers to be present with children at all times.

 

For the remaining thirteen questions, 50% or less of Senior Pastors answered “Yes”:

  • 50.0% require background checks for children’s workers.
  • 44.1% lock their main entrance doors during weekly worship services.
  • 41.2% have an active Safety & Security Team.
  • 38.2% have operating security cameras.
  • 38.2% require a waiting period before allowing new adult members to work with children.
  • 32.4% have a security alarm system.
  • 32.4% have a written child protection policy.
  • 23.5% have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) available for use on site.
  • 20.6% have a formal plan in place in the event of an active shooter.
  • 20.6% have received formal active shooter training.
  • 14.7% provide formal training in safety & security procedures for children’s workers.
  • 5.9% have a written policy regarding weapons on church property.
  • 2.9% have a budget line item for safety and security needs.

While each church context is unique and may have legitimate reasons for not implementing some of the practices listed above, it is quite safe to conclude that the majority of churches are not as prepared for safety and security threats as they should be.

 

Observation #2: Smaller churches are less prepared than larger churches.

A lower percentage of Senior Pastors in smaller churches answered “Yes” than Senior Pastors in larger churches for all seventeen questions.  The difference between the responses of the two groups was especially noteworthy for eight of the questions:

  • 14.3% of smaller churches have an active Safety & Security Team, while 60.0% of larger churches do.
  • 57.1% of smaller churches lock their secondary entrances during worship services, while 80.0% of larger churches do.
  • 57.1% of smaller churches designate members to serve as safety monitors, while 90.0% of larger churches do.
  • None of the smaller churches surveyed have an Automated External Defibrillator available for use on site, while 40.0% of larger churches do.
  • 7.1% of smaller churches have a formal plan in place in the event of an active shooter, while 30.0% of larger churches do.
  • 7.1% of smaller churches have a written child protection policy, while 50.0% of larger churches do.
  • 35.7% of smaller churches require background checks for children’s workers, while 60.0% of larger churches do.
  • None of the smaller churches surveyed provide training on safety and security procedures for children’s workers, while 25.0% of larger churches do.

The three safety and security practices that are much more likely to happen in larger churches compared to smaller churches are:

  • Active Safety & Security Team
  • Written child protection policy
  • AED available for use on site

While smaller churches may not have the resources or feel that all of the safety and security measures listed above are necessary, they are just as susceptible to the attacks of the enemy as larger churches.  In fact, those who intend to do harm may find the lack of security measures in smaller churches more appealing.  Therefore, it is absolutely critical that churches of all sizes hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

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