Evangelistic meetings and special programs are just two methods many churches use to introduce the message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the local community. These types of events serve as the perfect platform for churches to build lasting connections with its local community and share the love of Jesus. They are an opportunity to share the Good News.
As we reach out to our local communities, the truth is there may be people who could bring hurt and harm to our churches. Because of the world we live in, this is a reality that we have to accept. However, rather than allowing this to keep us from connecting with our community we should instead take the time to prepare.
Hospitality and Security: Creating Layers
Many churches have implemented the concept of stationing greeters at the church entrance. This action is an excellent way to make sure both members and visitors alike feel welcomed from the moment they walk in. However, greeters can serve a dual purpose. They can provide a hospitable environment and become the first defense against potential threats.
Often, greeters are the first to see and interact with every person who walks through your church doors. This location places them in the perfect location to catch a dangerous person before that individual walks further into your facilities. Connect with your local police department and emergency personnel and set up a day for training. Ask the local police to teach your church leaders how to look for signs of hostility or danger. This training equips greeters and other church leaders with the tools needed to assess more clearly the potential for risk. Then learn how to handle a hostile visitor, especially one who may become physically aggressive.
Reporting Potential Threats
Another excellent tool to have is a “visitor center” or “help desk.” This area is where visitors (or members) can come and ask any questions they may have. Again, this increases the welcoming factor of your church and helps to provide a hospitable environment. Having a church member stationed there guarantees that any person in your church will have someone to speak with whether it be to locate the nearest restroom or ask about the next church service.
A “help desk” can also serve as a way for designated personnel to be made known of potential danger. Encourage your members to lock arms with you to stop potential risks from occurring. Your congregation can act as the second layer of security by always being on alert for hostile visitors who may have been missed by your first layer—the greeters. If a member believes there is someone in the church who is a threat, they should inform a church leader or the help desk staff. At that point, the team should approach the situation as per the training received by local emergency personnel.
Having an Action Plan
Even with multiple layers of security, a hostile visitor may still enter your church and cause danger, such as an active shooter situation. While we hope that this never occurs, it is vital that both leaders and members be prepared and familiar with your church emergency plan.
Before a special community program, schedule a church safety drill. Make sure your church leaders are familiar with the plan and know what action to take at every stage of the exercise. When you conduct your drill, give members the opportunity to ask questions to help them feel comfortable and confident with the plan. With both members and leaders familiar with the church emergency plan, visitors will be able to follow suit, which can help them avoid danger and injury.
Safety for Your Church and the Community
As a church pastor and leader, facilitating special programs is another opportunity to reach your community in a different way. It is the chance to share the Good News, demonstrate the love of Jesus, and create connections. By implementing these safety layers and having a plan, you can keep both the community and the church safe and prepared.
For more information on church safety, visit Adventist Risk Management, Inc.’s Church Safety page.
Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist for Adventist Risk Management