You may be wondering why the Ministerial Association Team is going to Oshkosh. What do Pathfinders and the Ministerial Team have to do with each other? Doesn’t the Ministerial Team support and oversee pastors? Why do they need to go to the Camporee?Read More
Two of my favorite activities during the International Camporee are the Compassion Projects and the baptismal ceremony. These programs give meaning and purpose to the Camporee. Let’s begin with Compassion. Jesus lived a compassionate life. Compassion was an integral part of His ministry. He was compassion in the flesh. Everywhere He went He demonstrated a compassionate attitude toward others.Read More
The limited spinner pin collection of the North American Division Ministerial Association, which highlights the theme Chosenfor the International Pathfinder Camporee is coming to Oshkosh. The collection includes six luxury pins which will connect Pathfinders attending the Camporee with the mission and initiatives of the Adventist Church in North America.Read More
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of its employees and seeks to demonstrate its appreciation in a variety of ways. One way the church expresses appreciation after the death of a pastor or educator is with a Seventh-day Adventist Clergy or Educator Memorial Medallion.Read More
Jesus loved to inject humor in his sermons. It connected him with his crowds. It brought joy into their day. It made tough truths easier to take in. When used well, humor is a vital tool for powerful preaching today.Read More
Nicholas Zork: I’ve often wondered how pastors of multichurch districts support multiple concurrent worship services. As a pastor of four churches, I imagine that you don’t worship with all of them every Sabbath?
Zachary Payne: [laughs] I do not.
NZ: How are the worship services planned?
ZP: I’ve been solely in charge of the preaching. I schedule myself and elders; and I’ve done a pretty good job of bringing in guest speakers. Being new to the district, I haven’t really rocked the boat with the regard to the rest of the service. But I would like to be more involved in the future.
NZ: What are some things you have in mind?
ZP: Personally, I would like to see each church have a worship committee that I sit on but don’t chair. Right now there’s not a lot of conversation about what we could do differently with the liturgy or the liturgical order.
NZ: There’s usually a tendency for things to simply continue being done the way they’ve been done in the past.
ZP: The worship services are very predictable. If a young person stopped attending and then decided to come back, they’d likely hear the same opening song, see the same people leading, and realize that not much has changed. For some people, that might be a positive thing, but not for everyone.
NZ: I think it would be helpful to have a dialogue with other multichurch district pastors about ways to improve worship ministry in churches when a pastor is not involved in planning every service. I wonder if there might be some way to invest more time training those who plan worship?
ZP: I think so. We’ve been doing a Friday night vespers every week. It’s been theologically focused, and moving forward I’d like that emphasis to be more explicitly practical—to talk about best practices for putting together a sermon or how to give a Bible study. We could talk out about liturgy and what it means, why we do it the same way throughout the eons, and whether that’s necessary.
NZ: We often think of theology as doctrine. But our ministry practices are embodied theology. Worship is a paradigmatic example. But other practices are also theologically consequential, and we don’t always reflect theologically on them.
ZP: We do get bent out of shape when people do things differently from the way we usually do them, but we often don’t know why we were doing them that way to begin with.
NZ: Change is hard for all of us. But the more we become accustomed to thinking critically about what we do, the less threatening change will be, especially if we believe those making changes are being theologically intentional, too.
ZP: Another issue in a multichurch district is that I’m not around most of the time and don’t know what’s going on. So, for example, I’ve never heard one of my elders preach. We’re just beginning to discuss the possibility of live-streaming the service where I’m preaching to the other churches in the district. I know there’s some openness to that idea. Then we could focus on one quality worship service per week.
NZ: Would you only stream the preaching?
ZP: We might even stream the whole service.
NZ: I wonder how much of this will become commonplace in the future. Worshippers will have certain experiences mediated through a screen and other interactions in person.
ZP: Those are things we’ve talked about that could become a reality in coming years.
NZ: Thank you for talking. We’d like to take this conversation to a larger group. I look forward to hearing more of your insights in that discussion.
See the Best Practices for Adventist Worship Facebook page for discussion.
Camp Meeting, Vacation Bible School, Summer Day Camps, and other events pose special challenges for child safety. Here is the check in, check out system used at the Oregon Conference Gladstone Camp Meeting that you may want to use for your local children’s ministries.Read More
The purpose of this course is to prepare pastors for ministry during times of grief, tragedy, and loss. It will provide step by step tips and tools to walk a family through the grief and funeral process.Read More
Loneliness is the frequent companion of singles and marrieds, pastors and parishioners alike – and the results can be damaging to one’s life and ministry. Here’s a word up for those who are down alone.Read More
Pastors and pastor families are just as human as anyone else. So how do we stay real in the face of it all? How can we lead lives and ministries marked with authenticity and emotional health?Read More
A pastor opinion poll we did a few years ago tells the story of what pastors really desired in a ministerial director.
They did not want micro-managers or strong-armed connectivity making them feel like you are the boss. They did not want autocratic czars or constant pessimistic examples of the way it used to be for you.
They simply wanted someone to support them in consistent ways.
They wanted a provision of resources to help them flourish.
They wanted an accountability partner who would walk with them along the journey.
They wanted a spiritual shoulder to lean on.
They wanted a voice to speak up for them or at least to share their viewpoint.
They did not want a ministerial director with all the answers, all the time, but one who would be present in the fray of ministry.
In order to meet the needs of the pastors, we need to find natural ways to communicate, connect, share, and support.
Here a few suggestions.
1. You may be tempted to feel like more consistent communication with your pastors in a world already flooded by the loud techno-communication which includes 24-7 social media and news bytes is not essential. I would suggest the opposite is true. Communication done well is a key essential to our role in pastoral support.
Ask your pastors what is the best way to communicate with them. Ask about their preferred method, best time or day, type of device they use most, form of communication they use – texting, email, blog, social media, etc.
Use your communication to inform, influence, lead, encourage, share essentials, resource, and connect. When pastors only hear from you in a crisis, or have to guess what’s going on regarding conference issues, or have to hear through the grapevine, essential influence wanes.
2. Celebrate the celebrations in the pastor’s life. Celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, births, major accomplishments, milestones, etc. These will be celebrated by family and friends, why not join in to truly celebrate with them?
3. Coach and encourage pastors in their passions and giftedness. Focus on supporting the strengths and God-given abilities of pastors. Also, encourage pastors to train and equip parishioners in the same way. Give them assignments to enhance and grow their giftedness.
4. Connect with the support systems of pastors. Because of the demands and expectations on the minister’s family, connecting with their family can alleviate the false expectations of ministry placed on the family by others. In addition, through prayerful education of congregations, a real supportive ministry can be established in congregations all across our Division.
Finally, ministry becomes a lot simpler when we remember, it’s all about relationship. Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!
A four-day conference "Fragile Earth, Island Home" promises to help clergy understand "preaching connections for theology and science"; a university extension program announces its top billing, "From Civilization to Planetization: The Gospel of John"; a Resource Center for Christian Spiritual Disciplines offers a two-day seminar entitled "Sexual Spirituality: An Approach to Integration." And the list goes on.
There is no lack of opportunity for continuing education for pastors today. Seminaries, colleges, retreat centers, institutes, conferences all offer a great wealth of professional study that, strangely enough, has the potential of becoming a professional hazard.
Pastors who respond impulsively and without planning and forethought to the array of continuing education opportunities that cross their desks are like a family that eats too many meals at fast-food restaurants. They are not going to starve. Once in a while they will even receive a real burst of energy. After all, some fast food is good food.
The point is that, like fast food, many of these continuing education opportunities are good but could be better, especially if haphazard seminar-hopping has become the pattern for one's engaging in continuing education.
Over the short term fast foods may keep one on the go, but over the long term they lack variety, sustenance, and even interest. The same is true of ill-chosen education events. Clergy may fall into the trap of selecting on the basis of impulse as at the fast-food place where the staff seems to expect you to order as you walk in the door, before you've even located the menu! Over the long period of ministry, the fast-food mind-set can deprive pastors of the broad, solid basis and depth of learning required to do effective ministry today. The randomly selected growth opportunity may delight and please one occasionally and for a brief time, but finally, real education is like good nutrition: there is no substitute for planning. What is the best way to plan your meal?
1. Separate interests from needs. Just as certain foods may appeal to your palate without contributing to your health, so the seminar that attracts your fancy may not enhance your ministry. To select from this vast menu the meal that will provide the nutrition you need, you must take a look at yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses as an evangelist, preacher, counselor, visitor in the home, teacher of children and youth, administrator in the parish, leader in the home, and so forth?
2. Separate professional competencies from weaknesses. Select at least one strong area for further development and one problem area you want to strengthen. For the former choose a seminar that will challenge you to an even higher level of competency profession ally or personally. For the latter select a seminar that will help you remedy a weakness. Don't choose all seminars from either category. Choose a balanced meal.
3. Separate immediate needs from long-range goals. Weight control may necessitate an immediate reduction of high calorie foods. The strategy is to set priorities. So also in planning a continuing education program. The needs that you have may be many and varied, but you cannot deal with all of them immediately. You should identify those areas of concern that need attention now.
I'll never forget the first time I experienced receiving a benediction at the end of a worship service that was different than a closing prayer. The pastor walked to the front and said these words: "Now, I want to give you the good word. Please stand." He kept his eyes open and with raised hands and palms facing outward, he began to pronounce a blessing on the entire congregation. Some people closed their eyes. Others extended their hands in front of them with palms facing upward as if they were actually receiving something tangible. A lady to the left of me started weeping, and with a quick glance I could see a gentle smile on her face as if to say, "These are tears of joy!"
At first, I was taken off guard. Even as a seasoned pastor and churchman, this was foreign to me. With every service I'd ever led, I simply offered a closing prayer at the end and dismissed the people. But this was different. This felt personal and powerful, and the words the pastor offered lingered with me for days afterwards.
I was so moved by the words of blessing I received that day that years ago I made a decision to adopt this and use it whenever I close a service. Since then, I've had some amazing opportunities to offer a blessing upon pastors and lay people in various settings. I truly consider it to be one of the greatest privileges I have as a pastor.
As you know, the word benediction literally means "good word" or "good speaking." While there are many wonderful activities that take place in a worship service, I believe the benediction is a final word that you can offer people which serves to give them an extra measure of hope, faith and inspiration as they depart that setting and enter fully again into the realities of a broken, fallen world.
It's important to keep in mind, though, that this time is not intended for you to preach a second sermon or cover new information that you overlooked or forgot to cover during your actual message. For me, there are three keys to an effective benediction: it's concise, memorable and most importantly it's ultimately God's word to the people, not yours.
When crafting a benediction, it helps for me to think about the big idea of the sermon. With that in mind, I try to use a thought or a verse that I've emphasized in the message that supports that idea and then reiterate it in such a way that it encourages people to accept these words as God's words to them, not mine. This is huge. The last thing people need to sustain them during and beyond the benediction are my feeble words. Because these are God's good words to them, they can trust them. They can lean into them far beyond the safety and security of that moment.
I suppose the benediction has become the exclamation point at the end of the service for me. It's a way for God to shout or even whisper emphatically to people, "I love you!" "I'm here for you!" "I will see you through this difficult time." "You can cry out to me because I'm listening." "You can wait on me because I'm working." "You can trust me because I'm faithful." Those are always good words to rest in, whether you're giving or receiving the benediction.
If you're one who's been offering these types of benedictions, you know the richness and the blessing this is to you and your people. If not, I'd encourage you to give it a try. While it may be a bit awkward at first, as it was for me, I believe in time you'll discover a freshness that never grows stale as you get to stand and offer people words of life from the Father week after week.
Enjoy the journey as you continue being a blessing to so many along the way!
Director, Church and Community Care
Focus on the Family
I live in a strange world. I’ve spent most of my professional life pastoring churches. Churches large and small. Churches large enough for multiple staff and multiple worship services. Churches so small that I had to wash my own feet at communion. (Think about it.)
These days I’m not pastoring. I’m training pastors and members. I live in that grey area between pastor and member and I hear the comments and concerns of both groups. Of course, people are different. What turns one member on, turns another off. What makes one member happy makes another miserable.
But I want to share with you some comments about pastors that seem to be fairly consistent no matter where I go. These are some things that members may not tell pastors directly, but they wish pastors knew. Incidentally members, before you get too excited, your turn in the spotlight is next.
We Need A Pastor, Not a Preacher!
Now they really don’t mean that. What they actually want is both. But something has shifted. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this comment I’d be a rich man. “All these pastors today want to do is preach. But they can’t pastor!” Since my default is to protect pastors, I try to listen without being defensive. But it’s impossible to ignore the comments.
Fairly or unfairly, many members think that priorities have shifted and we are producing better preachers than pastors. Some of this is nostalgia, a selective memory of the “good old days.” But some of this is probably true. Preaching resources and workshops are everywhere. Gifted preachers are on line and on television. It’s probably a lot easier to be a great preacher these days and the rewards seem greater.
But we live in a broken culture that’s begging for healers, for listeners, for pastors. Ministers function in many roles, but the role of shepherd is desperately needed today. The shepherd certainly feeds the flock through effective preaching and teaching, but the shepherd also loves the flock, leads the flock, tends the flock, and protects the flock.
Given the size of our churches, it’s not possible for one person to shepherd the congregation one by one. It seems that even Jesus could only reasonably attend to 12. But according to Ephesians 4:12, the primary work of a pastor is to make sure that the work is being done. Shepherding is a shared responsibility, but it must start at the top.
We Want You To Succeed
The vast majority of members want their pastors to succeed. Now, I’m not talking about the weekend warriors. The frustrated few whose purpose in life seems to make everyone miserable, especially the pastor. Frankly, those are largely people who are badly broken and deeply hurt. And it’s true that hurt people hurt people. But in the main, members want their pastors to succeed.
Most members want the pastor to be productive and happy. Most members want the pastor’s family to feel loved and supported. Most members dislike long and unproductive board meetings. Most members hate out of control business meetings. Most members want the church to grow. Most members want visitors to feel comfortable. The problem is that the handful of complainers can seem like the crowd. But they aren’t. The vast majority of church members sincerely want the pastor to succeed. When he or she succeeds, so do they.
You Don’t Know Everything
It’s the curse of leadership. Omni competence. The idea that because I can do one thing well, I can do all things well. It is a pressing problem of leaders from the local church to the General Conference. It is particularly problematic for local pastors. Why? Because pastors are immediately confronted with people who know more about the church, the city, the context than them. There are certain things that the members absolutely know better than the pastor!
There is a distinct difference between the school house and the church house. Some things that fly in a classroom fail in the church. When a pastor arrives at a church, any church, some things will be working and some things won’t. Even if it’s working for the wrong reason, there’s a reason that it’s working and the pastor needs to discover the reason. Pastors who are convinced that their way is the only way or always the best way will eventually find themselves proving it. Alone.
We Don’t Know Everything Either!
Here’s a little secret that many pastors don’t know. Most of the members know that they need help.
· They know that some of their friends are nuts!
· They know that the church isn’t growing as it should.
· They know that only a handful are showing up for business meeting.
· They know that the bathrooms are dirty or in disrepair.
· They know that prayer meeting is boring.
You get my drift. Pastors can get the feeling that they are living on an island with no visible or vocal support. But the reality is, most members are busy Christians trying to navigate their own crazy world. Many of them are experiencing some of the same issues as the pastor where they work. They want to do better, but they need help to do better. And they want the pastor to help them do better.
We’ll Be Here When You Leave
Most members have seen pastors come and they’ve seen pastors go. Some churches have been the “science experiment” of many a starry-eyed pastor. Other churches have been the “training wheels” for many a young pastor. They have heard it all and they have seen it all. Since most of them will be there when the pastor leaves, the pastor should keep at least two things in mind.
· Make changes that will last – Don’t move things around solely because of your taste or comfort level. Make changes that are consistent with the culture of the church and community. If not, the church will “put all of the furniture back” when you leave. And it will create a mess for the next pastor.
· Don’t start fights you can’t finish - Even necessary change is challenging. Every pastor will have battles. The problem is that people take sides. These people will be living and working and worshiping together long after the pastor leaves. Pastors should work to resolve conflict, especially conflict that grows out of changes they started.
So, there you are. What do you think? Anything else you think members wish pastors knew?
Jesse Wilson is an associate professor of religion and theology at Oakwood University and director of PELC/Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Council. You may also want to read his article What Pastors Wish Members Knew
It was my first church where I was the senior pastor and the 7th and 8th grade teacher was for a reason that I can’t now recall needed to be gone and I was asked to teach Bible and PE for a week or so. I had never had any pedagogical training but went to the elementary school to be a teacher. I quickly learned to appreciate the challenges provided by pubescent boys and girls. They were quick to give all the right answers in Bible class but when then we went to recess the Bible lessons we spoke of in class did not have any effect on behavior when it came to playing baseball. I quickly learned that the theory of Christian living in a Bible Class did not always translate into behavior on the ball field.
What is true for pubescent boys and girls is also true of adults who listen to preachers giving moral instruction in church, and is true of some university students who find the freedom of university life releases them from the moral constraints of their home life. After my week of substitute teaching I was ready to go back to pastoral ministry with a greater appreciation for those who have given their lives to teaching. I would encourage every pastor to have such an experience. I not only had a greater appreciation for teachers and the work that they do but I had developed a relationship with many students who were also parishioners of mine and who would, hopefully, pay more attention to the pastor when he/she preached on Sabbath because he/she had spent time on the ball field with them.
Leadership, as John Maxwell says, is influence, and the influence of a pastor is dramatically increased with parishioners when he/she spends time with the children of those parishioners. Whether those children are in elementary school or in college or university. Influence is gained through relationships and there is no quicker way to develop a relationship with church members than to connect with their children. And there is no better way to do that then to spend time either in a local elementary school, academy or college connecting with the young people of the church. It is said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” well the way to the heart of parishioners is through their children.
My experience as pastor of the university church in Collegedale strengthened the conviction of the importance of building relationships. Being at the university church enabled me to connect with many college students and I learned that they are just older elementary school students. They appreciate personal attention in the same way as younger children do. Connecting with them on the racket ball court or the ball field developed the relationships that enabled my spiritual influence to be more significant. As previously said, “leadership is influence” and you don’t gain influence without building relationships and you don’t just do that from the pulpit.
When I became president of the university I tried to build relationships by teaching a class or two but found that my schedule did not allow it to be done effectively (and besides that I was not the most effective teacher), so I sought other means to build relationships with students. Once again it was playing on the ball field, just watching football/basketball games or eating with students in the cafeteria that enabled me to build connections with students. Showing interest is building influence. When it comes to college students it is not necessary to play games with them. (In fact, given my skill level it was better if I didn’t play with them.) It was just important to show up, listen, and talk to them. The word transparency comes to mind. Influence is developed when the students see the “real you” without putting on the pastoral cloth.
Ellen White wrote in the book Education that “the work of education and the work of redemption are one.” (page 30) For many pastors the most significant evangelism campaign that they embark on will be the work they do among the young people of the church.
I have found that what is true for students in elementary school and academy is also true in the university setting. The expression “out of sight out of mind” too often applies to students who leave home and the local church and make their way to a college or university to continue their education. They are often forgotten by the local church. There are those who complain about the young people leaving the church when they graduate from academy or when they go away to college or university, but do those people remain connected with the young people? As previously indicated, “Leadership is Influence.” We have no influence over those with whom we maintain no connection. It is about relationship and maintaining relationship with the church, and that is not a building, but it is people who love and care for young people and show that through actions.
The single most significant thing that a pastor can do after establishing a position of influence with the young people in his church is to use that influence in encouraging them to attend a Seventh-day Adventist school. Generally, parents and students, particularly those of modest means, believe that they can’t afford higher education. They have heard stories of tuition rates in the multiples of 10 thousand dollars and on their wages, they don’t see how it is possible for them to even think about having their child go to one of the 13 SDA higher education institutions. But the fact is that when you consider scholarships, government aid and work it is not as expensive as it sounds. In fact, it is generally less expensive than sending a student to a boarding academy.
Research[i] demonstrates that when young adults attend Adventist higher education they are
· Eight times more likely to experience professors who helped me develop spiritually.
· Seven times more likely to experience professors who studied the Bible, and prayed with me.
· Seven times more likely to participate in mission service or mission trips.
· Four to five times more likely to work on campus.
· Three times more likely to experience positive dating interactions
· Three times more likely to participate in campus activities, such as sports teams, music groups campus publications, student clubs.
· Two to four times more likely to develop lifelong friendships with classmates, faculty and staff.
· Two times more likely to learn the importance of healthy living.
Churches have school boards to monitor the function of schools, they have Sabbath School Departments that plan programs for all age groups. It would be helpful, even if the church has no young adult class, for there to be a young adult ministry department that maintained connection and therefore relationship with young adults no matter where they were living. When my daughters left home and went away to school you can be sure I maintained close connection with them through care packages, phone calls and visits. It would build influence with our young adults if the church family worked at maintaining close connections with their young adults who went away to school. Why not:
1. Send a care package of goodies.
2. Make a pastoral visit to the campus and take the students from you church out for a meal.
3. Send personal notes or call on birthdays
4. Make a special announcement and welcome students back when they come home for vacation. (“You are missed and loved.”)
5. Make a financial contribution to the student’s education (no matter how small. Education is expensive and your gift will send a significant message of support.
On more than one occasion when I was president of Southern Adventist University I received a thank you email from a student when I simply showed up to watch a basketball game or football game. The pastors who made the effort to travel to Southern once or twice a year to simply take the students from their congregation out to eat developed a positive influence in the lives of those students. So, to sum up the pastor and his//her relationship with college or university students – just show up.
Gordon Bietz serves as the associate director for higher education for the North American Division Education Department
Reprinted from the second quarter 2017 issue of CALLED
[i] CollegeImpact research report results from a study of the college experiences of alumni of Adventist colleges and universities and Adventist graduates of public colleges and universities in North America November 2014
Our hearts grieve the innocent loss of life as 26 worshippers were gunned down at the First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017. Headlines of major newspapers read: “Evil has invaded the Sanctuary” and “Can any church be open and welcome to All?”. Reasonable concerns when you look at a death toll of 48 lives from active shooter situations at houses of worship during the past five years:
Gaining Courage to Confront Evil
Houses of worship are places where a person finds safety and belonging. Society believes families will be safe as they attend services or participate in church events. Tragically, the evil of this world finds no boundaries to prevent tragedy and harm. Pastors, church elders, deacons, greeters and Sabbath school leaders must be trained and prepared to confront unthinkable situations and act responsibly when evil strikes.
Active Shooter Response Planning
Situational Awareness is the critical first step in a congregation’s Emergency Planning – “You can’t pat someone down and give them a hug at the same time,” said Lt. Todd Caron of the Anderson County Sherriff’s Office in South Carolina. Caron believes, congregations and church members must be aware of their surroundings. “We can still be open and loving and be cautious and prepared… you should notice if someone is disgruntled or upset, they may need some help or you may just want to keep a watch on them.” 1
Many churches have an informal security or emergency plan. Some congregations use off-duty police officers, retired military or hire security personnel to watch for signs of danger as they observe those who enter for services. Extra care must be taken if armed security is going to be used on church property. Pastors should always seek counsel from Conference officials before any security contract is signed. Consideration must be given to applicable state laws concerning weapons on church property, local Conference policy and liability insurance to protect both the security officer, local church and Conference. (See Resource #6 – Firearms on Church Property for more information) Being welcoming and open doesn’t begin with songs, sermons or bible studies. It begins with awareness at the door.
Even talking about an Active Shooter scenario is a difficult conversation that church leaders want to avoid or believe it will never happen here. Most active shooter situations last less than five minutes and are over before law enforcement arrives on scene. Church leaders cannot be complacent; they must face the issue that the unthinkable may happen and be ready to respond.
This can be achieved through five action steps: 1) Discussing “what would we do” with the church board, 2) Establish an emergency response plan for your church facility, 3) Review your emergency plan with local law enforcement agencies, 4) Conduct practice emergency drills with church leaders and 5) Be aware of what is taking place during all church activities and report all threats or suspicious behavior to law enforcement officials. Building strong relationships with local law enforcement is key so they know your facility before an emergency 911 call is placed in the event of an emergency. Remember, situational awareness begins at the front door. Knowing how to respond, knowing alternative ways to exit, taking immediate and appropriate actions can save lives.
Arthur F. Blinci is senior risk consultant and owner of Azure Hills Risk Management
Helpful Online Resources…
2. Detailed Emergency Planning Guide for Houses of Worship
4. Run, Hide, Fight – Training video:
Resources from Adventist Risk Management
Pastors and ministry leaders are often the first to arrive at church on Sabbath morning. You unlock the doors, turn on the lights and equipment, and prepare to greet members as they arrive. Often the same people close the doors, shut off the lights, and lock-up the building until the next scheduled program.
As a pastor, you are probably quite familiar with this process and have become accustomed to opening and closing the church every week. Each time you lock the church doors, someone may be lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting for an opportunity to sneak in. Sometimes, they succeed and you are left with a theft and stolen or broken equipment.
WHAT IS A MINISTRY LEADER TO DO?
The claims department at Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) receives a variety of theft and burglary claims each month. Is the answer armed security or simply improving lock up procedures?
Before hiring armed security, there are five questions you must ask yourself:
1. Have you consulted with local conference leadership and the conference attorney to review the gun use laws in your jurisdiction?
2. Does your conference have an established policy that no firearms will be allowed on conference-owned property? Your church is considered private property. In many states, the property owner can establish their property as a weapons free zone. Some jurisdictions require specific announcements or postings.
3. Does the individual who may be willing to provide armed security for the congregation have the proper license or concealed weapons permit and firearm liability insurance? State laws vary on gun licensing and whether a concealed weapon permit grants permission to the owner to have a gun in a house of worship.
4. What level of training in firearm use does the individual have and do they have law enforcement experience in the use of deadly force in a public assembly area?
5. Is the armed security service provided by a licensed and bonded security company? Be sure the person has insurance or be willing to purchase such insurance for the church.
If you decide to move forward with hiring armed security, work together with your conference to make sure your ministry has the correct insurance coverage, chooses from a professional security provider, and follows the procedures for keeping both members and visitors safe. It is important to note that most church organizations insurance coverage does not provide protection from liability arising from the use of firearms. Please work with your conference and ARM for needed insurance.
INCREASED AWARENESS CAN IMPROVE SECURITY AT YOUR LOCAL FACILITY
ARM has created a check list to use each time you lock-up after each event. These steps will help further secure your church building.
Step 1: Check the exterior of the building
Begin by walking around the perimeter of the building and lock all doors, windows, and gates. If there are other buildings such as a gym, fellowship hall, or a storage shed be sure to securely lock all windows and doors for these buildings as well. As you conduct your perimeter check, look for and pick up any trash, personal items, or non-secured items.
Step 2: Sweep and secure the inside
Take time entering each room, and making sure they are empty before locking windows and doors, and shutting off lights. Collect any misplaced personal items for your lost and found containers. Check each stall in the bathrooms and make sure faucets are completely turned off before locking doors. All electronic equipment should be shut down and put away in its corresponding storage area. If there is no specific storage area for your equipment, lock equipment in an interior, windowless room.
Step 3: Set your security system
Once you have secured the exterior and interior of your facilities, it’s time to activate the security system. Some alarm systems will alert you on a digital screen if a door or window is unlocked or open. Check to make sure your system does not detect any unlocked entrances. Then set the security system and exit the premises in the appropriate time.
ADDIONAL SECURITY SYSTEMS FOR YOUR CHURCH
Besides a security alarm, there are various other security systems and steps available for installation to better protect your facilities and your church members. These include:
· Security lighting around the facilities’ perimeters and in the parking lot.
· Motion sensor lights in hallways, near entrances, and by the perimeter security lighting.
· Security cameras
Taking the extra time to install these security systems and work together with your conference can save your ministry from avoidable incidents. Combining security systems and a thorough, regularly conducted lock-up process, you can rest easy knowing that your church is better protected.
For more information on church safety, visit AdventistRisk.org/Prevention-Resources.
Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist for Adventist Risk Management