So far, we’ve discussed forming a church safety team and helping your church deal prepare for potential medical emergencies. However, installing first aid kits and training volunteers in basic first aid is only the first step of keeping your church safe.
While we may think of the church as the people within our congregations rather than a physical facility, keeping your church building safe is an important ministry priority.
Along with making sure your facilities are up-to-date according to building codes and performing routine maintenance, you can take several steps to make your campus safer.
Know who has church keys
While places of worship are open to all, not every member or leader needs access to every area. Know and monitor which pastors, staff members, volunteers, and lay leaders have keys to your church and which areas they can access.
If your church is financially able, consider using an electronic entry system. Key cards let administrators control individual access to specific buildings, classrooms, offices, and storage rooms. Electronic systems also let you deactivate key cards, which is helpful if staff leave, volunteers resign, or someone loses a card. If a stranger finds the lost key card, he or she cannot access restricted areas of your campus if the key is deactivated.
Consider parking lot attendants
You may want to have members of your safety committee or other trained volunteers serve as parking lot attendants. They can help manage the flow of traffic, usher cars into parking spaces and ensure everyone leaves safety after large services.
Parking lot attendants monitor for suspicious behavior or contact authorities in the case of an accident. They also make a positive first impression on everyone who drives onto your campus. Attendants can usher people to and from vehicles, assist elderly or handicapped parishioners, and welcome and direct visitors to entrances.
Encourage your members and attendees to watch out for each other when attendants aren’t around. Chances are, your church hosts Bible studies, fellowship dinners, and small group meetings after dark. Advise them to walk to their cars in groups and make sure no one leaves alone. For that matter, none of your church office staff members or volunteers walk to their cars alone after work, either.
Trim hedges so no one can hide behind them, and make sure your parking lot contains adequate lighting. Motion-activated lights turn on when they detect people walking in the parking lot but turn off when no one is around, which also saves energy.
Get the word out
Your church’s e-mail newsletter or bulletin is one of the easiest ways to promote a safe church. You can include safety tips in the newsletter. This helps readers consider their safety in their homes and neighborhoods as well as at church.
Theft from vehicles is one of the most common property crimes. Encourage everyone to stash valuables and keep vehicles locked at all times, not just at church. Members and attendees should report any suspicious activities to church staff, who can pass it along to your safety committee.
Utilize outside resources
Since church administrators and leaders spend so much time on campus, it’s easy for them to overlook a safety concern. It’s good to have someone from outside your church inspect or audit your facility. Some city police departments and county sheriff’s offices offer walk-through security surveys and inspections.
If local law enforcement doesn’t offer this service, hire an outside security firm to perform an inspection. Your church’s insurance company may offer resources as well.
Emphasizing a safe campus shows your members, attendees, and visitors that you care about them. The word sanctuary means a holy place of refuge. Let’s strive for campuses that welcome all to a safe worship experience.
You can take it from here
This article is intended to be a starting point to open dialogue about security plans for your church. Be sure to do your own research, and if appropriate, contact a professional to determine safety guidelines that suit your needs.
This article is part three of a five part series on church safety. Stay tuned for our next article on child and youth safety.
About the writer
A Charleston, SC resident and technical writer for ACS Technologies, Amy’s witnessed the impact tragedies such as the Emanuel AME Church massacre have on a community. In her spare time, Amy enjoys running, art, travelling, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends.