Why Does a Church Need a Security Team?

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Sep 122011

Reprinted with permission by Mars Hill Church on Thursday, May 5th, 2011 12:00 pm

by Nate Finn

“Why does a church need a security team??” That question is mostly asked incredulously when people visit one of our campuses and see a team of usually large guys wearing polo shirts in the lobby, the children’s ministry, and the sanctuary.

Security within our church can be a misunderstood concept. Many people believe that security does not belong in the church. On the one hand, there are people who say it unnecessarily heightens a perception of threat, and on the other, people say it means we’re not trusting in the sovereignty of God (to protect his church). We also recognize there are people who are simply opposed to our church and the gospel of Jesus. As Pastor Mark said in the 2007 sermon, “Pain and Progress,” from the Nehemiah sermon series, “Not everybody in Seattle has the same agenda as we do. Our goal is to read the Bible and love Jesus. … That’s not the most popular agenda in Seattle.” We get that, and the fact that people might oppose us is not what worries us. But here’s what we’re very committed to: people should be able to come to a Mars Hill Church service and worship in peace.

“If you are saying to yourself, ‘Aren’t they exaggerating this whole thing? I didn’t see or hear of anything,’ it is because our security teams are doing a fantastic job.”

Ultimately, the goal of the security teams is to protect the integrity of the service and how people are receiving the Word that’s being preached. Listening to a sermon can be a big experience—the Holy Spirit can be speaking to someone—and if there’s a disturbance, that moment can be broken.

Like the Israelites in Nehemiah’s day, we not only have the right to worship the God of the Bible but we have the obligation to provide a safe environment to those who want to attend Mars Hill and worship God freely. The First Amendment grants us the right to peaceably assemble, after all. (And, yes, it grants that right to those who’d oppose us to peaceably assemble and voice that opposition as well, and that’s fine, though as a private organization, we have the right to not permit that to happen on our property.)

The same people who opposed the Israelites are the same kind of people we experience today. However, the men and women you see with the security shirts are not there to intimidate but to protect the body from those trying to disrupt or cause harm. And yes, serious crimes do happen on church properties across the nation and they aren’t just petty crimes. Pastors have been killed and churches have been vandalized, robbed, and burnt to the ground. This information is not being used as a scare tactic. We just don’t want to be naïve and not be cognizant of what happens every week.

That said, our campuses experience vandalism, burglary, and theft as often as once a week. On Sundays, we keep watch on the premises, mostly in an effort to deter any potential threats by being proactive not just reactive. If you are saying to yourself, “Aren’t they exaggerating this whole thing? I didn’t see or hear of anything,” it is because our security teams are doing a fantastic job mitigating threats we see regularly throughout the year.

Children’s Ministry

One of our biggest priorities on Sundays is to keep our kids safe while they learn about Jesus each week. Similarly, we want parents to be able to learn about Jesus while they sit in the service, and part of this is that they need to be able to trust in the children’s ministry when they drop their kids off and know the kids will be safe and protected during that time.

There are, on average, five to six threats to the children’s ministries at our Mars Hill campuses per year. Security team members are present throughout the children’s ministry for two reasons. One reason is to mitigate serious threats, and the other is for accountability of our children’s ministry volunteers.

Lobbies and sanctuary

In addition, security team members keep watch in the lobbies and sanctuary. Ever wonder why there are two security team members who sit at the front of the sanctuaries while Pastor Mark preaches? Because several years ago, a man charged the stage with a large knife while Pastor Mark was preaching. In general, there is a higher potential of threats when the sermon topic is on spiritual warfare. There have been subsequent threats, and sometimes the threats vary by campus location and service time.


And lastly, at the Downtown Seattle and Ballard campuses, you will see uniformed Seattle police officers at the services. These officers are on duty and paid, though the shifts they work at the church are ones for which they’ve volunteered to take overtime hours, so they’re not being taken out of the normal police rotation to be stationed at our campuses. The strategy behind the uniformed police officer is primarily as a deterrent, but it’s also so that we can have more of an immediate response if there were an actual incident.

Guards along the wall

God called Nehemiah to build a wall and now God has called Mars Hill to build cities within the cities. God told Nehemiah to place guards along the wall to protect his people and the work, and we must place guards within our walls to protect God’s people and the work of sharing the Gospel. In order to provide the proper safety and security for our campuses, we need men who are able-bodied, have a heart to protect our children and families, and a desire to step up and volunteer a portion of their time to the Security Ministry. This ministry not only provides a valuable service to the church, but also is an opportunity for spiritual growth and community building for people who share common interests.

“But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”

Nehemiah 4:7–9

“Opposition only comes to those who are doing something. There are many people out there who live their life without being criticized or attacked because they spend their time lying on the couch with their finger up their nose not doing anything. There is no reason to oppose such people. So if you are doing something, expect opposition and be encouraged because you are doing something.”

Nate Finn is the executive assistant to Pastor Dave Bruskas and a member of the Ballard campus.

If you need assistance in developing and implementing a church security ministry team or need security team enhancements, then contact Gideon Protective Services, Inc. to learn more about our Church Security Seminars or full Secure Church training program.  Call 888.305.6513 Ext. #3 or email info@gideonprotectiveservices.com.

Jan 122011

On 8 January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner reportedly shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the head during her constituent meeting outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. Loughner, using a Glock Model 19 9mm handgun with extended magazine, allegedly shot 18 additional individuals, resulting in six dead, including Federal Judge John Roll, and 12 wounded.  Loughner was captured and arrested at the scene.  Giffords apparently did not have a Security Director on her staff and rarely used any security or police assistance for that matter even though she has had credible threats and acts of violence towards her in the past.  Why?  On 9 January, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a federal complaint charging Loughner with three counts of attempted murder and two counts of murdering federal employees.

This incident bears many similarities to previous lone offender attacks and highlights the challenging threat posed by such individuals as they operate independently and maintain few trusted associations-making them difficult to detect, monitor, and disrupt.  The following are recent active shooter examples:

1. On 1 September 2010, a male suspect—possibly motivated by a violent form of environmental extremism and armed with a potentially functional improvised explosive device attached to his body, a replica weapon, and a starter pistol took hostages at the Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters building of the Discovery Channel and threatened to open fire.  The standoff ended when he was killed by law enforcement.

2. On 4 March 2010, a gunman shot two Pentagon police officers at a security checkpoint at the Pentagon entrance. Pentagon officers returned fire and disabled the gunman, who later died of his injuries.  The gunman’s motives remain unclear.

3. On 18 February 2010, a man flew a single-engine aircraft into the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offices in an Austin, Texas office building, killing himself and one IRS employee.  He allegedly targeted the offices as revenge for personal financial hardships he attributed to the IRS.

4. On 10 June 2009, an 88 year-old male with white supremacist sympathies opened fire with a rifle at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., killing a security guard.  The attacker, who was wounded by return fire and arrested on the scene, died on 6 January 2010 prior to the conclusion of his trial.

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.  Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims.  The following measures are recommended to mitigate the impact of an active shooter incident on facilities.

1. Designate at least two evacuation routes and post routes in conspicuous locations.

2. Develop and exercise security and emergency action plans that include policies and procedures for dealing with active shooters.

3. Integrate local law enforcement, emergency responders, SWAT teams, K-9 teams, and bomb squads and first responders into training exercises.

4. When possible, establish random security patrols to disrupt potential surveillance efforts.

5. Install closed circuit television cameras accessible to law enforcement.

6. Train personnel on proper procedures relating to the identification and reporting of suspicious activities.  While no single activity is an indicator of pre-operational attack planning, the combination of various activities-such as individuals loitering in sensitive areas for no apparent reason, unusual sketching, and pace counting-could be deemed suspicious in light of other available information.

7. If circumstances prevent safe evacuation, move away from the danger and find shelter in a pre-designated area of refuge or an area with a window to allow rescue.  If possible, victims should make every attempt to notify rescuers of their location.

8. If victims are unable to evacuate, they should take all available actions to seek secure cover, such as locking doors and/or hiding in an area that provides maximum protection.

All of us live in a dangerous world that is only getting more dangerous and violent.  If you are someone who is in the public eye or speak out about controversial issues, you are more susceptible to acts of violence toward you and others around you.  Whether you want to admit it or not, high profile activities automatically put a target on your back.  Society has proven time and time again that there are “wackjobs” amongst us.  Not everyone is going to like what you have to say about the issue you are speaking about.  Unfortunately, left wingers and right wingers see their only course of action is to cause harm and bring peril to your doorstep.

What will you do when the wolf knocks on your door?  Allow yourself to become a victim or casualty?  Turn and ignore the wolf and hope it leaves you alone?  Fight the wolf off by any means necessary?  If you’re not strong enough to fight the wolf off, what about utilizing a sheepdog to protect you?  Why all the reference to wolves and sheepdogs?  The wolf is a predator.  The sheepdogs are those folks who will take a stand against the evil that continually haunts us and plagues our society that normal and decent human beings want to be a part of no matter what your cause is.

It is terrible what happened to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and those around her at the time of the attack. My heart grieves for all those involved.  Could this tragedy have been prevented?  The answer is yes! Hiring a Security Consultant, Executive Protection Specialist, Security Director, or some other Security Professional could have made a world of difference.  Threats and other random acts of violence that is committed toward an individual or group needs to be taken seriously and validated by completing a comprehensive Threat Assessment.  Hiring a Security Director to facilitate the security of all public and private events, including travel route and destination planning etc. is a critical must.  Any security service that is needed can be contracted with a quality security firm or you can provide the services in-house by hiring your own security personnel.  We must take a proactive stand and be strategic in protecting ourselves.  We must move away from the frame of mind that says “that will never happen to me.”  Every day that old adage is proven not to be true.

Gideon Protective Services, Inc. is here ready to assist you in all your security related solutions.  We are a full service Security Firm featuring Executive Protection, Dignitary Protection, Security Consulting, Church Security Training and Protection, Firearms Training, Uniformed Security Guards, and a wide array of other related Security Consulting Services.  Call us anytime at 888-305-6513 for a free confidential consultation to discuss your security needs.  You can also email us directly at info@gideonprotectiveservices.com.  We can also be reached on the web at www.executive-protection-services.com and www.executive-protection-services.net to learn more about the professionals at Gideon. Whatever you do, learn from the tragedies that have taken place and be proactive in protecting yourself and those around you.