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