Does Church Security Make Your Church Less Welcoming?

A common fear regarding (and argument against) church security is that it will make our church less welcoming.  There is some merit to this argument.  Done poorly, our church safety team can take on the appearance of church bouncers, ready at a moment’s notice to throw the “problem” parishioner out on their ear.  Another risk is for the members of our team to view our safety ministry as their “job” rather than an opportunity to serve the body.  I believe that both of these are in error and violate the principles of Matthew 10:16 where Jesus teaches his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (ESV)  A better understanding of the role of our safety team is as an extension of our Hospitality Ministry.

We want our church to be welcoming.  We want those who attend our services to feel physically and socially comfortable and safe so that they can take care of the serious spiritual business God wants them to address.  That will not happen if they feel threatened, unwelcome, or singled out.  Good hospitality starts at the street.  Where should I park?  What entrance do I use?  Where is the restroom?  Where should I sit?  Where is the nursery (especially important to new parents)? All of these questions and more go through the mind of a visitor and we need to answer them.  It’s just good hospitality.

The flip side of that coin is that answering these questions is also good security.  If we have communicated the “proper” answers to these questions, whether via signage, public announcements, bulletins, or personal communication, we can spot the anomalies.  Those are the Just Doesn’t Look Right (JDLR) moments.  Once a JDLR has been identified, we can implement Paul’s encouragement of Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)

Did you catch it?  The connection between Security and Hospitality; between physical, relational, and spiritual safety is to view EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS at our meeting as a ministry and prepare appropriately.  Do we have a visitor?  They should be greeted and offered directions.  Do we have a long-time member? They should be greeted and encouraged.  Do we have a JDLR?  They should be greeted and we should express legitimate concern for them.  Do they need comfort? Prayer? Guidance?  One-on-one attention to address their perceived need?  We should be prepared to offer all of those things.

As we interact, we learn where our people are mentally, emotionally, relationally, and to a certain extent spiritually (only God can know the last one fully).  We learn to meet them where they are and to reprove, rebuke, exhort, or teach them in the way they need to hear it.  We are ready in season and out of season to point ALL toward the Author and Perfector of our faith.  If we aren’t doing that, why are we meeting anyway?

What if the JDLR has bad intent?  Since we identified them early, spoke to them to assess their need, and are likely still in close proximity to them physically, we are in the best possible position to intervene appropriately.  To a large extent we can borrow from a major fast-food chain.  They get to “Have it Their Way.”  And just like the restaurant, they have to order off the menu.  At some point, the thing they are asking for may not be something we can offer and they need to leave.  We can help them identify that too.  The time may come when we even have to restrain them while waiting on the Professional Responders.  However, the time will never come when we should be mean or cruel about it.  Punishment is never our goal, hospitality and protection for them and others is.  For the person with malintent we:  Deter, Detect, Delay, and Defend at the earliest appropriate moment.

There is an additional benefit to this approach to Hospitality Ministry.  There is an untapped resource in most of our churches.  Men, Husbands and Fathers, who value and support the ministry of our church.  They want to be leaders in their families, work places, and our ministry, but they aren’t teachers.  Maybe, because of their past, they aren’t candidates for other leadership positions. They are looking for a ministry.  They want to serve, but feel like they don’t quite fit in.  Often, they are rough but friendly.  Many served in the military.  They may work in the skilled trades or own a business.  This may be their ministry.  Please don’t overlook the “strong, silent type” they often make the best greeters because they are real.  Virtually all research on church retention says that if we reach the husband/father, we reach the family.  Additionally, the best way to retain a parishioner is to get them involved in ministry.  Sometimes hospitality works both ways.

May God Bless and Keep you and yours.  May your church be welcoming, hospitable, and effective.  May your ministry be effective in making disciples that make disciples.