I often see something written by someone else that expresses some dynamic of church security so well that I need to pass it on. Such was the case recently when I read an e-mail of perspective sent to a group of peers by a friend in Illinois. It has genuine applicability to us.
By Brad Myers, Security Director for Bethalto Church of God;
I did something on Sunday that I thought I would never do and that was go to Comic Con in St. Louis and before you ask, no I didn’t dress up. Our daughter, some of you know her, is a great 13 y/o girl, who is very smart and she is that awkward time in her life. On top of that she is fairly anti-social which according to my wife is just the way she was at Megan's age. So when Rhonda said that Megan wanted to go to Comic Con and we were taking her, I wasn’t all that excited about it. Yet, trying to be a good dad, I let the moths fly out of the wallet and bought tickets for the event and for Megan to get her picture taken with Sean Astin (Sam from Lord of the Rings trilogy).
We went over there and just as I thought, lots of interestingly / strangely dressed individuals. Although dressed strangely, everyone was extremely nice and I was actually, caught off guard how friendly everyone was at the event. Before long, you couldn’t help but walk around with a smile on your face. Rhonda and I decide to pay and let Megan get Sean Astin’s autograph at his booth. As the girls were in line, I was looking at other booths and watching how some of the actors/actresses were signing autographs. Some were taking the time to interact and talk with different ones getting the autograph and others were just getting your name, signing, and moving you right along. I was hoping for Megan that Mr. Astin would at least take the time to say hi.
I watched him sign the first two autographs (Megan was third in line) and he was friendly, but he didn’t spend a lot of time small talking with them. Megan came up and he said hi, which it was all Megan could do to be able to speak, I've never seen her so excited. Rhonda, being the good mother stepped in and helped Megan focus. Mr. Astin, then started talking to Megan, asking her some basic questions and then started sharing about his family and his three children. Megan opened up then and started talking. During this conversation, he made a statement to her that made her smile from ear to ear, he said the simple phrase “you are beautiful”.
When she was done and came to where I was standing, I had never seen such a big smile on her face. She told me “Sean said I was beautiful”. Now it didn’t matter that old dad says that all the time, but since Sean said it, it must be true. I realized at that point how important words can be, especially to those that are struggling. He didn’t have to take time to talk to my daughter, nor did he have to say what he did, but because of his chosen words, he made a 13 year old girl feel like the most important girl at that show.
We continued on around the show and then surprised her with the fact that she was going to get her picture taken with him. She then started looking a little sad, she said dad, he won’t remember who I am. I assured her that he would, but she was convinced that he would not remember her.
Megan and Rhonda headed into where the picture was being taken and there stood Sean. His first words was "I remember you". He had no idea that her big fear was that he wouldn’t know or remember her. She came out of the photo shot and first thing she told me was he remembered me. I thought I had my hands full before, I was having to hold her to the ground because she was floating off to cloud 9. My daughter knew at that point she was the most important girl in the whole show because Sean Astin had remembered her.
I know, that once he left the show, he will most likely never think about that Comic Con event again, nor will Megan be on his thoughts. Yet, because of the way he handled himself, he made one little girl feel like the most important person in the world.
You might be wondering what does that have to do with church security? Well, this event emphasizes a very important part of church safety and security, as ambassadors of Christ, we need to make everyone that walks in our church doors feel like Megan felt after meeting Sean Astin. We have hurting, struggling people walking in the doors of our churches every week and we will be some of the first people they meet. The first encounter for that person needs to be one of that person feeling like they are loved and welcomed. I’m not saying that we run over and tackle them while we are bear hugging them as they enter, but it might be a simple smile welcoming them into the church.
When people are walking in the door of the church, especially those that don’t regularly attend, they will feel like I felt at Comic Con, very out of place. Yet, as the friendliness and openness of the regular attendees of Comic Con made me feel relaxed and accepted, so do we need to make sure those coming in the church doors feel the same openness and friendliness and most importantly that they are loved.
Will a friendly smile or kind word stop every aggressor walking into our church? No, but it might change the hearts of a few of them. Unlike secular events, we have something to offer them that truly is life changing. The power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s divine grace is greater than any of us can fully understand. We can see in the life of Saul, how he was changed from a church killer, to Paul an apostle of Christ and church planter.
I can hear it already, some are saying, see all we need is a smile and we will be safe. No, I wish it was that easy, but we live in a fallen world. As safety and security members, we almost need a Dr. Banner/Hulk or for some of the old timers, a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality. We need to be friendly, outgoing, and encouraging with our words and actions until such time that a threat appears and then we need to be prepared to switch and protect our members/visitors.
One final note, please think about how your words are going to come across. I was never more reminded of this than when I was watching this experience with my daughter. Our words have the power to encourage or to tear down. Even something that we say in jest can cause life changing emotions/feelings. The tongue is powerful and dangerous, which when used properly can bring a person closer to Christ. Yet when used recklessly can send a person on a path of destruction that we want no one to go down.
Think About it (by Carl Chinn):
Ø Our most important job is not security. Security is our form of service – our physical activity we give to our church circle. Our most important earthly job is being an ambassador for Christ. To our family, community and beyond.
Ø Our senior pastor (Brady Boyd of New Life Church) met recently with our front-line teams (security, ushers, café workers, etc.) and asked us all to strike up a conversation with an existing friend and a new one every single week as we are going through our specific functions. Those who are first time guests need someone to make them truly feel welcome.
Ø Our words are powerful. When a passionate comment comes at you, whether in the form of a call, e-mail, or face-to-face, it comes with certain emotions (fear, anger, anxiety, etc.). You are given the option right there at that moment to escalate it back, or to return it with care in order to diffuse – and maybe even encourage someone who may really need a kind word right then. Words are the most important tool on your duty belt.
Ø Many of us in this line are jesters. Samson was a practical joker too. He started off playing around (Judges 14:12) and wound up killing 30 Philistines over it (14:19). Be careful with words in jest.