Security!? In a church?
Copyright Notice: If you can use any material on this website to make churches or ministries safer, please do so. Please pass on the information as freely as it is given.
A Plea to Churches
I read many tragic stories that do not fit into the criteria established for the deadly force incident study, so are not published on this website. One of the most common scenarios is that of a victim who had just left their church, and were attacked down the street. As awful as some of those are, they are not included in the DFI study because they didn’t occur on the church property.
The Celestial Church of Christ leases a little storefront property in the Jamaica area of the Queens borough in New York City. On 7/11/17 a 50-year-old lady left the services around 11:00 PM and was walking to a nearby train stop.
That is when four thugs (two were 20, one 19 and one 17-years-old) forced her out of sight behind a parked garbage truck, put a gun to her head and demanded her purse. Upset that her purse had no more valuables than it did, they then forced her to completely undress.
Her false claim to them that she was HIV positive is probably the only thing that saved her from being raped. But then they forced her at gunpoint to perform other sexual acts on them that were just as awful of an experience for her. When they were done, they ran off and she ran back to the church.
The pastor found her trembling and crying, and called 911. Three of the punks have been arrested. The community who knows who the 4th man is, has not given him up so far. Despite a local politician’s claim that “we do not harbor criminals”, they are harboring a criminal. They always have and there is no end in sight to that trend.
Now here is my plea.
Whether yours is a church in downtown New York City or a church in some remote ranch country, please take notice.
What is it that we want out of the folks in our congregations? We want young people to grow up to be responsible adults with Christ in their life. We want our adults to be responsible and encouraged Christians who positively influence society. Fair enough?
Then let’s help them towards those goals in ways beyond just the spiritual. Let’s help them be positive and safe participants of society.
Women and young people are more vulnerable to crime. Anywhere. Please set aside one women’s activity a year and bring in your local law-enforcement to train them on not being a victim. The simple awareness rules that are 2nd nature to everyone who reads this website, are not in the nature of most 50-year-old women who have never been the victim of a crime.
Set aside one youth event each year for the same law-enforcement teaching. The clear majority of those kids have never seen a serious crime up close. Please take one service each year and let a local law-enforcement professional speak to them about not being a victim.
I was staying in a motel in Parkersburg, WV this week and walked over to a restaurant one night after the day’s events were done. There was a large and dark parking lot between the Motel and the restaurant. I scoped it out closely, and chose the safest route through the parking lot keeping strategic distance between me and cars and bushes. As I was walking across the parking lot I saw a young woman coming from the restaurant towards me. Her face was glowing from the light in her phone as she was texting and walking. I saw her car light up and the doors unlock between her and I. She didn’t even look up to see her car, and continued to walk towards it and get in still looking at her phone. As I walked by her in the dark parking lot, she sat down in her car with her door open and keys dinging in the ignition continuing to text. She never knew I was there.
Think About it.
To those of you who read this website, it is unimaginable that a pastor would let a woman out of church in downtown New York City to walk alone at 11:00 PM. I observed the young lady in the parking lot in amazement of the vulnerability I was watching. But it happens repeatedly in every small town and city in America.
Is one event per year too much to ask of our churches to give towards improving the awareness of our congregation? So much of our culture (especially in large cities) is hostile towards law-enforcement. Please tear down that wall by allowing law-enforcement to come in occasionally and tell your most vulnerable audiences (women and youth) how to stay safe. I promise you that your local police chief or sheriff will respond to such a request. I want to hear of any who do not, and I don’t expect I will hear of any.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, VA has just started their summer camp for children 3 to 10. Each night they bring in a special local speaker. On Tuesday night of this week, a Portsmouth Police Officer will be speaking to the kids. What a fine way of meeting with the area youth. Here is a heartfelt hat-tip to the Portsmouth, VA Police Department!
Pastors, we know you care about the safety of your people beyond your campus. Now is the time to really show that care. Don’t let your first visit with law-enforcement be when they come to your church and find you holding a crying, trembling and traumatized member of your congregation.
And last week’s TAI…
Pride & Progress
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.[i]
That passage speaks of progress towards maturity. Some maturity comes naturally, and some through hard work.
While there are a lot of areas to mature in, let’s take a close look at one.
As children (at least where I grew up) we liked to play cops and robbers. Almost every teenage boy has thoughts of being the hero that saves some damsel from danger. You know you did.
And somewhere around that age, a movie, news story or observation may cause a maturing child to recognize that some people really need protected. The imagination began to be a real recognition of the evil in this world. Something is developing that confirms his role as protector. Then comes a girlfriend, and that feeling goes higher. The girl becomes the wife, then there is a child. Protection has come to an all new level.
Now I get it that some donut holes never get the protection thing. They don’t read this website anyway. But you do read this website and know full well what I am talking about. It’s that young man who is prepared and ready to protect the whole group when out with his wife and friends.
For some, the determination to protect propels them to other levels. Maybe they go into the military or law enforcement just so they can learn all they can about protection. Those are both very noble and admirable things to do.
The progression may look like this; Fine young man protects his wife and friends, then joins the army. Private becomes a sergeant, then goes through Ranger school; gets into the Spec Ops. Transfers to Navy to be a Seal. Makes Seal Team Six and gets put into the most dangerous parts of the world stopping the ugliest evil.
Then looks at another fine young man who protects his family and friends and scoffs at his naïve inability to do so. Sees how another friend went into law enforcement and scoffs at how few of engagements they really have. Looks at those who stayed in the army as losers who accomplished some low level of stocking shelves for real troops and retired there.
Now please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying every Seal Team Six veteran is like that. Most are truly some of the finest characters out there. And I am NOT assailing the character of men (or women) who have made wonderful accomplishments and invested their lives in those noble and admirable pursuits.
I am using an illustration to make a point.
Like other noble and admirable things, pride often begins to pin itself to the character of the man as stripes are added to the uniform and accolades added to the title. They forget (or at least dismiss as irrelevant) their own determination (and yes, even ability) when they were a young man protecting their wife and friends.
We’ve all heard someone say that, “Only law enforcement should carry weapons at your church.” I recently spoke at the Texas legislature opposed to those trying to preserve a Texas law that mandated only current law enforcement and those licensed by the state’s security guard program should be capable of intervention at a church (CURRENT law-enforcement mind you – the law these folks were trying to preserve didn’t even allow retired law-enforcement to intervene without being currently licensed by the state security license program).
Fortunately, the Texas House, Senate and Governor all saw the error of the old Texas laws. On September 1st of 2017, Texas churches can legally use volunteers who do not have to go through certifications and licensing. Even retired law-enforcement can now serve as an intentional and intervention capable security volunteer. Imagine that.
Think About it
Very few law enforcement or military veterans dismiss the contribution of protection by common citizens. Those who do are no fun to be around. Those who do also dismiss the value of any of their fellow officers or soldiers who haven’t aspired to their current level, or others who teach different models than their own. Protection is a competitive business to them.
Are those highly trained folks valuable? You bet your boots they are. I had one tell me once that he ALWAYS has a deadly weapon. He had already decided long ago which finger he would sacrifice to break the bone and use the broken bone to stab the juggler of his captor. I know him very well and he is 100%. But he is one of the many who recognizes the value of the common citizen, despite his advanced military training and service in Vietnam.
Training is good. Training should be an essential part of every protector’s maturity process. We should all be determined to be responsible defenders. But when you have accomplishments in your progress don’t let pride make you exclusive.
Amateurs built and operated the ark, professionals built and operated the Titanic.