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Procedures Sound Dull Until Someone Shows Up at Church With a Gun

“Do you have an active shooter policy?”

That was the question posed to me one day as I was talking to a friend who would be considered an expert on policy matters for churches. He explained that since there have been instances of gunmen opening fire in churches, we should all think about codifying procedures to follow in case of such a crisis.

Really, though, as soon as our conversation was over, I forgot about it … for four days.

Four days after our conversation, I found myself at church (not during our service times or office hours) talking to a highly distressed person with a gun who was threatening suicide as well as violence to others (though not to me).

That situation ended well, but I cannot say I handled it correctly. Though I never felt at risk personally, the truth is that I am not equipped to make such a determination.

The next day, we had a policy.

In short, it states that any time a person is on our campus unlawfully armed and/or threating violence to self or others, our first step is to call 911.

And that was the beginning of our safety policy (more on that below).

In my last post, I wrote about systems and processes. This time, I’d like to focus on another equally unsexy topic: policies and procedures. I know, I know, you’re in ministry, and this is not what you signed up for. Me either, but hear me out.

I once read of a church that was taken to court because the youth minister had sexually assaulted one of the teenagers in his charge. The church lost the suit.

Why? Because they had not done a criminal background check on the youth minister before hiring him. And here’s the thing—the guy didn’t have a criminal record. The church lost because they demonstrated negligence and indifference because they didn’t conduct due diligence. This is the world in which we live.

Clearly defined and followed policies and procedures can not only protect your church as an organization, but they can protect the individuals within your church, and they can increase the trust level of your church among members and nonmembers alike.

Therefore, let me give you just a few suggestions regarding the kinds of policies churches need to have today.