The first Sunday I served on the security team at church I had an interesting encounter.
Late-comers were straggling through the lobby as usual when I noticed a visitor. He was holding a large metal coffee mug and looked disoriented. I didn’t recognize him, so I assumed he was new and probably lost. When I walked up and introduced myself, I realized that he was three sheets to the wind and his “coffee mug” was serving as a beer stein.
Hmmm…what to do?
My Security Training Didn’t Prepare Me for This
I was new to my church’s security team, but I wasn’t a novice. As a military veteran with specialized training in firearms, tactical communication, and trauma response, I was well equipped to protect. My training, for instance, taught me to mitigate the risk of having an inebriated and unpredictable stranger in the service by immediately removing him. But the more I engaged this person in a conversation, the more that response felt disconnected with the mission of my church.
I realized in that moment that I needed a new paradigm for my security training—one that placed ministry at the heart of every encounter.
A Ministry-Approach to Security Is Different. Here’s How…
Ministry and security can often seem incompatible. One conjures up feelings of love, acceptance, welcoming, and relationship. The other conveys feelings of fear, doubt, suspicion, and maybe even violence.
But what if we changed how we approach security within the church? What if church security:
• Was a welcoming presence instead of an intimidating show of force
• Managed gates that open for strangers and newcomers rather than building walls to keep “outsiders” out
• Led with compassion and empathy versus suspicion and fear
• Was committed to seeing the whole person instead of only looking for the threat
We Need to Rethink the Way We’re Doing Security at Church
Because church requires this unique ministry approach, I think church leaders make a mistake believing they can be hands-off with security. The purpose of your security presence must be in keeping with the mission of your church, not as a satellite effort orbiting around the perimeter.
Likewise, I think security teams make a mistake believing they can “hand off” ministry moments to pastors, prayer team members, and the like. Security team members are ministers—often serving on the front line as the first point of contact. It’s our job to welcome people on their best days…and their worst days. It’s messy business, but ministry always is.
Security IS Ministry
Ministry and security can work together at your church. One step toward partnering the two is the Safe and Secure Church kit. In partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, this kit provides workbooks and comprehensive video training on how to practice security from a heart of ministry. Find more details and free samples here.
My encounter with the drunken parishioner was the first of countless ministry moments I’ve experienced as a security member at my church. Every new encounter is a chance for me to stand in the gap as protector AND servant and do my part to advance the church’s mission: to bring people—all people—closer to Jesus.