With so many preventable tragedies happening at churches grabbing headlines these days, it’s always empowering and enlightening when we see examples of ministries proactively working to protect their congregations.
An Austin, Texas-based church recently caught our attention when it invited representatives of the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) to meet with church leaders and employees from area churches and teach them what they can do to improve safety at local churches. The TMPA trained area church leaders on everything from an active shooter situation to open carry laws to preventing child abuse.
Safety is a Huge Concern
Keeping people safe at church is one of the main concerns we routinely hear from our clients and prospective clients at Protect My Ministry. Here’s what some of them have to say:
“With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I can attest to the fact that the strongest predictor of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. As the manager of campus safety at Idlewild Baptist Church I depend on Protect my Ministry to provide a thorough assessment of every criminal history background check we request.”
“We have benefited from knowing that we are not exposing the communities we work with or ourselves to unnecessary risk. We continue to have a perfect record in that we have never had a serious incident with a trip participant causing harm or acting inappropriately with any community member or fellow team member- thank goodness!”
Although many ministries who seek our guidance already know about, or have used, background checks in the past, many of them are coming to us with serious safety concerns that they don’t know how to handle. And some ministries with whom our outreach team connects with, are still operating under the fallacy that their congregations will be safe simply because they’re in a church. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true anymore.
Here are three actual, affordable steps you can take to improve the safety at your church.
Complete a safety assessment. Whereas most schools these days keep their doors locked and have installed security cameras, many churches are still averse to these practices. They want to be seen as welcoming, open and inviting, and provide a peaceful area to worship. Providing more security measures, however, doesn’t infringe on these beliefs; they actually help create an environment that’s free from stress and fear.
Safety assessments offer a solid baseline to identify security strengths and weaknesses. As one of our referral partners, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company says, “They’re an essential part of keeping your staff and congregation aware of safety issues and taking meaningful steps to address them.”
You can find free safety assessments for churches at a variety of locations around the web, but be sure they include checklists for building and properties, employee trainings (like child abuse prevention), hiring measures (like background checks), emergency safety protocols, guidelines for working off-hours, and first aid situations.
Sometimes, an ‘outsider’s’ eye will see things that you might’ve overlooked. Consider tapping one or more of these experts in your area to help you assess the safety of your ministry:
- Fire service
- American Red Cross
- Insurance agent
- Police or sheriff’s department
- Utility company (gas, electric)
- Security consultant
Conduct safety trainings. Should a single adult ever accompany a single child into a bathroom? What would you do if someone showed up for Sunday service carrying a large backpack? Is it okay for a youth group leader to give a student a full frontal hug for a job well done?
These are all questions that church leaders, employees, additional temporary staff and volunteers should all know the answers to. If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, call us immediately at 1-800-319-5581.
Safety trainings should be a key component to any hiring and on boarding processes you have. They should also be required during annual reviews. You simply can’t ever be too safe.
A great place to start is by reviewing our free videos. Click here to sign up!
Implement background checks. Last, but certainly not least, is to conduct background checks on ALL employees, volunteers, and temporary staff. Background checks are the number one tool you have at your disposal to protect your people. They are surprisingly affordable, but if money is a concern, you can always ask prospective employees and volunteers to pay for their own.
Why are background checks so effective? Here are three reasons:
- Studies show that 30-40% of all job applicants put false information on their resumes or applications, and “exaggerate” their qualifications during interviews.
- Lawsuits for “negligent hiring” are on the rise. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, the employer may be liable. So when considering an applicant, it’s in the church’s best financial self-interest to find out if that person has done anything in the past which might indicate future problems.
- Child abuse and abductions in churches do happen. You can help end horrifying stories like this one. Background checks create a safeguard at the doorway of your ministry that will, in most cases, scare off sexual predators.
Certainly, there are more things ministries can do to improve the safety at your church. The first thing you need to do is make a COMMITMENT to safety. Our team at Protect My Ministry understands the unique needs of churches and other religious organizations and we work hard to develop the right programs for you. Give one of our faithful pros a call today to get started better protecting your people. 1-800-319-5581