This one hits close to home. I was born and raised just outside of Dallas. I had thought on many occasions about applying for the Dallas Police Department but God had other plans for me. Most of you know that while I was a Norfolk Police Officer that I had two brothers that served with me so losing five officers in one night leaves a hole in all of us that served one time or another.
We are in some trying times my brothers and sisters. Understand that under God’s eyes we are Christians, not black or white or yellow or brown, just Christians. We need to pray for the families and friends of those in Dallas, Falcon Heights and Baton Rouge.
Local causes for concern:
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC), St Petersburg, FL
Last Thursday Monica Lamar told me of a situation that happened at her church that everyone needs to be aware of and on alert. Monica relayed to me that five white males with turbans came to their Wednesday night church service. Once they were in FMBC they divided up and sat in separate locations in the church. Monica was not at her church when this happened. She has been trying to get the full report and has promised to send me more information on this incident as she gets it.
Safety Team Leaders. If something like this happens at your church and with recent events that have been going on around the country and world, this is a suspicious act and local law enforcement should be called in to investigate. This is not normal; it is not normal if five ordinary people come together in the same vehicle, walk in the door together and once inside move to sit in five different locations. If anyone has had this happen in their church, please contact me. We need to find out who these people are and what is their purpose in the church.
Pokémon and Living Word Church
I want to thank Richard Parks from Living Word Church for contacting me in reference to the new live version of Pokémon. If you go to the Pokémon website, you will get this definition of Pokémon Go App “Travel between the real world and the virtual world of Pokémon with Pokémon GO for iPhone and Android devices. With Pokémon GO, you’ll discover Pokémon in a whole new world—your own! Pokémon GO is built on Niantic’s Real World Gaming Platform and will use real locations to encourage players to search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon. Pokémon GO allows you to find and catch more than a hundred species of Pokémon as you explore your surroundings.”
The local church reported to me that a couple of players showed up at their church on Sunday. Even though it was harmless and all done in fun there have been some incidents where it wasn’t all fun and games. Police in O’Fallon, MO have arrested 4 suspects who used the game to find players at a specific location and then robbed them using a handgun. News article here.
Two things here, if a bunch of cars pull up on your church’s property and they tell you they are playing the new Pokémon Go Game you may want to consider asking yourself a couple of things. Do you want them on your property or not, especially during church services or at any time? The second question could there be copy cats in the world and they are using your church’s parking lot to rob people. I understand it is a new and very popular game, it gets the kids off the couch and doing an outdoor event but while church is going on do you want it to be a rally point?
One of the safety concerns the app has created is the distractions while playing the game. The game warns to players to every once in a while to look up, both ways before crossing the street and should not be used while driving. Before and after church services there is always a lot of pedestrian activity in the church’s parking lot and that may create a problem. We also could see it as an opportunity to witness and invite the players in for a cup of coffee, a Danish with a side order of Jesus Christ, hey Pokémon thought the location of your church is cool, but you still have to think about the safety of those attending church.
This game is a big hit around the world and is just starting to hit the American market. Right now it only has over 200 thousand Droid downloads the United States where there are over millions across the world and look they are using one of our networking churches as a meeting place. Think if this game really takes off and your church is one of the rally points. We always have to think about the safety of those attending church so this may become a conversation around the CSNG’s table again. Richard, thanks again for the update.
Something to think about:
July 1, 2016. For 63 years St. Michael’s the Archangel’s Church has been holding its annual carnival without an incident until this last weekend. A fight broke out which spilled over into a nearby shopping mall parking lot. The fight continued and resulted in three juveniles, who minutes before had been at the carnival, being stabbed and taken to the hospital. This caused the local law enforcement to shut down the carnival for the night. Fortunately none of the injuries were life threatening.
Was this the Church’s fault or their responsibility to do more? If this was one of your children injured would you feel the Church should have done more and is somewhat at fault? When you have these type of activities at your church do you state no weapons on the property, do you search handbags and backpacks at the entrance of the carnival and do you hire off-duty police officers to help with the crowd or situations like this? These are just some of the questions church Safety Team Leaders need to start asking themselves and pray for the best but be prepared for the worst.
At Generations Christian Church (GCC) we are known for putting on carnivals, races and days where we invite the community out to enjoy some music, food, maybe a bouncy house or water slide for the kids and family. When these events happen we have to take a look at each situation and do a vulnerability assessment on how much safety we need to provide. Each activity is different and should be looked at the strength and weaknesses of potential problems. This June, Generations Christian Church had it annual Summer Splash. We open up the church’s property, inviting everyone in the community to come out and have a day of fun in the sun. We provided all sorts of aquatic activities with food vendors and special events for the day. This festivity is held in the daylight hours and finishes in the early afternoon. It is designed for families with children. Most teenagers and adults without children would find it boring and would not attend. The volunteers are here to help and show the spirit of the church; friendly, family and fun. The biggest danger for the safety team is getting a sunburn. In this safety perspective it would be considered a low risk activity. Even though we are still on alert for a possibility of something happening but if I had to place it in Jeff Cooper’s “Color Code” I would place it in a Yellow Condition which means relaxed but aware of who and what is around you. Paying attention.
GCC also has an annual carnival where we once again open up the property to the community with a carnival like environment. You have rides, games, food and music. These activities usually run from late morning till late evening. In events like these the presence of local law enforcement is a must. Maybe not for all day but once the sun goes down having off-duty officers on property is not only a deterrent to certain problems that comes with carnivals but it also puts the cavalry a radio call away instead of someone having to call 911 and going through the dispatcher. Issues may not even be from the persons attending like what happened to GCC several years ago. A carnival company had an employee that worked the dunk-tank who was rude, crude and socially unacceptable and caused the Church some problems with the attenders. Nothing that couldn’t be handled but it did have the potential of causing more issues than it was worth. On several occasions it had to be brought to the carney owner’s attention that this person needed to curb his language and attitude. Church carnivals are supposed to be family friendly not what you might get off church property. Even though the early hours of any carnival may give you the thought of being in a “yellow” condition definitely by nightfall you might want to bump that up to “orange” even though you don’t want to portray that, you want everyone to have a good time and walking around like you are expecting trouble will only dampen the moods of the ones you want to come and scare away families looking to have a good time.
Let’s go back and look at the original questions, what happened at St. Michael’s Church, was this the church’s fault or their responsibility to do more? For 63 years St. Michael’s the Archangel’s Church has been holding its annual carnival without an incident, 63 years is a long time and when you look at the overall cost of something like this, 63 years without an incident may cause you to start thinking you can get rid of your law enforcement. Don’t make that mistake because one mistake on the “midway” could create a civil nightmare for a church. The first responsibility of the church when holding a carnival is the safety of all those that attend. One accident or one mistake will shut down the carnival. In the incident we are talking about the St. Michael’s carnival was shut down because of the incident and if you noticed the news reporter the next day standing in front of the carnival it was raining “cats and dogs”. The reporter even states that if the skies clear up they will reopen the carnival. Carnival owners still expect to be paid so that incident cost the church money, which is why we have these carnivals, let’s be honest. With law enforcement on the property the presence of the officers may have defused the situation and kept the carnival open.
If this was one of your children injured would you feel the church should have done more? Parents all the time will use events to act as a babysitter. Members of the church holding the carnival may feel they can drop off their teenagers and they will be ok. Come on what can happen at a church approved event? If you have never thought about this, then this is something you should think about the next time your church has an event that is going to be open to the public. Members of the church have a “members only” mentality sometimes and if you go and push their child off church property over to a shopping mall and something happens, it may be a bad day.
We understand the need for activities like these. Our church puts the money it raises at these type of events to great use; in either mission trips, school projects or just to help with the outreach to the people in the community. When planning these events, the safety team MUST be brought in from the beginning and an integral part of the planning. You must walk in praying for the best to happen but preparing for the worst and hope it doesn’t. We always should to be on “orange” alert, specific alert, when planning for the church’s events in order for them to bring in the “green”.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.