When we started this ministry back in 2015, we were looking at just the education side of protecting houses of worship. As the incidents continue to increase there have been other things that have come to light that I feel, as an adviser to so many of you, need to be brought to your attention. We must review how we protect the flock. If we don’t have a plan in place I am afraid if a violent incident happens at your church, it will cause you to have to close your doors, forever.
Something that crossed my mind after the New Zealand Shooting and the recent suicides from the Parkland shooting is that we don’t talk enough about the aftermath of a tragic incident. Current suicides on church property and shootings at houses of worship bring up conversations we should be discussing if an incident like this happens on campus. There is so much more information that needs to be talked about. We are working on putting an after-incident training together for you. The Department of Homeland Security put out a brochure called “Active Shooter Recovery Guide” that has valuable information on what to do after a tragic event happens on your property but even when looking at this, it does not cover all that is about to happen. Understand we want to address immediate needs, ensure life safety, coordinate medical assistance, set up crisis communications for media response, assist the family reunification process, provide immediate crisis support and other assistance that is needed in such a tragedy.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is going to be coming your way in the event of a tragic incident. Every month or so I see an article on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Shooting in Charleston, SC. You would think that after all of what they have been through they wouldn’t have issues like payment of donations and past financial issues. This tragedy is still hanging around for families and friends that have not being administered to. One of the things that DHS also says in their “Active Shooter Recovery Guide” is to be aware of post-incident scams and frauds. “The aftermath of some active shooter incidents has seen the formation of fraudulent charities and other scams that may re-victimize those affected and the general public who wish to contribute to a legitimate charity. In addition to seeking money, some of these solicitations may be “phishing” for personal information. Organizations should ensure that employees are made aware that such scams could occur.” So while trying to deal with deaths of loved ones there are those that are still trying to scam the victims. We do live in a fallen world.
A friend of mine sent me a text message recently asking if I had heard about “Active Shooter Insurance”. I was a little taken back on this because my impression was that most commercial general liability would cover anything that happened on your property. I was like do we really need to go this far and add “Active Shooter Insurance” to the mix? But what I didn’t realize is that most of your insurance companies do not know how to handle an active shooter incident and don’t want to handle this type of event. It is unfortunate that we have to start asking these questions, but it seems that we need to review our insurance policies to make sure in case of an active shooter you are not standing there asking why this is not covered.
Last year, at our conference, we had Barrett Harding Insurance talk about liability insurance for churches. I would rather be poked with a sharp stick than talk about or listen to someone discuss insurance. It appears I am the only one that feels that way because every time I walked by the room that was holding the insurance session, it was packed. When I saw this information on Active Shooter Insurance, I contacted our friend, Jeromy Harding and asked him if this was for real. “Yes, Jim, it is for real”. Jeromy quickly sent me over some brochures and a buyers guide on Active Shooter Insurance. I am still shaking my head that we have come to this point. After a brief history of why this has come about the buyer’s guide states “The Commercial General Liability may not respond unless the insured is deemed to be “liable” for the event. Typically, there are stated exclusions in the policy which may include employee as perpetrator, damage to property, business interruption or terrorism. In general, a policy may not include an event triggered, crisis management component which provides precontracted crisis response, including public relations, coverage for victim counseling services and unfortunately, funeral expenses.” What? Unless the insured is deemed to be “liable” for the event Commercial General Liability may not cover things like precontracted crisis response, including public relations, coverage for victim counseling service and funeral expenses.
This brochure continued with “A variety of organizations have a duty of care to maintain a safe environment for staff and visitors. In the event of an active shooter attack, they could be liable not only for civil action but regulatory action as well. There are significant challenges to organizations in securing their place of business while managing a vast throughput of people. These organizations are particularly at risk from a lone attacker who could enter a business unchallenged. Despite security measures, by design and necessity these places remain very open places. The reality of the needs of these buildings directly oppose much of what the security measures look to achieve.”
Did you notice the first sentence in the statement? “A variety of organizations have a duty of care to maintain a safe environment for staff and visitors.” You may tell me that the church does not fit in that category. I disagree. If you take the word “organization” out of it and put “church” we really do fit in this situation. You may also tell me that we have a better chance of being struck by lightning than to have an active shooter on campus; I agree. Are you sure you want to take that chance? What I am really saying here is in these fallen times we need to take a hard look at how we are protecting the church. Do we still feel that “it will not happen here?” Every survivor I have talked to that was involved in an active shooter or possible active shooter situation said the same thing; they couldn’t believe it was happening to them.
I reached out and contacted a lawyer friend of mine who handles cases like this. Some of his cases have involved physical altercations on school campuses and shootings at social events where security should have been put into place and were not. He said the owner of the business and school board is going to be in litigation for a long time. He went on to say that this litigation is costly and most cannot afford what happens to them and with a little bit of education on prevention and what to do afterward it most likely would have saved thousands of dollars in litigation. One of the things he recommended is that all businesses, churches and organizations that regularly hold meetings or are open for business must have some sort of safety plan in place to limit the liabilities of the policyholder. One of the things recommended in this brochure “Active Shooter Insurance” is to have a “security review audit and vulnerability assessment” with also scenario, workplace violence and awareness training to assist in keeping your place of worship safe. It also talked about having some sort of Crisis Management in place or having someone be on call to handle that if something ever happens to your house of worship”
So where do we go from here? The first thing I need is your help. We NEED a couple of churches that is willing to fill out an active shooter insurance application. (Email Wendy@TrinitySecurityAllies.com). This application will give us an idea of what we are looking at as far as cost goes. Jeromy explained to me that he can’t give us prices until we get a few of the applications filled out. When I asked why we could not just get a price list it was explained to me that this is brand new and they really don’t know what it would cost to provide active shooter insurance to a church. It also has to do with what state you live in and incidents that have happened in your area. Jeromy has promised that no salesperson will be contacting you, this is just so we can get some prices.
If you are still on the fence about a safety team, start looking at putting one together. If it has been a while since you have looked at your policy and procedures get them out, dust them off and look at them again and make sure they are up-to-date. Contact your insurance company and make sure you ask them specific questions about what they would do if you had an active shooter show up at your house of worship. Contact us with any question you may have on this issue and let us reach out to our resources to make sure you are covered.
This is a new issue that churches across the country are going to be facing in the near future. No matter what type of tragic incident you have on your property are you prepared? This is a gut-check situation because we don’t want to not be able to cover all the things that need to be done after such a tragic event. Once the incident is over, and first responders have shown up on your campus, the danger is over and everyone is safe, recovery takes over and it is not for the faint of heart. It will require a lot of work and a lot of faith that God is in control and will never put something in front of you that you can’t handle. As Julie Workman, a survivor from the Sutherland Spring Baptist Church said that God had been training her all her life for this one moment. He is training all of us for what we will face in the future. Let’s be prepared and ready to act when that moment comes.
Ezekiel 33 (NIV)
“33 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5 Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”
What a month! God is on the move my brothers and sisters and the question I keep asking myself am I ready for the work? I got to sit down with my good friend Kevin Haggerty. Kevin has started a YouTube page called the Godlogic Project and if you can, go out and subscribe to his page at https://www.youtube.com/godlogicproject. The reason why this was such a big deal to me, Kevin and I met right after we started Trinity Security Allies and he has been a faithful follower and supporter of our ministry. Kevin is with Next Level Church (some people might know it as TN24) and they let us use their church for conceal weapon classes for free. If you have never heard Kevin speak you need to go to his page and click on one of his videos. He speaks the Word and does not sugarcoat it. Kevin interviewed me and we discussed church security and safety. He recorded this interview and will be putting this out on his YouTube page. More to come.
On February 13th, I had the opportunity to talk with Julie Workman. For those that don’t know who Julie Workman is, she is one of the survivors of the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church Shooting. I spent 90 minutes with Julie and all I kept hearing over and over again was about God’s love, strength and presence in such a horrific incident. Julie had two sons with her the day of the shooting. One of her sons was able to get out of the church with a minor injury. The other one who was leading the worship music was shot twice, one hitting his spine and taking away the use of his legs. Julie was also shot that day but God was with her. She said it felt like she was hit by a Mac truck but the bullet did not penetrate her chest. Not only was her testimony inspiring but her message was clear, God prepares us for whatever we may face. He does not put you out there without the knowledge and tools to do what may come our way. You see Julie is a nurse and works in the operation room. Because of her training, she was able to do triage on several of the victims and save lives that day. Without Julie there, her training and the presence of God in such a tragedy more lives would have been lost. I am hoping one day we all get to hear her talk about that day.
Back to the to the opening Bible verses. From the start of our ministry, I am always looking for Bible verses that support our ministry. To give an example we use Nehemiah 4:13-16 for why we do what we do. At a church training, someone asked me a question about hiring private security guards instead of using your own men and women in the church safety team. At that time I was in a study on John and I found John 10:11-13 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” Please don’t start sending me emails about what is wrong with security guards, nothing if they are members of your church. We hire deputies to help with our traffic and after they are finished they patrol the campus and are a great deterrent but they leave after their time is up. Even if you have hired someone to do your safety, are you prepared if the private security or sworn law enforcement officers cannot show up on your campus? We are the sheepdogs of our church but we have to still be prepared even if we have other help.
So coming across Ezekiel 33 I thought to myself God is telling us that we must protect the church. As I read it, God is quite clear that as the times start to deteriorate and the attacks on the churches continue to grow, we the leaders of the church need to start preparing for the worse. Reading Ezekiel 33 I felt God will hold us accountable if we do not heed His warning and start protecting His Bride. Of course, when I read verses like this and go out and look to see what other scholars are saying about this I start to think I am trying to read something into it. Then I found someone who thinks like me (kind of scary isn’t it, hey Kevin found another guy that thinks like us).
Ken Cayce from Discover Books of the Bible wrote on Ezekiel 33 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman,” Ken states “This message is as much for the ministers of our day, as it is for the people of Israel. The pastor of a church must also, be a watchman. He must look out to the world and warn his people of all danger. The minister is responsible for warning the people of spiritual things. Unfortunately, some ministers preach nothing but love and good times.” Now I don’t know about your pastor but mine is warning our members of the spiritual things but we need to expand this and talk about the physical dangers children of God are facing in our fallen world. We had a man come into our church this last Sunday that even made the deputies uncomfortable. Our pastor was up preaching, he didn’t have time to do what we do while this person was on the campus. This person was on the campus all three services and we finally had to remove him from the Worship Center so people could get back to worship.
Brothers and Sisters, I have said this over and over, we are chosen. This is not a position to be taken lightly. Let’s look at another part of Chapter 33. “3 and he (the watchman) sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5 Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.” This sounds fairly simple, we warn them, they don’t listen then their blood is on their own head. But then read on, “6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”
Follow me on this, Julie Workman said that one of the things she realized after the shooting that day in Sutherland Springs, God had been preparing her for that moment. At that moment when friends and family were dying around her, she stayed calm and worked on saving lives. God had trained her all her life for that one moment. It took 20 minutes before the paramedics got into the building. People with the injuries Julie was dealing with could have died within 5 minutes from their injuries if she had not been there. So if you have been called to take on the responsibility, not from your church, but you feel this calling from God, if you don’t stand up and warn your church of what is out here and it is only a matter of time before something bad is going to happen at your church, “but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”. Are we tracking yet?
We have come to a time where it is not a luxury to have a safety team on your campus it is a must. Two people this last month committed suicide inside a church. I am saddened that this happened on any church property but you know what I am glad of (don’t think of me as morbid). I am glad that these people did not take anyone with them. I am glad it wasn’t a suicide by cop where they walked into those churches and started killing members and waited to have a shootout with the cops. Sorry folks we need to wake up and start thinking about these situations.
No, I have not gone off the deep end. I read day after day what is happening around the country to churches and I am afraid of those that bury their heads in the sand and say, “it won’t happen here”. That was the same thing Julie thought on that beautiful November morning in the small town of Sutherland Springs. That was until reality sat in and evil came through the door and she found herself being used for what God had been training her for all her life.
The Best Results In An Active Shooter Situation Is That No One Gets Shot, And That Includes The Shooter.
I made that statement at a church safety seminar in North Carolina. Once the announcement sunk in they looked at me like I had insulted their families. This is one of those issues that has been bothering me for some time. I continue to hear stories of safety teams that spend a lot of time, money and effort on training on how to confront an active shooter instead of guaranteeing the safety of those around them. They go to these firearms classes that teach them how to come out of the pew firing away at the active shooter. I watch them take classes on how to clear your house in case you hear an intruder or I heard one church was using police resources to learn how to go room to room and find a hidden shooter. Every time I hear of a safety team that spends more time on how to take down a shooter instead of planning on how to protect those in a church shooting I cringe.
In our church safety training we talk about knowing your campus and positions. One position, a rover driving around your facility looking for anomalies is a priority. Why do we say anomalies instead of threats? If your rover is only looking for the man in or getting out of his car with the weapon in his hands he may miss the child that was accidentally left in his car seat while the parents are in church. We deal with these types of families every Sunday morning, you know the type that come running like their hair is on fire, total chaos. Checking their kids in 5 minutes before church starts, kids still half dressed with their tooth brushes still in their mouths, we all know the type. I have seen families, that are running late, trying to gather all their kids and necessities they need for church forgetting to shut the van door, turn their vehicle off or forgetting the diaper bag next to the back tire. They are one step away from leaving that child in the car seat. Remember I live in Florida and our winters can get quite warm, think about our summers.
Over the years we have seen several deaths of infants left in a car seat from the parents just being too busy, forgetful or doing something really stupid. When I read of two incidents at churches back in 2016 I started having my rovers look into vehicles with car seats to make sure they are always empty when the parents are in church. I don’t want it to happen in our church and I am sure you would regret it happening at yours. I had one church contact me because they kept having cars pull up in their church parking lot, driver staying in the car for a short period of time then drive recklessly away when their rover approached them. It caused them some alarm with all the activity. They found out Pokémon Go had a character in their parking lot and all those playing the game kept coming in and leaving. When people were coming and going between services it became a hazard. So, train your rover in the parking lot to look not only for threats, but also anomalies. Make sure you stress the importance of your rovers. They are our first line of defense in cases of an active shooter.
In our threat profiling we look at normal human behavior patterns to detect a possible threat. We must be trained in what to look for before it has the opportunity to strike. Once we put into play that this person is a threat then we must start making moves to protect those on the church property. It may be confronting the threat or it may be warning those around of the situation. In Sutherland springs we have learned that the shooter started shooting outside the church, killing two church members. He then began shooting at the building with several hundred rounds before entering the church. The shooter exited his vehicle dressed in black tactical gear wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying an AR-15 style rifle. When we look at the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, the shooter was wearing a ski mask with two handguns as he got out of his vehicle and made his way to the church. On the way into the church he shot and killed a member as she was leaving. Before they could react, the shooter was in the building. Both churches did not have a plan or a team to be watching for these threats as the threat got out of their vehicle and started their killings. We need to watch outside as much as we watch inside.
Back to active shooter. Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has started its ABCs for school safety in the event of an active shooter. Alert, Barricade and Counter. Notice the order. The first thing you need to do is Alert 911, get the troops on the way. I want everyone coming. Alert others and move to a safe place. The second thing is to Barricade yourself behind something, preferably a solid wooden door with a lock. If you have desk and chairs start piling them against the door and then turn off the lights and wait for help to arrive. The last thing, if you have no other option is to Confront. This should be the last thing in an active shooter situation at a church. Even if you have Safety Team members that are already in contact with the shooter, others need to be slowing the injuries and deaths down by finding safety in locked rooms.
Let’s take a few minutes and look at the dynamics of an active shooter. The shooter wants to kill as many people as they can before the police, or some outside force stops them. They are going to be shooting at anything that moves, but if we take the targets away, haven’t we done the right thing? If the shooter has nothing to shoot at and knows that the police are on the way, the best thing for the shooter to do is either leave or wait to confront the cavalry. Once you start the shooting at the bad guy, unless you’re the best shot in the world and take him out with the first shot, then there will be bullets flying. The more and more bullets that are buzzing around the more loved ones or people you know are in danger of being hit.
One last thought of the dynamics of an active shooter. Most modern projectiles will go through walls. If you have confronted your active shooter in front of your children’s ministry you have now put them right in the gunfight. As I said once you start shooting not only do you have to be concerned about where your bullets are going, you also have to worry about the shooters rounds penetrating walls and hitting people you know and love. If you must confront the shooter, try to move them away from the church or populated areas. How do we do that? We need that rover in the parking lot that can sound the alarm and while other Safety Team members are locking down the interior, you may want to move out to the perimeter, find cover and confront the shooter outside if possible. No contradiction here, just showing you to have multiple plans in protecting the church. The first must be the lockdown or barricade taking the targets away from the shooter. Slowing down the shooter how ever possible until the cavalry arrives is the next step.
Right after the Aurora Movie Theater shooting I was talking to a friend about active shootings and he asked me what I would do if I was at a movie theater with my family and a guy walked in and started shooting. I told him my main priority was making sure my family was safe, get them down on the floor, if near an exit get them out of the theater. After that I would respond to the threat and this is because of my police training. The last thing you want to do is put your loved ones right in the middle of a gunfight. The same thing goes with your church. We have to protect the flock before we put them right in the middle of an exchange of bullets. We need to have a plan and train others to keep the flock out of harm’s way. Just have a couple of plans on how you would protect those in an active shooter situation and work the plan. No plan means more casualties. Even if the plan is a bad plan, at least it’s been discussed. Give me a call and let’s work on a couple of plans of how to protect your flock …against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12.
The best results in an Active Shooter situation is that no one gets shot, and that includes the shooter.
Now that I got your attention that will be the topic of February’s newsletter.
I first want to take a moment and hope you all had a glorious Christmas. Wendy, myself and the girls took some time off and together went on a cruise for our Christmas present. It was a wonderful time and a memories that will last forever.
I wanted to finish off 2018 with a little bit of a recap of Trinity Security Allies’ year and a sincere message to all of you who call yourself the watchperson, sheepdog or shepherd of your church.
Last year we at Trinity Security Allies held over 55 trainings across the country. These trainings included our standard trainings of “Building a Safety Team: Why & How” and “Threat Profiling: Know Your Warning Signs”. We also kicked off our new training on “Verbal De-escalating”. We did seminars with National Center for Life and Liberty (more about them later) in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia. We met new friends and family in Zion, IL, Cedar Rapids, IA and Glendale, KY. One of the things that all the churches had in common was warm people but cold temperatures. I look forward to going back to all of them just hoping that it is in the summer. We have been all over the state of Florida and we will be kicking off 2019 running. No rest, too much work to be done. I want to thank all of you that have had me in your churches and your homes. If anyone thinks that God is dead or that Christianity is done, I can proudly tell them they are wrong. God is very much alive and well in this fallen world and every opportunity I get to speak I meet those that love the Lord and have the same calling that we have which is expanding the kingdom of God and protecting the flock.
God has been working upstream to help us out in this ministry. This year we met David Gibbs with National Center for Life and Liberty and have worked out a partnership where we can now direct your legal advice designed for all churches. In so many of our trainings we have questions about liabilities that we have not be able to offer. National Center for Life and Liberty brings that to the table and we will now be doing seminars with them to give you the necessary information to not only protect your church from the evil forces of the world but also protect you from civil and criminal issues using their expertise. We have worked on putting together training material in DVDs and print. This is something that we have been praying for since we started and now God has answered our prayers. For more information about National Center for Life and Liberty and the training material you can go to our websites trinitysecurityallies.com or at NCLL.org.
This year we also added a firearm simulator to our training. This is a training tool that I feel not only all churches, individuals who carry and even police departments need and fall way short on. I just received a recent article from our good friend Larry Booth at Bethel Baptist Church in Lakeland about a study that showed in over 149 real-life Officer Involved Shootings (OIS) that 35% of their shoots were accurate. Think about it, if you fire 10 rounds there is a good possibility 6 of them are going to miss. In this report from Donner/Popovich with Force Science News who studies police force-related issues, large departments such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Las Vegas show a target hit rate ranging from 22 percent to 52 percent. What does that mean to us? We need to practice more and this is a tool needed in every church that allows safety team members to carry. More about this in my next blog.
But enough about Trinity Security Allies, I want to now talk to all our brothers and sisters of this ministry. First to Team Leaders. Remember church safety is a ministry. Make sure that you thank each and everyone of those that come out service after service to help in protecting the flock. We had multiple services for Christmas Adam and Christmas Eve and I can tell you right now, I am very proud of our Safety Team Members. They came and they served. I am so blessed.
As our first thoughts are to hope that everyone had a glorious Christmas, sometimes I know this just isn't always possible. Sometimes we stand in front of the Christmas tree with our families and have the photos taken with all smiles but behind those smiling faces are issues and pain that just won't go away. Sometimes being a team leader takes on a different meaning all together. Sometimes I have to be a pray warrior (something I am really not good at). Sometimes a Team Member reaches out and bears their soul about the trials they are going through and I want to take away their pain but there is nothing I can do but pray. We all have Team Members that this was their first Christmas without certain family members that have gone to be with the Lord. We have some Team Members that are fighting demons that unfortunately only Christ can give them peace for needed rest, the strength to go on and the comfort to know this battle to shall also pass. They may not see the end in sight but we as brothers and sister must be there for them, if only to just sit and hold their hand, not talk but just be there (which is something I really struggle with, being quiet that is).
Among us are those that blessings have flowed beyond their expectations. Answered prayers. A new family member, a precious gift. A new job or good news about an illness. The blessings we receive each morning when we are able to just wake up and be with family and friends just one more day. Another day to do His work. He is with us through the trials and through the blessings, He never leaves us. When other people let you down or you feel like your world may be coming apart make no mistake He is always there and knows who to send to you during those times.
So for 2019 we as the Safety Team Members must lift up our brothers and sisters every day. Call out their names or just list them as the STM (Safety Team Members for those that have not figured out my code). Christ knows who they are and your heart. We must support each other even though we may not understand each other’s issues, we know that they are very real to them. Sometimes when blessings are flowing and you are on top of the world, we don't want to come down from that mountain top to help others. Let Christ do the heavy lifting and just pray for one another. That is what we are supposed to do. Know that I am always here for anyone of you. My phone number and email address is in every email I send out.
In closing, I pray for a wonderful New Year for each and every one of you. I pray that you renew your relationship with Christ and really take on the responsibility of getting closer to Him. I pray that you follow His lead every day. That as soon as you open your eyes in the morning you thank Him for the day and ask Him what He has in store for you. I pray that the last words on your lips at night are to our Heavenly Father and you fall asleep in His presence. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29. I pray that you are the beacon that when people look at you, they see Christ in you. I pray for our friendship to continue throughout this journey that was never meant to be traveled alone. I look forward to the day when Christ comes home and the emails (if there still is email) are nothing about defending our churches but about the glory of God and the feast He has prepared for us, those that protect the flock.
Safety Team Leaders remember “2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4.
Trinity Security Allies is looking forward to another busy year of serving the Lord in helping protect the flock. If there is one thing for sure in this ministry it is that we will never be out of a job. I keep going to God and asking Him when I can retire. He keeps telling me to find retirement in the Bible, I still haven’t if anyone has it please let me know. So it looks like I will be working at this till Christ either calls me home or He comes to take us home. It will only be then that we can be relieved of our duties. I look forward to that day but until then we need to continue to communicate, train and be ready for whatever the evil forces may be thrown our way. “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest” Isaiah 62:6.
Have a Safe and Happy New Year,
Your brother in Christ,
I was thinking about what I would write about for the December blog and three things came to mind. So your December present from us is you get three blogs in one.
First, it is the Season. With all the Christmas joy that is already being spread, we as the watchmen/watchwomen have no rest. We cannot take this season for granted and let our guard down. Our church has something on campus every night until Christmas. Please don’t overextend your volunteers. Remember they are volunteers and have another life. So I recommend that you put out an email with the schedule of events. Ask your Team if they are out and about, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties or just out to make a quick stop by your church. This not only gives the people that are at the church a warm feeling that we as Safety Team Members really care but it also may stop someone that is on your campus thinking the shepherds are away. It is really easy to give someone the impression that you are watching over the flock. Take a flashlight with you and walk around the campus shining your light on cars in the parking lot and the dark nooks and crannies. Our church will give you a cup of hot chocolate if you take a couple of minutes out of your busy schedule to do a spot check (old police term). Remember: “2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4 (NIV). One last tip, make sure that you let someone in the church know you are going to be doing a quick patrol around the church or they may contact local law enforcement on you.
Second topic. I received a text from another Safety Team Leader, “South Carolina megachurch camera caught man performing sex act on 3-year-old”. His text was “How in the hell do we prevent this? This guy was background checked and all normal precautions taken. I’m frustrated.” Back in June I did a blog called “Are You Watching for the Wolves Inside Your Church?” where I discussed the wolves that are already in your church. I talked about how in so many of the sexual abuse cases I read about in 2017 the offender was somebody known to the church. A pastor, youth pastor or someone that worked with children and nobody noticed the signs or worse, ignored the signs until it was too late.
Searching the internet I found other stories on this suspect. One article reported they reviewed the surveillance cameras from the children’s ministry and found this offender sexually molested at least 14 different children from the ages of 3 to 5. In a Post and Courier article “Lawsuit: At least 14 kids abused at hands of North Charleston church volunteer” I found several disturbing parts in the story. The suspect did this over a three month period. In the church’s official statement they reported the suspect “completed a “detailed training” and passed a screening process that included searches of criminal and nation sex offender databases.” Here is where the church is in trouble. How did this guy commit 14 different sexual attacks on 3 to 5 year-olds in a three month time period without someone seeing something? The second issue the church has is they had surveillance cameras, and nobody was monitoring them. If you have surveillance cameras in your children’s ministry someone had better be monitoring them. Three months, 14 different children.
How can this happen? Another good article on sexual offenders explains that sometimes sexual offenders not only groom the victim they also groom the church. In a Christianity Today article by Kimi Harris “Sex Offenders Groom Churches Too” the author states “The predators that are statistically likely to be in the pews, volunteering, and even behind the pulpit aren’t just grooming their victims, they are grooming their community to view them as trustworthy and even as spiritual leaders.” That many of the offenders “They endeavor to build a good reputation and to create a strong social perception of themselves as being an upstanding member of the local church or community, as a nice man.” Or as we say a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Shepherds, train your volunteers that if they see or hear something they must say something to a leader and then if there is proof of an assault, local law enforcement must be called in. This is not negotiable, period.
So this leads to the last topic. Notifying local law enforcement and networking. Brothers and Sisters if you think that your church is on an island and nobody is experiencing the same issues you are having then you have your head buried in the sand. Two weeks ago we had a person that was a walking anomaly come into our church. After one of the services he grabbed one of the worship team members and started telling him about how great he was and that birds were talking to him about coming to church and that he just loved watching him on stage. During this whole time he had a grip on the worship team member’s hand and wouldn’t let go. After several seconds of uncomfortableness the subject finally let the worship team member go. Unknown to the worship team member the Safety Team Members witnessed the incident between the two and were in close proximity in case they needed to move in. We identified the subject as one of our locals that has a history of mental illness and likes to make statements of fear.
A little history about this subject. Right after the shooting at Sutherland Springs this subject started asking a lot of questions to another church’s Safety Team in the area if the church had security and was wondering how they would stop an active shooter. The way he asked the questions caused the Safety Team at that church so much concern that they called the sheriff’s office. The subject had already left the church when the deputies arrived, so the deputies put out an alert on this subject. An off duty deputy that was at our church heard the alert over his radio and observed the subject now walking into our church. He spoke to the subject about the incident at the other church and the subject said he didn’t meant anything with his questions he was just a concerned member.
Now back to our earlier story about the incident with the worship team member at our church. I recognized the subject, but it wasn’t until two days later that I found out that this subject had again made statements of concern at this other church. The subject had parked in a no parking spot at this other church. Church volunteers told him he had to move and after an exchange of words the subject made a statement that they didn’t want him to go back to his truck and get his AK-47. Once again the subject left their church and headed right to ours.
Is this a threat? Maybe not, but in today’s world do you want to take that chance? How many times after every active shooter incident have we heard someone that knew the shooter say, “That is just old Buddy, he was always saying something like that and we never took him serious”. This is serious folks. No rational person should make any statement in today’s world about going back to his vehicle and getting his assault rifle. No one. So in a situation like this I would have contacted local law enforcement again and made another report on this subject. Law enforcement might say there is no crime committed here but tell them you want to make a “miscellaneous or information only” report. This is a catch all report. This is information that comes from the street that really has no reporting designation, but this incident is now on file in case this person makes another threat. Then law enforcement can start watching and talking to this person of interest. Looking at the Parkland shooting, the shooter had multiple domestic violent incidents reported to the police, a web posting where the shooter stated he wanted to be the next school shooter and these signs were overlooked. When we look at the Pittsburgh Jewish synagogue shooting, this shooter was posting anti-Jewish rants on-line and to coworkers for a while. No one said anything to local law enforcement and we now have this terrible tragedy in Pittsburg. Brothers and Sisters we live in a time if you hear or see something we have to say something. In our training I tell you we in law enforcement would rather get a call that was nothing than to respond to a scenario like the one in Parkland or Pittsburg. When you have someone in your church make a threat or what sounds like a possible threat we need to start making phone calls. I will be the first in this phone tree. My number is 727-267-0590 and my email address is email@example.com. Remember:
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV).
After you get finished here go and re-read my October blog “The Heart of the Watchmen on the Wall.”. Brothers and Sister if you take this role as the shepherd of the flock until the Chief Shepherd comes home I would take it as serious as we do our faith in Christ. Remember we work for Him.
My oldest daughter who reviews my blogs said I forgot something, and she is right. Let us not forget what this season is all about. It is about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you don’t know the story I recommend you go out and watch this short YouTube video. I can’t say it any better that this video. Have a Safe and Merry Christmas from Jim, Wendy, Jessica and Jaycee.
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.