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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
About a year ago I was talking to a church elder about the training we provide at Trinity Security Allies. Before we met he informed me on the phone that ‘he wasn’t buying anything”. While sitting at a local coffee shop he started the conversation with “you have a better chance of being hit by lighting or winning the power-ball lottery than being involved in an active shooter incident”. Fast forward to last Saturday. I was listening to the Pittsburg Director of Public Safety say to reporters “These incidents usually occur in other cities, today the nightmares hit home in the City of Pittsburg.” Every time I replay that conversation with the church elder and now listening to the Director of Public Safety, I think about how naïve these people are. Have they not heard of the twenty-six killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas? Have we already forgotten about the nine worshipers that were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina? I wish they had heard Ron Holland’s riveting testimony of the 1999 church shooting at Wedgewood Baptist Church and about his denial when the shooting started. Shootings at churches are happening more frequently than you think.
Of course then the talking heads come out spewing their rhetoric. So many telling us that this wouldn’t have happened if the church had someone armed inside. Then there are those telling us that the police are just minutes away and guns don’t belong in church. I hear them talk about how guns are the problem and others it is all about mental illness and we need to do better on handling those with mental issues. What they showed me is that they don’t have a clue of what is going on in Houses of Worship, Christian, Jewish or even Muslin surviving in this fallen world. What do they really know about an active shooter situation in a House of Worship? Unless they have ever been involved in one they need to shut-up and just report the news.
Here is what we know about Tree of Life shooting; evil walked into a peaceful setting and killed eleven innocent people. It is just that plain and simple. Good people don’t walk into Houses of Worship and just start shooting peaceful people, that is not our nature. These innocent people felt they were in a safe place; a House of God and He would not let this happen to them. They probably felt that it will never happen here; it only happens to churches in the south like Texas or South Carolina but never here. Remember what the Pittsburg Director of Public Safety said to reporters “These incidents usually occur in other cities….” Why do we still feel that it only happens to other churches and not ours?
Brothers and sisters the police are minutes away, minutes. The time it takes you to read this blog nine innocent people were shot and killed in South Carolina during an active shooter incident. Nine. You know me and law enforcement, you cut me I bleed blue, but we have to learn to protect ourselves while the cavalry is on the way. We must circle the wagons and protect those we love and cherish. We have to do things to slow down what is happening. To start this you must have a plan.
Just recently at two different training seminars I said that the best outcome of an active shooter situation is that nobody gets shot and that includes the shooter. I had people in the audience falling all over themselves. Once they got their jaws off the floor I finished my statement. You must start with a plan and that plan is to save lives. If your plan is to arm all the members in the church and some bad guy comes into your church with a gun, he probably won’t kill many people but if everyone starts to shoot, then you are going to kill some innocent people. You have to have a better plan than this.
The first part of any plan is we must save lives. We need to find a way of getting people out of harm’s way when evil walks in the door. Pasco County has been working on a simple plan for schools to encounter an active shooter, it is so simple it is brilliant, the ABCs of School Safety. Alert, Barricade and Counter. I commend them on this because it is what we have been saying for years. As long as we keep it this simple there is no reason why safety teams across the country could not implement this plan.
Let’s break it down. Alert. At the start of anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, Alert local law enforcement. We have been preaching this since we first started. You must contact local law enforcement if something does not feel right. We would rather respond, and it ends up being nothing than getting there and we have a situation like Pittsburg.
Second, Barricade. Finally someone is talking about getting behind a barrier and slowing down the process until the cavalry arrives. Remember the wagons, it was a better way to protect themselves because it was putting a barrier between the them and the bad elements. Let me remind you again, studies have been done and NO locked, barricaded door has been breached. Don’t want to listen to me, read where the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and The National Association of State Fire Marshals reported that “there has never been an event in which an active shooter was able to breach a locked classroom door (Best Practices for Securing Classroom Doors).” And while we are on this subject, get rid of those flimsy doors with no locks and get a solid door with a good lock. I am going to let you in on a little secret, some of these off the shelf classroom barricade devices are dangerous and could be against Federal Law. You are going to have enough issues if you have an active shooter, you don’t want to have possible law suits also hanging over your head from using something illegal. Use a good solid door with a lock on the inside so the person in the room only has to lock the door by pushing a button or flipping a latch. Try getting a key into a key hole when evil is in the house, it is not easy.
One last thing on locked doors. I am sure most of you by now has heard about the Jeffersontown, Kentucky shooting at a Kroger where two people were killed. Here again we have nothing but evil killing people because of the color of their skin. Reports have come in that the shooter, before going to Kroger, had gone to an all-black church. Surveillance video showed the shooter yanking on a church door, but they were locked. There were ten members of the church still inside when the shooter tried the door. The report also states that there were 70 church members there an hour earlier. Lives were saved all because of a locked door. Are you starting to see a pattern yet? Have a plan, lock doors, saves lives.
The next thing on Pasco County’s ABCs is Counter. In their flyer they state “Throw objects at the intruder as a distraction. Shout, Scream, Defend yourself! Look for other ways to escape and Run Away from the danger!” Once again, we have been saying this since the beginning if it comes to a time when you have to defend yourselves, develop a survival mindset and do whatever it takes to make it through the attack. Here is a simple plan to build on, that wasn’t that hard. The hard part for most churches is implementing the plan and getting people to the church to train from the plan.
Would any of this helped those at the Tree of Life synagogue? I am not sure, I don’t know if they had a plan and if they did, did they share it with the whole congregation? In our advertisements for training at the churches we have been recommending, safety team members, church staff, volunteers and anyone interested in church safety. It has come to the time where everyone needs to come to the training, all members, staff and volunteers. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of everyone in the church to be safety conscious.
Just as the wagon trains in the old west protected themselves when they got ready for the night or were under attack. Everyone knew of the plan, everyone had something to do during these attacks. It was only a few that got to hide, most were doing something to save themselves. They had a plan. What is your plan? If you don’t have one, call us today and let us start helping you put a plan together.
Last week I had the privilege of traveling with the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL) and speak at two of their seminars. I heard several pastors surprised that I stressed the Safety Team as a ministry. Talking to them they told me they wanted a Safety Team but when several members of their church stepped up to take that role, they went rogue; became a life of its own and concerned them because of their seemingly new position of power over the church. While working on this blog I got a call from a local pastor that said his STM made everyone feel on edge like they were watching the volunteers and staff all the time, waiting for someone to do something wrong. Not sure where this trend is coming from but we at Trinity Security Allies never teach it this way. I want to stress that our work as Safety Team Members (STM) is first a ministry that serves Christ and the church not the other way around. I say it all the time that unless you, as a STM understands your mission in life is to expand the kingdom of God, then you are in the wrong business. This is not a position of power, it is a position of service. If you feel this position is a position of power, you have not been chosen for this ministry. We do not volunteer, God guides us to this position. Our safety team procedures should not dictate the direction of the church, our service to God and the church should dictate the direction of the team. If we have not turned our Safety Teams over to the Lord, then do so now because a Safety Team that has not surrendered to Christ will fail and when that happens it puts the church in harm’s way. Forget about the evil that is wanting to attack the churches from the outside, your evil is within.
When we talk about the virtues of a STM we look to Paul when writing to Titus “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” Titus 1:7-9. Just replace overseer with STM because our duties as a STM is to manage God’s household in protection and sound doctrine. The church and all its ministries have been around a long time and working quite well. We as STM cannot come in and dictate what sound doctrine has been doing for years. We must be watching for those things that are a threat to the church and if we see something that might cause a safety concern to the members or the church we need to bring it to the attention of the church leaders through proper procedures and with love. Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Merriam-Webster defines haughty as “blatantly and disdainfully proud: having or showing an attitude of superiority and contempt for people or things perceived to be inferior”. When we look at these things the Lord hates, immediately He hits us with blatantly and disdainfully proud. Am I making my point here? We as STM must understand that our role in the church is one of being a servant. Galatians 5:22-23 explains to us “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Now half of you at this point are going, “what am I doing here”? Jim has just taken all authority out of the Safety Team; heck I have more power in the Children’s Ministry bossing little kids around. Before you turn in your radio and ear piece, hear me out. If you are truly a servant of God and He has directed your heart to the ministry of protecting the church understand you are under a lot of scrutiny right now, not from man but from the Father Himself. Ezekiel 3:17-19 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself. Brothers and Sisters we have been selected as the Watchmen/Watch-women on the wall. Plain and simple. He has given you a gift and that gift is to warn the wicked of this world of their evil ways. If we do not warn them and others about their evil ways their blood is on our hands.
So God has entrusted you in warning the wicked of their evil ways. That my Brothers and Sisters is a huge responsibility: are you ready for that calling? But remember Galatians 5:22-23 explains to us “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Are you confused yet? Good cause here comes the closer. Romans 13:1-5 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” The authorities that has been established is your Church. You are a servant of God for good: we as God’s servants when called are agents of wrath to bring punishment of the wrongdoer.
Deep; I think so. A STM is not a position that should be taken lightly; but rather a position to do whatever may be called from us by the Lord. He is going to judge us by our fruits and not lightly, this is a position of great power, Luke 12:48 “But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” So, in essence “where there is great power there is great responsibility” (Winston Churchill, not Ben Parker). If it is to be fruits of the Spirit, or the Watchman/Watch-woman on the wall, then be the best, but understand in our protection of the church we are servants of God and His authority gives us the freedom to protect those in our church. We, only if life is threatened, become His agents of wrath and take whatever steps require to protect the church. The 60’s police motto was “To protect and serve”. We should take up that banner as a Safety Team Member and wave it proudly.
This article reminded me of something that once happened to me and how we are constantly saying “secure your doors”.
A month before the Charleston Church shooting I had been asked to do some church safety training at an African-American church in St. Petersburg. Monica Lamar who does firearms training out at the Allstate Center in St. Petersburg asked if I would come out and help her with her safety team. We set a date in August of course not knowing about what was about to happen. Then on the evening of June 17, 2015 evil walked into the in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdered nine innocent people. This event woke up churches across the country that we were not safe anymore and we needed to start working on ways to protect the flock.
A week before the August training I had some time before I had to be at work, so I decided to do a walkthrough of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (FMBC), Monica’s church. I was working for the Town of Belleair and as their detective my uniform of the day was dress slacks and dress shirt with my weapon and badge showing on my belt. Detectives in Florida don’t normally cover up their guns. I arrived at FMBC and walked up to the front door. Next to the door there was a sign, “Ring Bell for Entrance”. Before I rang the bell I pull on the door handle and not to my surprise the door was unlocked. I walked into the vestibule unannounced and headed toward the worship center. Just a little side note, FMBC worship center took my breath away, if you want to see what a worship center should look like go there.
As I stood there in awe and thanking God that He had set this up I heard a voice behind me asking if he could help me. I turned around and met the facility manager Oscar Davenport for the first time. I could see in Oscar’s face a little concern; I am sure he was thinking who is the unannounced guy in the church with a gun? Remember, Charleston had just happened and here in an all African-American church stands a white guy with a gun. In my mind I thought Oscar, you are one of the bravest men I have ever met. Oscar had not yet seen my badge because he had walked up on my backside, but he still approached me and asked if he could help me. Seeing his expression I quickly identified myself and as soon as I mentioned my name and Trinity Security Allies a relief and a big friendly grin came to his face. He told me he was aware of the training and was looking forward to it. He welcomed me to walk around the church and if there was anything I needed just let him know.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard pastors tell me how they love to come into the office early to study, pray or just have that quiet time before their hectic day begins when all of the sudden they realize they are not alone and when they turn around they find a distraught husband or a homeless person that has gotten into their office unannounced. They tell me that after the initial shock they think, “why didn’t I lock the front door”? And I always respond, “why didn’t you?”.
Now we want the church to be an open and welcoming place, but we need to remember that when it is not hours of operation, it needs to be locked down. The only people that seem to be upset over this are those that either don’t understand the concept of security and leave their car doors unlocked during the night or don’t understand that there are people out there that would like to do nothing better than to rob, cut or hurt someone inside the church (remember the story we started out with?).
Our own church had a suspect, that was running from the Pasco Deputies, hit an unlocked back door and run through the church trying to escape law enforcement. No telling what might have happened if he grabbed and took a person hostage in the church like the guy did in the article. If you are not open for service all doors must be locked. Staff all have keys to get around the church, but I will say this again, all doors must be locked while the church is not open.
But you ask, when do we leave the doors unlocked, and my response is never unless you have a Greeter or church member at the door. We need to look at everyone that comes into the church, we need to be looking at the members, guest, those that are hurting and for those that might come into your church to cause harm. In “Threat Profiling” we teach you what to look for before it gets to your door. If your Greeters go into service after church starts then a Safety Team Member must be aware of the door and watch for any possible threats. We also recommend someone out in the parking lot watching for those running late that might be a threat.
If you want to make your church as open as possible then place someone at the door at all times, even during the service. If they can’t be there then your Safety Team has to be in a position to watch all doors until that person can get back to their post. If the door is not a main entrance on hours of operation it needs to be locked, all members of the church need to come in and out of specific doors and all others locked. Understand what makes a church open and friendly is not the doors, it is the people inside the church.
One more thing about my walk through at FMBC. As I walked through the administrative area I was stopped by two ladies that worked there. One asked me how I got in and I told her the door was unlocked. Both ladies started pointing the finger at each other about who’s day it was to lock the door. Make it everyone’s responsibility to lock the doors when church is not officially open. I quickly left the building before I got in trouble for not ringing the doorbell.
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.