The Christmas holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, but it can also be one of the most dangerous times for churches. From natural disasters to active shooters, your church needs to be prepared for anything that could put your congregation at risk. As a leader or volunteer, however, you may not know where to begin when it comes to creating your own holiday safety plan – but don’t worry! With only a few days left before Christmas, we’ve got you covered with these five tips:
- Understand your Risk Universe
As a church leader or safety coordinator, it’s important for you to understand the risks to your church. If a threat is identified this holiday season, take care of it immediately and report it to local law enforcement if necessary. Below are some questions we can ask ourselves:
- What are the risks to my church this holiday season?
- Do we have any non-contact orders or orders of protection?
- Do church leaders know of any persons struggling with mental illness that I should be aware of?
- Prepare for Church Medicals
It’s always wise to have a medical plan in place. Make sure that your church has at least one trained medical professional on hand for every service and be prepared to handle any medical emergencies that arise. If you don’t have an all-volunteer team of EMTs or doctors at your disposal, I recommend hiring a private company that can provide quality care to all members of your congregation at this busy time of the year. Remember medicals are the most likely event and both the law and your congregation expect you to have a plan!
- Review your Church Safety Plan
The list of items to review is long, but they’re all important. Make sure you know how you will evacuate the building, who will be in charge of the evacuation, and where everyone should meet up afterward. Also, review your response plan for medical emergencies that take place inside or outside of the church building. And don’t forget your response plan for a lost child and/or an active shooter situation. What steps do youth leaders take if they discover a lost child? Who will respond when there’s a report of an armed intruder on church property? Who can stop this person from entering your building?
- Create a Plan for Service Disruptions
The holiday season is an exciting time for your church. With parties, special events and many church services. While you may want to focus on enjoying the season, it’s important that you also consider what might happen if someone tries to disrupt your service. How will you handle a person who tries to disrupt your church service? If a person enters the sanctuary during a service and begins shouting or making disruptive noises, will someone immediately remove them from the area? Will your pastor or religious leader lead the charge from the front, or will you simply let the event play out? How you will respond will be based on your protocol and “security culture of your church” but whatever you decide, have a plan for dealing with a disruptive person.
- Educate Volunteers on Your Safety Plan
This part of the process is crucial for several reasons, it gives you an opportunity to test your plan and identify weak points in the short time that we have left before the holidays, but it also gives volunteers a chance to internalize the plan so that they can help keep an eye out for possible dangers at holiday services. Education is especially important if you have many young children in your church—it’s important that everyone knows what steps they need to take in case of a fire or some other emergency situation, so if someone panics when something happens suddenly (and who wouldn’t?), there will be more than one person prepared to respond effectively by following established procedures!
Finally, as a Church Leader
You want to make sure that your congregation is safe, secure, and prepared for any situation. With these five tips, you’ll be better equipped to handle any security incidents or emergencies that arises this holiday season.
Simon Osamoh is one of the country’s leading experts in securing Houses of Worship. He is a British American and founder of Kingswood Security Consulting. Simon spent 14 years as a Detective in England working serious and organized crime. He moved to the United States to Head Counter Terrorism at Mall of America, Minnesota. Simon is a Christian and has spent over a decade helping non-profits stay safe and secure. He is the author of three books, Securing Church Operations, Church Safety Responding to Suspicious Behavior and 10 Powerful Strategies for Conflict De-escalation. Simon is the host of the Church Security Made Simple Podcast and a member of the Worship Facility Editorial Advisory Board.