With families drawing close in heartfelt reunions and congregations deeply immersed in celebrating the birth of Christ, the Church’s holiday season emerges as a beacon of unity, and spiritual devotion. Yet, amidst these cherished moments, the modern church faces multifaceted challenges in ensuring the safety of its congregation. Amplified by the prevailing tensions in the Middle East, the risk landscape for this year feels more pronounced than ever. From unforeseen natural disasters to alarming threats like active shooters, houses of worship need to brace themselves for a myriad of unpredictable scenarios. Where do you start in fortifying your sanctuary against such threats? Dive into our comprehensive guide of 10 tips to bolster the safety and preparedness of your church for this upcoming festive season.
Tip 1: Building Security
Conduct a review of your building security measures, encompassing lighting, access controls, and surveillance systems. The rise in activities and the number of people during the holiday season necessitates a more secured building, guaranteeing both your church assets and people’s safety through a nurtured sense of security.
Tip 2: Weatherproofing the Outside Area
If you are in a snow state stay updated with weather forecasts and having a dedicated team to salt sidewalks and clear snow ensures the safety of your community. Slips and falls are more frequent during inclement weather. By being prepared you are ensuring that all visitors find a welcoming and accessible environment, regardless of the season’s challenges.
Tip 3: Review Security Levels
Assess your current security measures and adjust them based on the expected rise in holiday attendance. This might also mean increasing volunteer security personnel during services that see higher attendance. In today’s world, where global tensions might target houses of worship, bolstering security offers congregants peace of mind.
Tip 4: Monitor Suspicious Behavior
Training staff, volunteers and your safety team on how to recognize and address unusual behavior is of paramount importance. The diverse array of visitors during the holidays means that early detection of potential threats through behavior detection can ensure a peaceful worship experience for all.
Tip 5: Emergency Operations Walkthrough
Walkthrough your emergency procedures, ensuring all staff and volunteers are familiar with established protocols, are pivotal. During the busy holiday season, being acquainted with the church emergency plan can lead to swift responses, reducing chaos and the potential for harm.
Tip 6: Medical Response Readiness
Schedule training sessions for key volunteers on medical equipment and emergency response, you can ensure that you are ready for any medical emergencies. Larger gatherings during the holidays might mean increased chances of medical incidents like heart attacks. A prepared team can offer timely assistance, potentially saving lives in the process.
Tip 7: Guard Against Theft
To embrace the season’s spirit of giving, your church should designate secure areas for donated items and gifts. Enhancing surveillance and limiting access to these areas ensures that these generous offerings benefit those in need and embodies the spirit of the season and not someone with sticky fingers.
Tip 8: Thorough Volunteer Background Checks
It’s essential for your church to partner with a recognized agency that specializes in background checks. You should also have a system in place to regularly update and verify the credentials of all staff and volunteers. As houses of worship host more events during the holidays, there’s an increased reliance on volunteers. Ensuring they are safe not only protects the vulnerable members of the community but also upholds the church’s reputation.
Tip 9: Prioritize Prevention
Establishing a communication network with local law enforcement and community groups and actively monitoring local news and social media for potential threats are critical measures. This proactive approach is especially valuable during the holidays when you will see an influx of attendees. By staying vigilant, your church can ensure a peaceful environment, allowing congregants to concentrate on their worship.
Tip 10: Plan for Service Disruptions
Drafting a protocol to address disruptions, from minor disturbances to significant threats, and training key personnel on how to respond is essential. A well-prepared safety response team can adeptly handle interruptions, ensuring the service’s sanctity remains undisturbed. Especially during holiday services, when emotions might run high, this proactive planning fosters a harmonious atmosphere.
As the festive season approaches and your church becomes the bustling hub of celebration, it’s paramount to prioritize the safety and well-being of all attendees. This guide has delved into 10 critical measures that every House of Worship should consider, from the foundational steps of enhancing building security to the nuanced practices of monitoring suspicious behavior. Each tip underscores the importance of proactive planning, continuous vigilance, and community involvement. By embracing these strategies, your church can not only ensure the physical safety of your congregation but also preserve the sacredness of the spiritual gathering. As we herald the joy of Christmas, let’s also champion the cause of a secure and serene worship experience for all.
Simon Osamoh is the editor of Security Connections and a foremost expert in securing houses of worship. He founded Kingswood Security Consulting and the Worship Security Academy. Additionally, Simon is a two-time Amazon best-selling author and currently serves as the security advisor to Westwood Community Church in Excelsior, Minnesota.