Embracing the Shepherd’s Mantle: The Spiritual Call for Church Security

by | CFX Community, Facilities, Leadership, Security, Security Connections

In our faith communities, discussions often skirt around the grittier realities that thread through our society. We don’t like to talk about domestic violence, child sexual abuse, drug addiction, or financial fraud, but those and other crimes are happening in our church communities. We need a new mindset regarding our responsibilities in the realm of church security.

The church needs to be a beacon of hope, leading critical conversations on our sacred duty to those we serve. With society’s shifting thresholds of tolerance towards crime and adversity, our churches must respond with increased vigilance. Everywhere we go, church, our child’s school, or a store or restaurant, we are seeing people who are dealing with spiritual bruises and emotional scars. We are called to tend to those bruises and scars. But the truth is we don’t always answer that call. 

God has entrusted us with the sacred role of shepherding his flock. The church desperately needs people who will be strong enough to have conversations about our responsibility to the people we minister to. People like you.

Who do you love best in this world? Your spouse, your children, your friends, or maybe your parents? You’re probably more willing to have those hard conversations with them so you can keep them safe. When something happens that has hurt them, you do everything you can to help them heal. You also put safeguards in place to be as sure as you can be that they don’t get hurt again. If you are a leader in God’s church, then you need to have those hard conversations there to protect those people He loves so dearly.

Our worship, fellowship, and discipleship gatherings are open to all, which makes them vulnerable places. We owe it to our church members and visitors to be as prepared as possible for everything from an injured church member to a heart attack victim, to a weather threat, to an armed intruder. I want us to consider a slight mindset shift when it comes to church security. I want to consider that safety and security are about more than active shooter training and security cameras although those are important. As people tasked with keeping our churches safe, the most important thing we can do is to adopt the mindset of a shepherd.

Shepherds are responsible for a lot. They are responsible for ensuring the health, well-being, and safety of the sheep under their care. They do that by providing food and water, watching for signs of illness or injury, administering medicine when needed, and ensuring that the sheep have access to shelter. They also have to protect their flock from wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions by using guard dogs or other protective measures to deter these relentless predators.

What about your flock? I’ll bet you are providing The Bread of Life and The Living Water, but what about the rest of a shepherd’s responsibilities? How are you watching over your sheep? Do you have anyone proactively watching out for problems that might arise? Is anyone responsible for ensuring that appropriate therapeutic help and shields are available for emotional and spiritual safety needs, not just physical ones? Have you trained a team to look for and block predators? Believe me, you do have predators circling your flock.

David knew this. Saul discouraged David when he volunteered to fight Goliath, but David replied:

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

As you settle into this transformative mindset, identify some personal goals to help you continue to grow on that journey. Maybe you’ll memorize your favorite Scriptures about what good shepherds do. You could give a friend permission to ask you once a month how you are progressing as a shepherd. If you’re crafty, maybe you’ll make a shepherd costume. Well, maybe that last one is a hard no. I’ll let you come up with your own goals.

Let’s start by anticipating possible objections and devising ways to overcome them while navigating these hurdles with grace:

We’ve always done it this way.

Yes, and it’s seemed to work fine. But the world is changing, so we need to anticipate and guard against new threats to the physical, emotional, and spiritual safety of those God has entrusted to our care. 

We don’t have that problem here.

It may seem that way, but if one in four women has experienced domestic abuse, it has happened or is happening to someone here. If, according to notinourchurch.com., one in eight Protestant senior pastors say a church staff member has sexually harassed a member of their congregation, then we are vulnerable to that happening in any church.

It is not the job of the church to deal with these types of issues.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19 ESV). Jesus came not only to preach, but to help protect and restore anyone who was in need. 

The time for change is now. You can be an integral part of that change in your congregation. Are you ready to encourage your leadership to adopt this new mindset to enhance your church’s physical, emotional, and spiritual safety?

Lori Morrison is a member of her church’s security team, a licensed private investigator, a former church staffer, and serves on the Worship Facility Editorial Advisory Board. Her book, “Reclaiming Sanctuary: Enhancing Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Safety in Our Churches” helps church leaders adopt a new mindset, build a customized strategy, and launch a sustainable plan for the protection of their flock. 

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