For some, the words ministry and security are as contradictory as you can get. One word conjures up feelings of love, grace acceptance, welcoming, and relationship. While the other word conveys feelings of fear, doubt, isolation, suspicion, and maybe even violence. But, what if we have a misunderstanding of both words? Maybe they’re closer in meaning and practice than we realize.
Several years ago, our church invited me to become a volunteer for our church’s security team. Quite frankly I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. I didn’t even know we had a security person let alone a “team” of security people. I believe they invited me for two reasons. 1) They knew I’d been involved in a lot of different ministry leadership roles over the years. And 2) they knew that I was a military veteran who had specialized firearms training.
The first Sunday that I donned our blue security polo shirt and orange lanyard I had an interesting encounter with a visitor to our church. He straggled in late for our first service holding a large metal coffee mug and looking a little disoriented. I didn’t recognize him so I assumed he was new and probably lost. When I walked up and introduced myself I realized he was three sheets to the wind and the “coffee mug” was serving as a beer stein.
Hmmm…what to do? I didn’t recall any mention of how to deal with drunk parishioners during my limited security team orientation. I found myself falling back on my ministry experience and a reliance on God to help guide my words and actions. I thought being drunk at church was surely inconsistent with some policy but I was more concerned with the individual and why in the world he was intoxicated at 9:30 a.m.
At that moment I realized my role, whether it was in a security capacity or ministerial capacity, was to serve the needs of people. And truth be told, serving people is messy business. We’re called to serve people on their best days…and their worst days. And it’s within that tension of serving the entire human experience, that people need to know they matter, they’re loved, and that they have a heavenly father who pursues them with relentless affection.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never take unnecessary risks with the congregation I’ve been called to serve, but we must be willing to look beyond the 99, for the sake of the 1. I truly believe that God had stirred in the heart of this inebriated man and it’s my hope and prayer my interactions with him that morning played a small part of a larger story still being written.
Now several years later, I find myself in the expanded role of helping to develop and train church security teams around the country through this unique ministerial lens. I’ve had countless interactions with a lot of messy people at their best and their worst and I believe the ministry need is greater now than ever before. I recognize I have a responsibility to train security team members for the full spectrum of whatever we may have to respond to. From verbally de-escalating a difficult person—to the potential use of deadly force, it’s imperative we be ready for the task at hand while not losing sight of the person in the process. The good news. We don’t have to navigate this alone. Ministry as with security needs to rely on and be led by the Holy Spirit.
If your church is considering starting a security team or if you have a security team and want to infuse this mindset of seeing security through the lens of ministry, visit SafeAndSecureChurch.com to learn more about Group’s safety and security training resources.