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It’s Time to Get Serious About Church Security

This isn’t normally a topic of mine, but recently, I visited a large church on the West Coast. The pastor asked me to come and even invited me backstage to chat before the service. So, that Sunday morning, I came a little early and went backstage.

However, the security team wasn’t having any of that nonsense.

Obviously, churches, small and large, deal with the occasional over-enthusiastic visitor and sometimes outright nuts. So I mentioned that I was friends with the pastor, but that didn’t work either. He told me the pastor was preparing for the service and couldn’t be disturbed.

I suggested he ask the pastor (since the pastor invited me), but he refused to bother him.

So, I walked back out to attend the service. There was an open seat on the second row, so I took it. The worship service had already started, but before long, the same security guy told me I’d have to move back because the pastor had guests coming (probably me, huh?).

So, I moved back a few rows. Then, a couple of songs later, the security guy asked me to move again because the pastor’s family needed seats.

I kid you not. At that point in the service, by the time I found a seat it was on the back row of the sanctuary.

Of course, after the service, I was barred from coming backstage, so I went home. The next day, the pastor called, upset that I hadn’t come to the service!

I’m sure that the “security” guy meant well and was trying to help the pastor. But the problem was, he wasn’t really a security guy—just a volunteer from the congregation who had been asked to serve. It was obvious from the moment I saw him that he had no training at all.

Pastors, Executive Pastors, and other church leaders – we live in perilous times. It’s not just an issue of me getting access to the pastor or a good seat; it’s an issue of safety and security for everyone in the building.

We live in a world with a lot of mental health problems, angry ex-church members, cancel culture, and, if you’ll forgive the term, outright crazy people.

I know you’ve hesitated time and time again to use professionals because you don’t want your church to look like airport security to a visitor. But those times have gone.

The truth is that highly trained security professionals can be invisible to the congregation if that makes you more comfortable.

The bottom line? Budget for trained security. Either reputable agencies or a full-time internal security team. They know how to give the right people access and the wrong people the door.

The safety of your congregation, visitors, staff, and guest speakers is more than worth the cost.


  1. Wow, what a terrible experience! I’ve got to say though I have not bought into the need for church security. I get that we live in a dangerous world, and most large gatherings – concerts, sporting events, court houses – have security. But I just don’t see an examples of Jesus and the apostles being concerned about their own safety. Jesus was beaten and killed. Afterwards, we don’t see the disciples talking about getting more security or better training.

    Plus how many church attenders die each year from security incidents vs suicide, drug overdoses, domestic abuse. IMO, focus and resources would be better put towards the latter than the former. My $0.02

    1. I completely understand what you’re saying, Paul. Jesus WAS beaten and killed, and I’m sure you’d be willing to sacrifice your life for the sake of the gospel. However, would you be willing to allow someone from the outside to do the same with your congregation or their kids? I have a feeling there are pastors of churches who’ve experienced mass shootings, abusive leaders, protesters, or pedophiles who wish they’d invested more in security. You’re correct that the odds are low that a typical church will experience a tragic incident – particularly in a small town – but in today’s social media world, I believe it’s worth considering.

    2. Hey Paul, I understand where you are coming from. If you’re not experiencing security threats in your “house” or around you then how much is it really happening? right? That’s a completely natural response. Let me ask you this? Why does a church have fire extinguishers and fire alarms? You see, security in a church is not just there to prevent people from dying. You’re right, you don’t see a lot of people dying inside churches. But you know what a lot of churches see on a very regular basis? Domestic related altercations like child custody issues, marriage issues. You see mentally disabled people coming to church who are on medications and sometimes forget to take their meds and end up causing distractions or disruptions in service. You have wolves working their way into congregations to get access to kids. You have vehicle thefts and break-ins. You have vandalism and theft of property. The biggest reason why churches have security is to deter many of these issues/crimes from happening. The secondary is to have an effective response that will resolve issues and to keep them from escalating. For example: just this year at my church, we have had 30 incidents that required a security incident report. We have had 10 incidents that required a full investigation due to criminal activity occurring on our property. We have had 2 protests conducted on our property this year. Those are just the ones we file reports on. There are dozens more that happen throughout the week that require security to respond. Most smaller to mid-size churches won’t see near as much activity in a year, but they do see it. And normally, members and attendees don’t hear about them because security handles it…not church staff. That’s another point. The reason churches have security is so faculty and staff do not have to try and handle a situation that most of them are not trained to handle, which puts them in a risky situation. Lastly, it only takes one incident to bring a church down either financially or by reputation. And believe me, I’ve seen multiple events like this.

      You mentioned that Christ and his disciples not being concerned of their own safety. Aside from Christ telling his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword, lets look at Acts 20:28-30: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Nehemiah 4 is another great example. Nehemiah knew there was a threat and that his people could be attacked while building the wall so he set security throughout as a deterrent and quick response if needed.

      Please click on the links below. The first one happened just a few days ago. The second happened in February just down the street from the church I work at:

      I don’t know where you attend, if you are on staff at a church, or just an attendee, but just because you don’t see much doesn’t mean you never will nor does it mean it doesn’t happen as much as you think because it does. If you are on staff or a leader at a church, you have an obligation and a duty to keep everyone on your property safe. How you do that is up to you. And don’t be naive to think it’ll never happen to you or your church. I’m sure every church over the past few years that has experienced a critical incident like an active shooter thought the same exact thing. Some of them were prepared to respond and some were not. Those who were ready had significantly less deaths.

      I hope this helps bring a little bit more perspective to you Paul. I’m not saying kill your budget to pay for security. I’m just suggesting you do something. And if you need help thinking through what that something should be, I’d be happy to help. I volunteer my knowledge and experience to anyone who wants it.

      Nate Finn
      Security Director at Houston’s First Baptist Church

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