Confessions of a Seasoned KidMin Worker

Originally published in Children’s Ministry Magazine, March/April 2019.
Alliance Northwest highly recommends youth ministry workers
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12 hard-won pieces of wisdom from a veteran leader’s heart to yours

By Debbie Mecca

(Debbie has worked with children and youth for 31 years in churches in New York and Connecticut. She’s currently the director of children and youth ministries at Saugerties United Methodist Church in Saugerties, New York

Not long ago, someone asked me to think back to when I first started in children’s ministry…over 30 years ago.  The person asked me to share all the things I thought I needed to be effective—and what I learned I actually needed instead.  I began to think about all the discoveries I’d made over the years—some happy, some uncomfortable, but all important.  The result is this list, which is part confession and part advice column.  It might save you a bit of wasted effort or ease a frustration you’re dealing with.  It may even nudge along your own discovery.  So here goes: the shortlist of lessons learned along my 30-year journey in children’s ministry. 

  1. I thought I needed to develop my own vision for the children’s programming.
    What I really needed was to develop a shared vision with our church.

  2. I thought I needed the approval of the pastor and church leadership.
    What I really needed was the active support and involvement of the pastor and church leadership.

  3. I thought I needed “bodies” filling Sunday school rooms each week.
    What I really needed was adults who cared about children and sharing God’s Word with them.

  4. I thought I needed flashy Sunday school curriculum. 
    What I really needed was to learn how to provide effective teacher training.

  5. I thought I needed a big budget.
    What I really needed was to learn how to be creative.

  6. I thought everyone was fit to teach Sunday school and be involved in Children’s Ministry.
    What I really needed to know is children’s safety comes first, and we must choose all volunteers wisely after completing background checks.

  7. I thought I needed to simply put out the word and volunteers would flock to Children’s Ministry.
    What I really needed was help promoting and advertising the joys of our children’s programs.

  8. I thought I only needed to provide the programs and the children would come.
    What I really needed was to involve entire families in various programs and activities throughout the year.

  9. I thought it didn’t matter what space we used or how it looked.
    What I really needed to know is appropriate and clean spaces project an image of caring, not just for the children but also for the space where we worship our God.

  10. I thought I needed lots of meetings and planning sessions.
    What I really needed was time spent in prayer and discernment.

  11. I thought I knew all I needed to know at the time.
    What I really needed to know is consistent study and continuing education were important to keep me up to date in the ever changing and evolving area of Children’s Ministry.

  12. I thought I could do the job alone.
    What I really needed was a mentor or coach and a group of other children’s ministers to help me, to laugh and cry with me, to share with me, to pray for me, to guide me, to keep me centered, and to let me know I wasn’t alone on this journey.

 

Reach Didn't Get Canceled, It Just Got Remixed

Although weather forced a cancelation of the actual Reach retreat for Alliance Northwest high schoolers, many youth groups still took advantage of the weekend and saw God at work:

  • Mercer Creek (Ellensburg, WA): “We took the opportunity that the extra snow brought and did a sledding event. We had a good amount of students show up and were able to create a fun environment for students to connect with each other and leaders. We are looking for something in the coming months to contribute to the spiritual transformation that comes with Reach.” – Nick Faucett

  • Snoqualmie Valley Alliance (Snoqualmie, WA): “The crew from SVA Church had a great weekend together and God absolutely moved! On Saturday, our students and leaders shopped at local retailers and grocery stores for supplies to make care packages for people who are living outside in this cold weather in Seattle. We packaged them intentionally and wrote out notes that we prayed over and included in each care package. We then prayerfully hit the streets of Seattle with these packages and went where the Lord led! We worked on breaking through the barriers and comfortability of speaking to homeless people. We knocked on tents and asked about peoples lives and stories and got to pray for many people who were honored at our efforts to make them known and loved!  We then went to a fun dinner in the city and did an escape room challenge all together that evening! Both the students and their parents were amazed at the day and how God used us to tangibly love our community. Though the decision to cancel reach was a tough one, know that our students grew in compassion and living like Christ this weekend because of it! :)” – Baly Botten

Both the students and their parents were amazed at the day and how God used us to tangibly love our community.
  • Compass (Vancouver, WA): “We took our students to Great Wolf Lodge! It was a fun time of community and care.” – Annie Banceu

  • Moses Lake Alliance Church (Moses Lake, WA): “We kept it simple and went to see a movie together. Afterword we got Frosties at Wendy’s and connected over the movie and life in general. I was encouraged by this because these were 3 very different guys at very different places in maturity. But to see them interacting with each other (and dare I say actually getting to some Biblical truth from a secular movie) was a win.” – Tyler Ellis

  • Journey (Tacoma, WA): “The snow has melted up in Tacoma, and while we were bummed to miss Reach, we still enjoyed a great weekend together. One of our Elders hosted us at their family home for movies and pizza on Saturday night. Sunday morning Josh Mann came over from Fox Island and shared the message he prepared for the retreat weekend over breakfast with our high school group. We had a small turnout, but it was just the right group to hear Josh's message, and I was so grateful for the small setting. Monday afternoon we got together to play some archery tag and an escape room. Not what we planned—but still great time together!” – Joel Johnson 

  • Dallas Alliance Church (Dallas, OR): "We did end up doing something that weekend which was really good for the students. We were super sad to not get to be with everyone else, but it was still a blessing to get away for the weekend.  We were able to find a beach house in Lincoln City and took Saturday to Monday to relax and do our own little series on “Recalibrating Our Compass to True North”….Our retreat was by no means perfect and we really missed those small group huddles and tribe times, but overall it was a great weekend." - Miriam Lawson

  • Union Hill (Redmond, WA): "We took our students and went up to Bellingham, where we stayed at a hotel and had fun in the pool, walked around Fairhaven and some parks, and did an escape room together!  We also talked through the first two questions in the list of questions to guide Reach - "What do you want?" and "Who do you say that I am?" We leaders agree it was a really fruitful time." - Lauren Dudugjian

National Office News Updates


From Gary Friesen/C&MA General Counsel:

Clergy Housing Allowance 

Attached is the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, upholding the clergy housing allowance. This ends the latest—and certainly not the last—attempt to overturn this tax benefit. Since this is a frequent question from our licensed workers, you may want to consider distributing this information in some way. 

Older (but still relevant) stories from The Alliance:

From Mike Sohm, President of CAMA Services:

Dear Friends,

More than 3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014—about 10 percent of the country’s population. Thousands continue to flee every day. Why? In a word, desperation. Inflation is out of control, families are going hungry, and medicine is hard to find. In response to this crisis, Colombia has opened its borders and now hosts more than 2 million Venezuelans. That’s where we first heard Neidis’s story.

A Desperate Job Search

Neidis arrived in Armenia, Colombia, with her husband, 16-year-old daughter, and 4-year-old son in December 2017. They had just $16 in their pockets. The first week the family settled into their new city, Neidis sent out dozens of résumés. She hoped her former job as an agricultural engineer would help her find a new job. But after continuing to hear she was overqualified, Neidis decided to remove her education and 14 years of experience from her résumé.

Neidis was desperate. Her husband suffers from chronic pain in his hands and can’t work. Unable to give up, she finally managed to land jobs as a store clerk and domestic worker. One day while she was paying her rent, Neidis was invited to visit the Alliance El Encuentro de Vida church. Neidis, who had come to know Jesus when she was a child, decided to go. At church she was welcomed, loved, and invited to attend an event for Venezuelans sponsored by another Alliance church in her city.

Relief At Last

Upon arriving, Neidis, her family and friends, and nearly 400 other Venezuelans were surprised to see all that was available to them: medical, dental, and chiropractic care; counseling, eye exams, legal advice; and even haircuts. More than 150 qualified volunteers from various churches across the city joined together to provide these professional services. Neidis was able to have her vision checked and received a free pair of glasses. There were also programs available for children and teens, and families received clothing, medicine, and dinner.

Can you imagine what a relief this was for a woman carrying the full weight of her family’s needs?

The Colombian Alliance wants to continue supporting refugees like Neidis. Will you consider joining them?
Give Today

Your gifts will help support hundreds of displaced Venezuelans living in the city of Armenia. Many families are living together in a cluster of apartment buildings, just getting by day-to-day. You can help sponsor more events like the one Neidis and her family attended as well as provide food, shelter, and job training.

Some predict nearly 4 million Venezuelans will reside in Colombia by 2021. Through your gifts, we can partner with the local church to give hope and practical help to Venezuelan families.

EquippingU LIVE: Pre-Council and Podcast

Previous sessions: November and March webinars available to view.

November’s theme was “Outward Focused Church”, broadcasted from Crown College.

March’s theme was “Dealing with Sexual Sin and Pornography”. Nick Stumbo from Pure Desire is presenting. Nick shared his journey from addiction to forgiveness and healing and provide practical steps and resources to help our churches become places of healing.

EquippingU Podcast:  Season 1 is ready! Alan Rathbun and Terry Smith dialogue with leaders on topics ranging from worship, soul care, and prayer, to church multiplication and revitalization, and racial reconciliation. These are more than good conversations—each have application points to help pastors grow as leaders and establish a healthy growing church.           
 
EquippingU Pre-Council:  EquippingU will have three morning tracks: “Developing Multi-Cultural Churches,” led by Bryan Loritts; “Leading Revitalization in the Local Church,” led by Dr. Thom Rainer; and “Establishing a Church Multiplication DNA,” led by Matt Hannan. There will also be a catered lunch and afternoon session on “Racial Reconciliation,” led by Bryan Loritts.

Alliance Life Magazine Receives 10 Awards for its Journalism

At its annual convention April 4–6, 2018, in Orlando, Florida, the Evangelical Press Association presented Alliance Life, the official magazine of The Alliance, with the following awards:

  • Award of Excellence (first place), Denominational Magazine category

  • Second Place, Candid Photo category for “Baptism in a Bucketloader” by Herbert Shao

  • Fourth Place, Evangelism Article category for “Everyday Evangelism” by Martha Renaud

In addition, at its annual convention April 18-20 in Chicago, Illinois, the Associated Church Press presented Alliance Life with the following awards:

  • Award of Merit (second place), Denominational Magazine category

  • Award of Excellence (first place), Magazine/Journal Design, Spread, or Story category for “My Husband Shot John Lennon” by Gloria Chapman; design by Kenny Crane

  • Award of Merit (second place), Magazine/Journal Design Entire Issue category for November/December 2017 issue, design by Kenny Crane/Stephanie Reindel

  • Award of Merit (second place), Illustration with Article or Cutline category for “My Husband Shot John Lennon”; illustration by Kenny Crane

  • Award of Merit (second place), Feature Article category forFreely Forgiven” by Emmy Houk

  • Award of Merit (second place), Convention or Meeting Coverage category for the “Council 2017 Special Issue”; photography by Stephanie Reindel

  • Honorable Mention (third place), Biblical Interpretation category for “True Confession” by Russell Huizing

Alliance Life currently reaches 50,000 households, encouraging its readers to celebrate the joyous life that can be found in Jesus Christ and reporting the forward momentum of His Church through the worldwide ministries of The Alliance.

Free ChurchEXCEL subscription to Alliance Northwest churches

From Ken Baldes/Vice President for Operations/Treasurer
As a former church treasurer and leader in my local Alliance church, I know the various challenges church leaders face serving their local church, including  finances and administration.

The Alliance has been a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) since 1988, and we continue to enjoy a growing relationship with this organization. I am excited to tell you that ECFA is now providing a FREE ChurchEXCEL subscription to Alliance church leaders to help equip you in your church’s  financial administration. This resource offers eBooks, webinars-on-demand, electronic tax guides, and so much more.

Sign up for ChurchEXCEL today!

 

New International Ministry Opportunities for 2019 Deployment

IM would like to announce that new postings of international ministry opportunities for 2019 deployment will be added to its website during January.  The top twenty opportunities will be viewable from January 1, with others being added during the course of the month. 

The full total of more than 60 new opportunities for service as Alliance international workers will be posted for viewing and application by January 31. 

 

Save with Alliance Purchasing Program

The National Office has negotiated special group pricing with several companies that may benefit your church—including Dell, Microsoft, Staples, T-Mobile, Xerox, and Stewardship Payroll Service. Two new partnerships with Arria Live Media and Sennheiser Electronic GmBH & Co. (Sennheiser) provide churches with low-cost, high-quality products for their audio needs. 

For more information on these special rates, contact Kris Rickert.

Field Forum 2019 Recap and Session Audio

This week at Field Forum, Alliance Northwest went Deeper. For three days at the Red Lion in Portland, we came together to reunite and realign under our common mission as family. We ate together, communed together, worshipped together. Our keynote speaker Sunder Krishnan brought four Spirit-filled messages on cultivating the mind of Christ in our work, our relationships, our emotions, and the way we bless others. And we ate donuts!

Thanks to Travis Vice and the worship team for ushering us into God’s presence each session. Thanks to Thomas Terry for his spoken word on Monday night. Thanks to all our breakout leaders and how they shared their expertise with us. And thanks to the Red Lion hotel and staff for caring for us.

Below, you can find audio from each of the sessions, as well as some pictures from the event.

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Renew 2019 Talks Available to Stream

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Another Renew at the Oregon Coast is in the books; a time for rest, contemplation, and reconnecting with Alliance Northwest family (despite the storms outside).

Matt Hannan brought wise counsel with his series on Preserving Your Soul in the Midst of Crisis and Calamity, beginning with the prayer: “Lord, I want you to do in me everything you need to do, in order to do through me everything you want to do.” All four sessions are available for streaming and/or download below.

Thanks once again to everyone who came to the coast and shared their time with the Alliance Northwest family. Next up, Field Forum (March 18-20)!

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New Tax Laws Affecting Your Church in 2019

Your personal tax withholdings, your church parking lot, and a family medical leave tax (if you live in Washington) represent legal developments that will affect you this year. Check out these new laws to ensure you don’t get caught unaware. 

  1. Determining if Your Church Needs to Pay the New Parking Tax:  In 2017, the federal government implemented a new tax that could affect your church if you provided parking to your employees in 2018. Although the guidance from the government has been minimal, we now have some basic guidelines to follow to help you determine if your church will have to pay.  The attached link will provide you with some of the basics: Church Parking Lot Tax. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Julie at the Field Office.

  2.  NEW Oregon 2019 W-4: Federal tax law changes, including how withholding allowances are calculated, mean that some Oregonians haven’t been withholding enough from their paychecks to cover their state personal income tax liabilities. Oregon now has its own W-4 for state income tax withholding. Form OR-W-4 will allow employees to determine their correct Oregon withholding. You can download and print the form at www.oregon.gov/dor/forms.

  3. NEW Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave Tax: Beginning January 1st, 2019, all churches with employees in Washington must begin withholding and/or paying taxes to the Washington Employment Security Department to cover a new Family & Medical Leave program. This program will allow employees who have worked 820 hours or more in Washington to receive benefits if they end up on family and medical leave (beginning in 2020). In order to cover this program, the new tax begins with paychecks given to Washington employees as of January 1st, 2019. Information on this can be found at https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/employers. If you have further questions, feel free to contact Julie at the field office.

How Was Your 2018? Annual Reports Due Feb 22

It’s that time again: Time to fill out the 2018 Local Alliance Church Annual Report.

Last year, Alliance Northwest had a 94.6% completion rate. Other districts in The Alliance reached 100%. Are we really going to let them show us up like that this year?

Starting January 8, 2019, the 2018 version of the Annual Report will be available for churches to complete. Lead pastors and editors will receive an instructional email on that date from Terry Smith, vice president for Church Ministries. The deadline to finish the Annual Report is February 22, 2019.

Lead Pastors can visit the MyCMA Website to download and complete the report.

For problems accessing the report, email lisac@alliancenw.org or call Lisa at 503-685-9160.



ACF Church Teams with Compassion International to Sponsor 500 Children in Burkina Faso

This is what love of neighbor looks like. Days after the earthquake that shook the Anchorage Basin last November, the people of ACF Church in Eagle River, Alaska pledged their resources to sponsor 500 kids living in impoverished Bobo, Burkina Faso.

The church is working through Compassion International, an organization that works with churches on the ground to administer its services — and in Burkina, those churches are Alliance. This partnership with Alliance international workers was one of the key reasons why ACF decided to partner with Compassion. Compassion International has over fifty years experience pairing sponsors with children around the world who need support.

Lighthouse Christian Center Opens Its Doors to the Houseless During Winter Months

The Northwest has certainly felt like winter lately: cold temperatures and windy nights make us think about cozying up with some blankets and warm socks. However, for many in our cities who are without houses, Northwest nighttime temperatures can be brutal, and even dangerous.

Lighthouse Christian Center (Puyallup, WA) has joined with other local churches to open their doors to those in need, as a part of a program called Freezing Nights. Each church is available on a specific night of the week (Lighthouse has Monday nights, 7pm-7am), and provides shelter and a warm breakfast to around 70 people who come through the doors. Many hands make light work, and around 150 volunteers have been helping make Freezing Nights a reality.

For more information on the Freezing Nights program, click here.

Salem Alliance's Salem For Refugees Honored with the "2018 Salem Peacemaker Award"

On October 24, the Salem Peace Lecture Committee awarded their 2018 Salem Peacemaker Award to Salem For Refugees, an organization founded by Anya and Doug Holcomb through Salem Alliance Church. Salem For Refugees is involved in many facets of a refugee’s settlement in Salem—from finding housing and work, to getting around town and integrating into their communities. The award was given during the Annual Salem Peace Lecture at Willamette University.

This is another exclamation point in the book that God is writing in the lives of the Holcombs, who had been working in Kosovo before circumstances forced them to return to Oregon. They write:

It was an honor to receive this award on behalf of all the volunteers, faith communities & organizations who have collaborated with us to make our city a welcoming place for refugees, and on behalf of our new refugee neighbors who contribute to this community in amazing ways! 

Medford Neighborhood Church Cares for Paradise Amidst Campfire Blaze

The fallout from the catastrophic Camp Fire has reverberated far beyond Paradise, CA, and even into the Rogue Valley, where as many as 52,000 displaced Paradise residents have fled.

Medford Neighborhood Church, led by pastor Lee Gregory, has become the center of a burgeoning movement to help the residents of Paradise who are currently in the Medford area. Incidentally, Lee and Doreen Gregory have a history in Paradise; they grew up and got married there.

The church has become the area donation distribution hub as a part of the I-CARE (Compassion And Respect for Everyone) movement that has sprung up (via Lee’s community presence). The Gregorys have also taken in some of their family from the Paradise area who escaped with only the (singed) clothes on their backs.

The news of the generosity and care shown by the church has spread to local media—you can read the coverage here.

Todd King Called as New Lead Pastor for Mercer Creek Church

Mercer Creek Church recently extended a call to Todd King after a Lead Pastor search that lasted through the summer.

The Kings (Todd, Karynn, and their two sons) come to Mercer Creek from Bellingham, Washington, where Todd served as executive pastor at Christ the King Church (a large, multi-site church in northern Washington) and Karynn was a counselor.

Southern Oregon Network Gifts $6K to Their Church Plant Journey Roseburg For A New Heating Unit

As the months get colder, churches in less-than-cozy buildings can really start to feel the chill. Recently, Journey Roseburg had a need for three costly heating units for the church’s warehouse gathering space, but didn’t have the funds. That’s when the Southern Oregon Network stepped in to help buy them.

Journey Roseburg Pastor Jeff Paschall called it a “generous financial blessing” and said: “I can't express the encouragement our young church feels… Having planted three churches, this one, by far, owes so much of its success to the constant, tangible, and practical love and support we receive.”

Church Safety in an Age of Violence

Taken from materials written by the North Central District of The C&MA

Church shootings and other security issues continue to seize our attention. Up until recently, church security was mostly about making sure that someone kept track of keys and that the building was locked up. Although most of our churches remain safe places, the impact of a violent event, while extremely rare, is so damaging that it's wise to think about your church's plan in these situations.. We must resist the impulse of irrational fear while still acting with wisdom and foresight. This paper is designed to guide a leadership team through that process.

Why We Care

More importantly, an Alliance church should be a safe place for people to gather for worship. Through our child and youth screening policies we promote that a local Alliance church should be the safest place for young people to hear the gospel, and the same should be true for our entire congregation. Again, any type of violence is extremely rare, but people who attend our churches expect that reasonable and appropriate security measures are in place. Church leaders are called to be shepherds and, in Scripture, shepherds both cared for and protected their sheep. Part of this protection is against our spiritual enemy (the devil) and rightly so. In The Alliance we also believe that protection is physical. We do this for our children when we guard against sexual abuse and it is appropriate and right to also consider the safety of anyone who attends one of our churches. Put another way, in The Alliance our goal is for security to enhance, not inhibit, our worship of the true and living God. 

Legally, the law imposes on a church a duty to protect occupants against foreseeable criminal acts. The foreseeability of a violent act is based on a variety of factors, such as the church location, size of the church, known threats against the church or church members, and past violent behavior in the church vicinity. Recent church shooting incidents have targeted small rural churches, so it would be unwise to think it could never happen to your congregation.

Who This is For

These guidelines are designed for the “typical” Alliance church. More than half of our churches have 100 or less in weekly attendance and more than 80 percent have less than 200. Our larger churches have access to far greater resources and may have addressed security concerns. While still helpful, this document is not provided primarily for these larger churches but rather to assist those more typically-sized Alliance churches that have either just started or have not yet had this conversation. 

The Big Ideas

Every church has a different culture, size, and location. There is no “one-size-fits-all” security plan. These guidelines are designed to help your leaders engage with the most essential issues and point them to trusted resources as a church develops its own safety and security plan. 

For a plan to be effective, it is essential to gain buy-in from the entire leadership team, particularly the lead pastor and elder and/or governing board. Sometimes it is necessary to overcome the notion that “nothing like that could happen here.” 

Any security plan should not just address the unlikely event of an active shooter, but the far more likely scenarios of a non-violent confrontation or medical or weather-related emergency. Typical scenarios to consider include:

  • A child in your children’s ministry is caught in the middle of a domestic dispute 

  • Someone under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or who struggles with mental health issues, sees your church as a place to express their anger

  • An attendee has a medical emergency during a worship service

  • A local activist group protests outside your church doors on a Sunday morning 

  • A fire spreads out of control

  • An auto accident occurs in the parking lot 

Any security plan involves everyone in public leadership. This includes pastors and staff, ushers, greeters, parking attendants, elders, and deacons. This is true even for churches that create a separate safety and security team. Each person should know their role in a crisis scenario. For example, the easiest and most effective strategy is for church team members to be vigilant for anything that is out of the ordinary. This is often referred to as a DLR – “doesn’t look right.” Do ushers or greeters spot someone who looks out of place? He/she should be engaged as soon as possible to assess any potential concerns. This can be as simple as introducing yourself, welcoming them to the church, and asking them what brought them to your church that day. 

When your safety and security plan is ready, the proposed plan should be reviewed by your insurance agent, a local attorney, and your local law enforcement agency. Every insurance company has extensive helpful resources on this topic and your agent will ensure that your plan doesn’t jeopardize necessary liability coverage. Your attorney will align the plan with any state or local municipality laws. Your local police and fire department can provide practical help as well as coordinate any emergency response. The importance of insurance, attorney, and police, and fire department engagement is particularly important if members of your team will be armed.  

It is important to realize that even the most stringent security practices may not have prevented the recent church shootings. It is extremely difficult to completely foil a determined and armed assailant. However, through use of an appropriate security plan, it is possible to deter such acts in some cases and to mitigate harm in others.

Security Plan Options

Every security plan involves one or more of the following elements:

Even the smallest churches can intentionally create heightened awareness. Your leadership team at Sunday worship services or any other event can be vigilantly aware of anything that is out of the ordinary or seems odd. Is someone wearing a large coat on a warm day? Does someone seem unusually distracted? In most cases, there will be a reasonable explanation, but engaging people with warm and appropriate questions is almost always the first and simplest line of defense. 

Some churches have designated their property as gun-free zones. Some states[1] include churches among the locations where concealed firearm permit holders are not allowed to carry. Whether required by law or designated by the church, this is an extremely difficult policy to enforce, especially in some western and southern locations where carrying a concealed firearm is a normal and fiercely protected practice. This prohibition will be largely symbolic unless a church is willing to invest in airport level security practices. 

Many churches contract part-time professional security, especially during worship services and other major events. Typically, these are off-duty law-enforcement officers who are well-trained, often uniformed, and who carry their own liability insurance. Some churches consider the presence of a uniformed police officer near the entry an effective deterrent and well worth the minimal cost for only a few hours work. 

Most churches will consider creating and training an in-house safety and security team. The advantages to this option are that it would be staffed by volunteers and can be tailored to fit the unique needs of the church. These teams may or may not include members who are armed, and if possible, will include members who are medically trained, such as EMTs, nurses, etc. Although the size and scope of a team will vary with each church, five essential requirements for any team are described in the following section. 

Church Safety and Security Teams

Forming a church safety and security team involves five critical steps: identify, recruit, train, deploy, and manage[2]

Identify – Serving on a church security team is not a position for “any warm body.” It is a significant commitment of time and requires a person with strong people skills, a mature Christ-like character, a stable personality, the ability to observe people and situations, good judgment, and a heart for this important Christ-centered ministry. It is helpful to look for people with these characteristics who also have a law enforcement, military, or medical background. This is an opportunity to select from a pool of church members who otherwise might not be interested in traditional volunteer roles. 

Recruit – Once a potential team member is identified, recruitment should be done by personal invitation. The full extent of the commitment should be carefully explained, including the expected level of training. Recruitment for safety and security teams should never be casual.

Train – Proper training is the key to team member enthusiasm and longevity. Training and retraining is essential because team members must be equipped to respond decisively and skillfully to a wide variety of difficult circumstances. At least quarterly training is considered a best practice, with a focus on the variety of scenarios that could occur in your church setting. Typical training sessions will include response to an active shooter, medical or weather emergencies, custody disputes, or domestic violence. Methodologies include the use of hypotheticals, role plays, hands-on drills, and presentations by experts. It is important to include ushers, greeters, and other non-team volunteers as appropriate so that there is a coordinated response to any circumstance. 

There are heightened requirements for any team members who carry a weapon. At the very least these should include: (1) a written application that includes a description of the applicant’s previous weapons training; (2) at least three non-relative references; (3) initial and ongoing training consistent with the training required by law enforcement personnel in your community; and (4) active monitoring that the team member has maintained his/her concealed carry permit. Local churches with existing security teams are a good referral source for training providers in your region. 

Communication with the church’s insurance carrier is essential for teams that include armed members. To ensure liability coverage, you must obtain written approval of your security plan from your insurance carrier. Additionally, your state or municipality may have specific laws that govern the formation and deployment of an armed security team, so it will be necessary to seek the review and counsel of a local attorney. 

Deploy – Generally, each team member will be responsible for a specific area and will follow a pre-determined protocol depending on the circumstances. Each team member should know precisely the area, scope, and expectations of their role. In most cases, new team members should first be paired with experienced people for at least three to four weeks to establish fit and competence. This time period may be much longer before a team member may be armed.

Manage – When the team begins to serve, it is helpful to regularly debrief to fine-tune the process. You will: (1) create a plan, (2) train to the plan, (3) rehearse the plan, (4) evaluate the rehearsal, (5) adjust the plan based on what is learned, and (6) start over. Also, to avoid burn-out, care should be taken so that volunteers are not expected to serve week after week without a meaningful break to prevent burn-out 

Common Concerns

Won’t God protect his church? 

As Christians, we believe in a wholly sovereign God who is in control of his created world. We should and must absolutely trust in his oversight and not live in fear. Jesus left his disciples with these words knowing that the world is a dangerous place: Peace is what I leave with you; it is my peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid (John 14:27). God often works through others to fulfill his purposes. He brings healing through the medical community and physical protection from our military and law enforcement personnel. In this more dangerous age, he may also provide protection through the purposeful actions of a church safety and security team. One biblical example is found in the prophet Nehemiah’s response to an armed threat as he sought to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem: we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night (Neh. 4:9, ESV). 

Our church is too small

Yes, a church’s size, location, and ministry focus will affect a congregation’s vulnerability, but the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, occurred to a church with an average attendance of only 60 in a town of 1,000. No church is immune from potential attack. The level of security will vary, but the days of thinking “it couldn’t happen to us” are long gone. Even the smallest church can take simple steps to increase the safety of its congregation and increase its ability to respond well to any emergency.

We can’t afford the expense of a safety and security team

The expense to train and deploy a safety and security team may be surprisingly low. Most churches rely entirely on dedicated volunteers who may pay for some or all of their own training and equipment. Even churches that hire professional security for a few hours a week typically consider the minimal cost to be a worthwhile investment for all that is gained. 

The presence of a security team will scare or worry members and visitors

The opposite is more likely. People in your community are well aware of the recent church shootings and will generally have a higher expectation for church safety practices. When measures were first introduced for nursery and child care security, which included screening, stronger oversight, and child check-in procedures, many leaders had the same concern. But again, the opposite occurred. Having stronger security measures increased attendees’ confidence that their children were safe in the church. People will appreciate that our church family cares for them and that we desire to give them a place to worship in peace.

What if someone is hurt by a safety and security team member? 

Any potential risk must be balanced against the potential that someone may enter the church with intent to cause harm. The risk of someone being hurt by a member of the safety and security team will be low and mitigated by careful and consistent preparation and training. In most cases, the church’s insurance policy will provide coverage. 

We already have people in the congregation who carry a firearm, can’t we rely on them?

For several reasons, a church wants to avoid attendees acting as informal security. When a church either explicitly or implicitly authorizes someone to carry and deploy a firearm, the church will assume the liability for any consequences. In that scenario, it is possible that the incident would not be covered by the church’s insurance. Potential liability could also greatly increase because, although there was authorization, there was no required training or oversight. It is important for church leaders to not explicitly or implicitly encourage attendees to carry firearms and to not rely on them for church security. 

Recommended Resources

Donihue, Bryan. 2014.. Grand Rapids, Sheepdog Development. What They Don’t Tell You About Church Safety

Rupp, Tim. 2016. Pistol in the Pulpit. Idaho Falls, A Strong Blue Line.

Brotherhood Mutual: http://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/church-security.

Church Law & Tax Report: http://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2013/march/5-steps-for-building-volunteer-safety-and-security-team.html.

[1] The firearm laws related to each state are readily available on the internet.

[2] I’m grateful to Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company for this helpful framework

31 Ordinations Later, the Updated Licensing, Ordination, and Consecration Process Is Now in Full Swing

It’s the dawn of a new era here in the Alliance Northwest.

A couple of years ago, we determined that we could upgrade the whole Licensing, Ordination, and Consecration process to better develop our leaders. Grandfathering out the old system took a few years, and 31 ordinations later, it’s done.

Jason Simmonds, Leadership Development Lead at the Field Office, looks forward to bringing new pastors into the revised LOC process: “I’m excited because the new system affords pastors the opportunity to develop their leadership in ways the old system didn’t because of the emphasis on assessment and creating a personalized leadership development plan.”

For more information about beginning your journey toward getting licensed, ordained, or consecrated, contact Kristy at the Field Office.

Simple Tips for Screening and Selecting Underage Workers

The excellent resource hounds at ChurchLaw&Tax have compiled this helpful guide for churches who want to engage youth for employment or volunteer work. Find the original article here.

Churches put a lot of emphasis on screening and selecting adult volunteers, but what about recruiting minors to serve in your ministry? Because churches cannot screen all the kids active in youth ministry and because potential 16-year-old offenders have no criminal record, normal sexual misconduct preventions do not apply.

So what is a church to do? Here are some simple steps you can take to begin implementing specific screening and selection protocols for your underage workers:

Raise the bar

Start by establishing requirements that must be met before an individual can serve in a position working with children or youth. For volunteers, attention should be given to two factors: (1) how long the person has been part of the congregation, and (2) the level of involvement the person has in the church. It is not enough for a person to have attended the congregation for an extended timeframe, such as six months. He or she should also be active enough in the life of the church that other members can provide a reference.

Screen carefully

The screening process for underage volunteers is similar to that of adult volunteers and paid staff, with the exception of a criminal background check. It should include the use of a written application, reference checks, and a personal interview. Because you can't conduct a criminal background check, have your youth applicants provide references from adults who have firsthand experience working with them, such as youth pastors, public school teachers, scout leaders, or coaches.

Forms for applications and interviews should be developed and approved by the congregation and reviewed by the church's attorney. All information, whether collected on a form or during an interview, should be kept strictly confidential.

Stay close to your volunteers

Richard Hammar said the most dangerous areas for sexual misconduct are where older youth are given full supervision of younger children, such as in vacation Bible school or nurseries. This practice is very common in churches. Adequate adult supervision is a must. Volunteers, whether adults or minors, should never be alone with one child! Your underage workers should always be with an adult when working in children's ministry.