Church Security: All the Safety Measures You Need to Keep Your Church Safe

Church Security: All the Safety Measures You Need to Keep Your Church Safe

The Critical Role of Security in Church Environments 

When your day of weekly worship rolls around, you’re probably focused on getting your family dressed and out the door on time. You pull into the parking lot thinking about the week ahead, the squabble you broke up that morning, and are trying to fix your mind on the upcoming sermon. What’s probably not on your mind is the possibility of a shooting or other violent attack on your congregation.

Now that we’ve planted that in your mind, it might be the first thing that pops into your head on Sunday or Saturday morning.

There was a time when everyone thought the church environment was the safest of all. After all, it’s a time when like-minded people come together to worship and praise the almighty God.

The problem is times have changed. The threat probably isn’t within your own congregation (although that’s certainly a possibility) but from an outsider. That’s right, someone you’ve probably never met and has never attended your church could be planning an attack. Whether it’s a shooting, bombing, or kidnapping, the threats to your church are very real.

Now, before you call off weekly services or abandon church altogether, we’re here to reassure you that hope is not lost and church is not ruined. All you need is a plan to implement or increase security measures to keep your congregants safe.

It's not just about preserving the sanctity of church service or safeguarding your congregants (which is certainly top of the list). Church security is a mission field just like community outreach, children's ministry, and disaster relief. When you commit to the physical safety of your congregants, they feel secure enough to grow spiritually. They feel comfortable enough to invite a friend. You might feel like a simple camera system and patrol rotation aren't spreading the Word of God, but you'd be surprised how many different roles go into fulfilling the great commission.

Don’t worry, it’s probably simpler than you think and we’re going to help.

Advanced Biometrics for Church Security 

Before we get into the security measures you need for weekly worship, we should mention that in-person attacks aren’t the only threat to your congregants. In our digital age of online giving and virtual check-ins, predators don’t have to walk through the front door to enact damage. They can slip through the virtual back door of your computer system and steal vital banking and personal information.

Thankfully, as advanced as online hackers are, biometric security systems are even more advanced. Biometric systems are basically the automated recognition of individuals by means of unique physical characteristics, typically for the purposes of security. It sounds complicated but to you, the user, it’s quite simple. All you have to do is choose a biometric system and create a log of all your congregants’ photos. The biometric system does the rest.

Once the log is in place, your congregants use the facial recognition software to log into their accounts and viola! The system knows their banking information, attendance history, and any personal information they would want safe from a hacker.

To some people, that may feel like an invasion of privacy. However, biometric systems are actually more secure than traditional username and password login systems. Think about it. A hacker can pretty easily guess your login information, but they can’t pretend to be you. They can steal your password, but they cannot steal your face.

Still not sure you can sell this to your church members? Consider how much faster they will be able to access their accounts if they aren’t trying to remember pesky login information. Consider how much safer they’ll feel knowing their sensitive information is their own, and not out there for the entire church staff to review. A biometric system will keep their personal information safe, and take the burden off remembering yet another password.

Advanced Security Surveillance

Once you cover your bases digitally, it’s time to move on to the physical safety of your church. You probably have your basic door and window locks but sadly, this isn’t enough anymore. Criminals don’t just want your donors’ banking information. They want to steal or deface your property. Some want to harm your staff and congregants. While you can’t stop crime in its tracks, you can you can safeguard yourself with a few simple yet advanced surveillance measures.

A few simple solutions are:

Intrusion detection: Alarm systems are a simple, practical solution to stop criminals from entering your building. It lets them know their presence is not wanted and the police are on their way. A few types of alarm systems are:

  1. Window and door alarms. If nothing else, you’ll want to ensure all points of external entry are armed with alarms in case of intrusion.
  2. Glass break detectors. Immediate notification of broken glass will alert you to a break in or potential threat to staff and patron safety.
  3. Motion detectors. Great for indoor or outdoor protection, motion sensors will alert you to activity before a threat enters the building or worship center.
  4. Photoelectric beam detectors. A more advanced state of alarm, invisible barriers will trigger alarms and notify law enforcement when interrupted.

Access control. If you have a large church, a cloud-based access control system may not be out of the question. With so many people coming and going, it can be difficult to keep tabs on who is doing what. An access control system allows you keyless entry and the ability to arm and unarm alarms from a single system. That way, if a threat is detected, you can lock a door even if you aren’t in the vicinity.

Video surveillance. No matter the size of your church, a simple video surveillance system is an easy and effective way to keep your facility safe. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough manpower for someone to monitor the video footage at all times. Even the presence of a camera can deter wrong-doers from causing harm. A few places to consider putting video cameras are:

  1. Outside all points of entry. Make sure you have eyes on the entire perimeter of your building in case of a break-in.
  2. Outside the sanctuary or worship center. The main worship room is often the target of an attack. Keeping eyes on your busiest areas will deter perpetrators and help law enforcement catch them in the event of an attack.
  3. Nursery and childcare areas. Children are the most vulnerable members of any gathering place. Place cameras in your children’s ward to keep your little ones safe.

Developing Effective Church Security Protocols 

Biometrics and security systems aren’t the only things you need to keep your church safe from criminals. A strong team of security volunteers goes a long way in keeping your premises safe. Even just the presence of security personnel can be enough to stop violence. Their presence sends a message: we’re trained. We’re prepared. You won’t get away with this.

You might be surprised how many congregants will be eager to volunteer for a security team. Security team is a ministry, after all, just like missionaries and childcare workers. Some people don’t feel comfortable praying with others or giving a sermon, but they have skills that will keep everyone safe. You’ll be giving them an opportunity to use those skills!

When asking for volunteers, look for:

  • Active or retired military personnel
  • Active or retired police officers
  • Security guards
  • People with hand-to-hand combat/self-defense training
  • People with concealed weapons permits
  • A few women

This is not an exhaustive list. Anyone who can carry a walkie-talkie and be perceptive will be a valuable team member, but military and police members are trained in responding to attacks. People skilled in self-defense and proper shooting techniques will come in handy in the event of an attack. While women may not be your first thought in building a security team, remember there are some women-only spaces like restrooms and nursing mothers’ rooms that could be targeted. Having at least one woman on the team will help the ladies in your congregation feel more comfortable.

Once you have your team established, it’s time to do a bit of training. While you aren’t orchestrating Seal Team Six, organization is the backbone of any successful group. It keeps everyone on the same page so you can respond appropriately in the event of an emergency.

A simple walkie-talkie system is a great way to keep everyone in touch during events. Decide on simple code words and alerts that everyone can remember. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use them. You’ll mostly spend your time walking the church campus and keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior.

In the event of an emergency, you’ll never be sorry you prepared. Consider looking into active shooter training for your team. Learning from a professional exactly how to respond when the worst happens will make your team and congregants feel safe.

Remember, not everyone on your security team needs to be police or even carry a weapon. A team of people with a heart for protecting others is all you need to keep your church safe and secure.

Comprehensive Legal and Compliance Guidelines for Church Security 

Another important element to consider is the legal obligation churches have to keep congregants safe. The tricky part is a church can be held liable in the event of an attack whether or not they have safety provisions in place. For example, if your church is attacked (physically or virtually) and you don’t have safety measures to prevent it, you could face criminal charges for negligence. On the other hand, if you have taken safety precautions, you could still be held liable if the incident could have been avoided or if someone was harmed by your security team.

There’s a lot to consider and many bases to cover when implementing safety protocols, but in this day and age, not having a security plan isn’t an option. The best thing you can do to protect your church and avoid legal issues is to adhere to a few basic principles.

  1. Duty of care. Duty of care is a legal obligation to act with reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to others. This includes everyone on the property from employees to visitors.
  2. Negligence. Negligence is the failure to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances. A person's actions and omissions of actions can be found negligent.
  3. Child safety. If you have children in your care for any amount of time, you are responsible to uphold child safety laws. Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 who by willful act or willful omission or refusal to provide any necessary care for the child's health causes or permits serious injury to the life or health of such child is guilty of a Class 4 felony.

This may sound overwhelming, but there are a few simple precautions you can take to make sure you don’t violate any of the above laws.

  1. Background checks. A background check is probably the simplest way to screen employees and volunteers before adding them to your team. Most people who volunteer for safety team and childcare roles are genuine in their desire to serve, but you can never be too cautious. If you see any red flags on a background check, it’s best not to include that person on your team or staff.
  2. Data protection. When handling other people’s personal information like banking and identity, you are held responsible for upholding data protection laws. Failure to do so could result in criminal charges, so make sure to employ the help of network security software before you collect virtual donations.
  3. Ongoing training and updates. The legal landscape can change at any moment and you need to make sure you’re on top of the best and latest security measures. Ongoing training for all staff and volunteers will ensure you are doing everything possible in the eyes of the law to keep your congregants safe.

The final element to consider when implementing security measures is your insurance coverage. Make sure your insurance covers the following things:

  1. Financial protection. Financial protection safeguards against losses caused by theft, vandalism, property damage, or personal injuries.
  2. Property coverage. Like financial protection, property coverage protects property damage caused by vandalism, break-ins, natural disasters, or acts of violence.
  3. Directors' and officers' insurance. D&O insurance protects church leaders from personal liability claims that result in their actions related to church security. It offers coverage for legal fees, settlements, and judgments in case of lawsuits against church leadership.
  4. Liability coverage. Liability coverage protects churches from potential claims and lawsuits related to injuries, acts of negligence, or any liability risk associated with security measures.

If you have any questions about protecting your church legally in the event of an incident, it’s wise to reach out to local law enforcement, your insurance agent, and an attorney before disaster strikes.

Building and Implementing a Responsive Security Plan 

At this point, let’s assume you have assembled a team of trustworthy security personnel and implemented safety measures like video surveillance and alarms. Now what you need is a plan of action for if disaster strikes. Below is a template drafted by NGS to help churches implement quick response protocols to keep congregants safe.

Step one: Develop a facility abstract. A facility abstract will help your team familiarize themselves with the campus. Remember, you have the home-field advantage over an intruder. Make sure you use it. Include in your abstract:

  1. A property map showing Perimeter (property) boundaries and distances from the perimeter to your facility; Comparative elevations and locations of driveways, parking, walkways, natural barriers (forest, significant rock and water features and hedges), and man-made barriers (fences and bollards); and locations of exterior lighting.
  2. A schedule describing and classifying ground floor perimeter doors, glass sidelights, and window glass, indicating operable or fixed, glass type (plate, tempered, laminated), and structural frame type (metal, wood, other).

     3.  A schedule of interior locked rooms and (for each) description of the door (solid or with vision panels and/or      sidelights) and wall vision panels;

    4.  A schedule of security cameras and access-control and monitoring systems; and emergency preparedness and evacuation plans.

     5.  A calendared schedule of your facility’s activities, by area, e.g., administrative offices, classrooms, social activity rooms, fitness centers, sanctuaries, cafeteria, etc.

     6.  A roster of the full and part-time staff, noting contact information for “responsible” persons.

    7.  Plans for day-to-day activities and emergency operational and evacuation procedures, integrating information about “safe” area locations, and guidance you’ve received from law enforcement and fire authorities to allow safe emergency access for first responders.


Once you’ve made a detailed abstract of your property and day-to-day activities, print out a copy for each team and go over each aspect until everyone is familiar and comfortable with it. Then it’s time for possibly the most important part of your security plan:


Step two: Anticipating threats and preparing countermeasures. You can’t anticipate every threat you’ll face, but having a plan for the basics will help your team feel more prepared if the worst happens.


1. Threat: Armed or unarmed vehicle (unauthorized entry onto facility property)

a. Threat: ramming weapon, vehicle explosive or to enter and leave rapidly

b. Countermeasure: perimeter gates, fencing, physical barriers, e.g., bollards; electronic or manned monitoring of property, motion-triggered exterior lighting.

2. Threat: Armed or unarmed pedestrian intrusion onto facility property

a. Threat: Visual intrusion–intrusive surveillance to visually target facility

b. Countermeasure: electronic or manned monitoring of property allowing preemptive engagement of intruder; daytime privacy (highly-reflective) glazing film on interior/exterior surface of windows & glass (shades/blinds/curtains).

3. Threat: Explosive device (exterior)

a. Threat: Hand-carried explosive (satchel charge, pipe bomb) hidden in nearby landscaping, trash, and donation receptacles.

b. Countermeasure: cleared (electronic or manned monitored) standoff space around facility; hardening perimeter doors/windows/curtain wall glass with structurally-attached security glazing film to existing glass; affix acrylic barrier panels to exterior; or replacement of glass with laminated glass, motion-triggered exterior lighting.

4. Threat: Forced entry through door glazing, sidelights, windows and curtain wall glass

a. Threat: Combined firearm and hand-carried melee weapon (bat, tire iron, etc.)

b. Countermeasure: Locked entry doors, locked (operable) windows, glass-break detectors (central station& alarmed), hardening perimeter door/window/curtain wall glass with structurally attached security glazing film; acrylic barrier panels on interior/exterior frames; replacement of glass with laminated glass; replacement of glass&frames with UL-certified B/R framed system.

5. Threat: Forced entry through interior room doors (with vision panel glass & sidelights)

a. Threat: Combined firearm and hand-carried melee weapon (bat, tire iron, etc.)

b. Countermeasure: Easily locked metal or solid-core entry doors, harden door vision panels and sidelights with (i) structurally-attached security window film (attachment method must be compatible with door framing material, e.g., wood) or (ii) interior (structurally-attached) acrylic barrier panels.

Fostering Community Trust with Transparent Church Security Practices 

·   You might be surprised to learn that your church security plan doesn’t have to be a secret. While you don’t have to divulge every plan of action, sharing your church's commitment to safety will actually improve church-community relationships. People are more timid than ever about crowded places, thanks to right-now news coverage and social media. You can quench those fears by sharing safety measures with your congregants and community.

You certainly don’t want to divulge every detail of your plan, but here are a few things to share to enhance community trust through safety:

  1. You have a plan. The simple fact that you have a security plan tells your congregants that you take their safety seriously without divulging too much information to potential threats.
  2. Building exits and evacuation plan. All exits should be clearly marked and evacuation plans should be posted where everyone can see. Consider pointing these out to visitors in case of emergency.
  3. Child care safety plan. Parents and grandparents may be hesitant to try a new church if they aren’t familiar with the nursery and Sunday school volunteers. Consider posting your safety procedures online to entice visitors. How do you check in the children? How do you ensure children only go home with the person who dropped them off? Little details like these will help parents feel more comfortable visiting your church, and reassure congregants that their little ones are safe with you.


   1. How can churches train volunteers in security measures without professional resources?

       You probably have police, fire and rescue, or military members within your congregation. They are an invaluable resource for training security personnel. All you have to do is ask!

    2. What are some cost-effective security solutions for small churches?

     Basic cameras and door locks are an inexpensive yet effective way for churches to get started with security. Plus, safety volunteers for events are free! Their presence will deter violent criminals and make your congregants feel safe.

    3. How can churches balance transparency and security without compromising either?

     Churches can share that they have a safety plan without divulging every detail of the plan. For instance, it doesn't have to be a secret that you have a security team, but you shouldn't disclose which team members carry firearms. You also shouldn't divulge what kind of security system you have. When in doubt, leave the details out.

    4. How can community members get involved in improving church security?

   Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! You can volunteer to be a safety team member, teach firearm training if you're comfortable with guns, or lend any safety-related experience you may have.

    5. What are the signs that a church needs to upgrade its security measures?

    If your church has been a victim of preventable crimes (break-ins, vandalism, ect.) it's time to upgrade. If you haven't been a victim yet but are concerned, ask a local law enforcement officer (you probably have one in the congregation) to look over your security measures and make suggestions for improvement.

Conclusion: Strengthening Church Security as a Community Priority 

Protecting the lives of others is one of the most important ministries your church will undertake. We wish church security wasn't something that needed to be discussed, but in this day and age, it simply cannot be ignored. However, it's a great opportunity for your more reserved congregants to serve and a way to build trust within your community of believers. All you need to get started is a volunteer to be the head of your security team and a game plan to be on your way to fortifying your church against danger.


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Jordan Thompson

Jordan is an author and copywriter in the home and family niche. Connect with her on Instagram (https://instagram.com/jordanthompsonauthor?igshid=MzNlNGNkZWQ4Mg== ) and Indeed (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordan-thompson-0916a1262). For copywriting inquiries contact her at jordanthompsonwrites@gmail.com.