Are you serving ‘intelligently’?
The Scouting Report
25 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned 26 to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. 27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. 28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!
13 Hezekiah received the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
2 Kings 20:13 (NLT)
4 When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.”
Moses, Hezekiah and John were three men who served God well through turmoil and crisis. Each man dealt with obtaining and releasing information in different ways. Can you see the strengths and weaknesses of each man? Moses was proactive in gathering information and demonstrated Strategic Awareness. Hezekiah was careless with his capabilities and showed a lack of Tactical Awareness. John was careful and obedient with critical information and his Situational Awareness was critical in his service to God and the Church.
As a church security/safety team leader, you should place a priority on how your ministry team obtains and releases information…internally, to the team and externally to the church and larger community. Knowing what is going on around you on the individual-immediate and broader levels is a key factor in being able to adequately train, prepare and deploy your team(s) to serve and protect God’s Church effectively.
The military calls this information ‘intelligence’. I will use the term ‘information’ to cover a spectrum of ‘stuff’ that will come your way as you begin to operate as a church security/safety ministry. You will have to learn how to discern which ‘information’ to keep, to share and which information to discard as you move forward. No easy task!
Types of Information (YOU GATHER)
I’ve divided collectable information into three general categories: Strategic-Tactical-Situational. Notice how I used the term collectable? Not all the information that we receive or are pelted with every day is useful towards our end-goal…to protect the Church.
- Strategic Awareness (local-broad) – The big picture. Information about people or events and occurrences in your town/city/state that could affect the security and safety of your church. Having strategic awareness gives you a framework to serve in. You can see the risk inherent to being part of your community – whether the risk is terrorism, crime or natural disasters, etc.
- Tactical Awareness (local-immediate) – This tactical information deals with what is happening around your ministry team right now. Considerations are current threats to your church, high risk individuals attending your church, ministry team size, your church size (congregation and physical size), type/size of event, and near-term history of incidents at your location.
- Situational Awareness (individual-immediate) – Situational Awareness information is critical to each member of your team. Team members need to be made aware of what is going on where they are currently assigned, aware of how many people are they responsible to protect, aware of how many other team members are near them and where these team members are. Individual team members need to be aware of what their specific assignment is and be briefed on risks associated with their assignment.
Information Gathering Methods (YOU GET – Bringing in the Sheaves!)
Where do you start? How can you obtain and sort through the information that the security/safety ministry needs to serve and protect the church? How can I establish reliable sources of information that will help me be like Moses and ‘walk the land’ with confidence, being informed as possible and knowing what’s around each corner?
- Internet (FB, Twitter, Blogs, etc.) – Get on social media and search for issues/people that are a potential concern/threat to the church. Follow the FB/Twitter accounts of pastors/church staff to see what people are saying about the church and its leaders. Follow the social media accounts of your own team and they you. You can also join/like suspicious groups or people on FB or blogs under a pseudonym. Keep you ‘ear to the ground’!
- Relationships (Co-workers, Friends, Local PD, other churches, schools) – Developing and utilizing relationships is a key factor in our fellowship and discipleship. Developing relationships is also very useful for gathering information from sources you otherwise may not have access to. Listen to people – the church staff and congregants, the police and public safety people you serve with as well as your own ministry team. People often see or know things that they might not consider important but these candid observations from folks can help you prepare your security/safety ministry for effective service.
- Media (People, Newspapers, TV, Scanners) – Watch the local and regional news. Read newspapers online or on paper (the old-fashioned way). Use a capable police/fire scanner to stay abreast of local-immediate occurrences. Make sure it is digital, trunked line compatible. Larger churches may have more contact with local news/newspaper reporters. Ask them to have coffee with you and talk about safety in your community. Invite them for coffee. Warning: make sure these relationships are conducted with wisdom and discretion on your part.
- Who does this? – Depending on the church size, population and the security/safety ministry’s size, you can appoint one or two people on your team(s) to do this routinely. They should be good communicators, relational as well as computer/tech savvy. These information gatherers should be given clear guidelines on ethics and discretion as well as training on protecting and distributing sensitive information.
Information Sharing or Compromise (YOU RELEASE)
Obviously (I hope everyone realizes this), having/storing information and sharing/using it are two different things. Without the intent or ability to use/share information, the gathering of information is a time-consuming, useless endeavor. Put information to work! Use the picture that information paints for you to keep your security/safety ministry and the church out of harm’s way. Share information with your team, your church or other churches that will help each group protect God’s people.
The indiscriminate sharing of critical information about how you operate, how you gather information and your manning or capabilities is called a COMPROMISE. With any unplanned or un-controlled release of critical information you may weaken your teams’ effectiveness or put the team and church at risk.
- Operations Information – information pertaining to how your ministry team ‘does what it does’. This includes training, team and personal equipment and the techniques and strategies you use to serve as a security/safety ministry.
- Personnel Information – This type of information consists of team rosters; church staff contact information as well as unnecessary disclosure of locations and movement of church leaders and special guests that require executive protection (one-on-one).
- Information about information (what?!?) – This information (about information) refers to the types of information that you collect; what sources do you collect it from and how you keep, store and distribute critical or sensitive information. Releasing information (about information) can reveal capabilities and resources that are best kept ‘close-hold’.
Information Compromise Methods (i.e. don’t be like Hezekiah! 2 Kings 20:13)
Another title for this section would be, “How to mess things up without really trying.” In this connected age we live in there are many methods and opportunities to compromise the effectiveness of your security/safety ministry. Here are a preventable few sources of compromise:
- Untrained People – make sure your peeps know why they are doing this important service to the church – really. Make sure your people ‘get it’ and truly have the right reasons for being involved in the church security/safety ministry. Train your teams on the risks and negative consequences of revealing sensitive information about the church, the community and the security/safety ministry to just anyone.
- Email/Social Media – It seems that nowadays, people rarely do the most mundane activity without pausing for a selfie, meme or tweet. Photos, selfies, videos of team training, equipment or locations can hurt your teams’ readiness and ability to act without interference. It brings team activity into the realm of public view and opinion. These snippet views of security/safety ministries rarely give outsiders the correct perspective of this unique ministry. In the worst case, this type of compromise can put your church at risk.
- Gossip/Trash-talk/Ego – from World War II came the saying, “Loose lips sink ships!” Benjamin Franklin was quoted in saying, “Two people can keep a secret…if one is dead!” Everyone has someone that they tell everything to, using the phrase, “don’t tell anyone but…”. This type of reasoning never works out. Everyone likes to talk about what they’ve done, seen and how it makes them special. Leaders must make their teams know that there are certain types of information that stay within the ministry team and that sharing this information is not an option.
- Printed Material – includes team rosters, assignments, schedules, training manuals, printed email messages and warning notices about potential threats to the church. Minimize the use of printed materials where you can and make sure that everyone knows the proper way to handle, store and dispose of printed security/safety material.
Information Compromise Prevention
What a mess! How can I possibly lead these people and manage all this information? It’s not easy, for sure! Chances are you will see people in your ministry behave irresponsibly and information will be lost or compromised. What you can do is continuously strive to raise awareness and insist on standards that help everyone on your team protect what is important.
- Ethical Standards – “Not all truth needs to be told, but what is told needs to be true.” (see Revelation 10:4) As men and women of God serving in the family of Christ, we should strive to please God in everything we do and say. This is a long-term learning process and it applies to the members of the security/safety ministry while they are serving at church, work or home…. discipleship clearly laid out!
- Training! – talk about the information that is useful to the security/safety ministry. Explain why it is important to the ministry. Explain the rules about how we handle, share and keep sensitive information. Do it regularly and often. Train! Train! Train!
- Limiting Distribution – basically, not everyone needs to know everything and not everyone needs the same amount of detail to be effective in their service to the church. Establish sharing guidelines that give the appropriate amount and type of information to folks at every level of your ministry team. Giving the right type and amount of information helps each person serve and protect the church to their best ability. You decide where and how much sensitive information is shared with each member of the security/safety ministry.
This area of church security/safety is often neglected but is of high importance. I hope that I’m not being obtuse with all this information about information! 😉
Peace and strength in Jesus!