Church Security Management Challenges

Church Security Management Challenges

House of worship (or church) business operations, regardless of specific religion, are challenging across the board; and security management is no exception. Unlike corporate America where managers have the option to screen new hires and evaluate resources solely on performance, most church teams and committees are comprised primarily of volunteers; security teams included. Security managers operating in a church ecosystem are faced with needing to protect assets without extinguishing the inviting ambiance each of the other church ministries work so hard to create. As well, they need to protect assets without over-utilizing the resources who have volunteered their time and energy to serve the team in varying capacities. These are hard, fluid dynamics that can cause a lot of anxiety for church security managers, and oftentimes either prevent a team from launching, or dissolve the team entirely. This article will dive into these challenges deeper and look at the following two key security management concepts which, when effectively implemented, directly address both of them: unity of command and span of control.

Unity of command, in its most basic form, is the idea that any resource should have only a single source from whom commands, initiatives, and direction is received. This transparent chain of command is extremely important. Were a line officer, or for our purposes a security team volunteer, to receive orders from multiple sources then it’s extremely plausible that these sources could hand down conflicting directions, create confusion, and limit that person’s effectiveness in their area of responsibility. This is particularly challenging in church operations because security team volunteers are oftentimes split between multiple teams, each of which having their own priorities. Line officers might be part of the first impressions team, greeting people at main entrances and tasked with intentionally working to make visitors feel as welcome as possible. Or, they may be part of the emergency response medical team and be forced to leave their post any time a child falls and skins their knee. Whereas in the business world line officers are dedicated to security operations first and foremost, in most churches, there are simply not enough volunteers for this to be possible.

Similarly span of control is an integral party of security management. Span of control is limiting one’s sphere of influence to a realistically manageable number of people, activities, etc. Though this is never an easy concept, in corporate America security managers are generally afforded the ability to handpick their team, plug them into the chain of command as they see fit, and then focus much of their efforts on directly managing that person once they’ve assumed their post. As needs evolve, if team growth is needed, they can then make the case for additional managers to maintain an effective span of control down the ranks. In a church setting however, effective span of control is much harder to maintain. Not only are security managers limited to the volunteers willing to help (and their own personal schedules) but they don’t have the luxury of hiring, firing, or reprimanding line officers based on performance. When a volunteer leaves their post to serve another ministry or forgets entirely to assume their position on a Sunday morning, the security manager’s options for relying on that person less in the future can be limited as there simply may not be other options to choose from.

Now there’s not a magic formula for solving unity of command and span of control hardships in churches, however, there are two key things that can be done to make these dynamics less burdensome. First, the security team (and security manager) need a formal place in the local church hierarchy. Security teams don’t need flashy uniforms or large nametags, but at the same time they’re doing the church (and themselves) a disservice if they’re moving around in the shadows; the church as a whole should be aware that there are active security-focused resources in their midst. Second, a culture of security awareness must be created so that security team volunteers, and even other mission teams inside the church, understand the importance of the security team’s efforts. To be effective this doesn’t happen one time or even annually; this culture of security awareness is built overtime through constant reminders, scheduled trainings, and occasionally highlighting global events related to church security.

In conclusion, all church business operations are difficult, and this holds true for security management as well. However, the challenges security managers face can be mitigated by establishing a culture of security awareness and by creating a place for security management inside church hierarchy. Across the globe churches are being targeted due to their accessibility and the potential impact of attacks given the number of people gathered. For those reasons, it’s important that church security managers place a heavy emphasis on unity of command, and span of control, as they seek to protect their church home.


Jake Kuncaitis, CPP

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