Security is Prayer Heard in House of GodSeptember 8, 2009 - 12:30 PM | by: Brooks Blanton
Pastor Rick Stathum talks about a time he refers to as “Mayberry” when his neighbors knew one another, murders were rare and churches had an almost “divine” protection against crime and the outside world. He realizes everyone may not remember the past that way, but for this small town pastor, it was a time he knew. Instead Pastor Stathum sees increasing crime rates and churches like his are no longer left untouched because of who they represent.
Stathum is the pastor of Salem Baptist Church in McDonough, Georgia. It is a medium-sized church with a congregation of about 2,000 in this far suburb south of Atlanta. He is very aware that the world has changed along with his role as Senior Pastor is to keep his church, himself and the members of his congregation safe.
“I think that we have all seen the national news, the shooting of a pastor recently in his church when he was speaking before his congregation,” Stathum said of an incident that happened earlier this year at an Illinois Church. “In fact I have shared with our church before and messages in the past that those kinds of things were coming and basically that we need to do everything that we can to be prepared.”
Since taking over as Pastor of Salem Baptist Church, Stathum has had to deal with theft from cars in the parking lot, medical emergencies during church services, non-custodial parental disputes in the daycare center and even a road rage incident that ended with a man pointing a gun at a woman on the front steps of the church.
“The fact is we have got to be pro-active rather than re-active and the kind of world that we live in and what people are doing, it was only a matter of time until tragedies found themselves happening in the church,” Stathum says.
Henry County Georgia Sheriff Keith MacBrayer is very familiar with the safety and security challenges facing 21st century churches. Although Henry County has not seen a rash of crime in and around churches, MacBrayer says all places of worship need to be prepared for the worst. But what he found when he talked to church leaders in his count was completely the opposite.
“It just got me thinking that every church ought to have some type of plan for this situation,” MacBrayer said and then referred to a scenario he presented to churches about what to do when a threatening looking person enters the church. “There really was no plan. Do you call the police? Do you not call the police? Do you escort him out? Do members of the church talk to him and ask if they can help him?”
MacBrayer was so concerned about the lack of security or even a basic plan of how churches would deal with a threat or emergency, he created a Security and Safety Seminar for churches.
“Many churches have members of their congregation who are active or have law enforcement backgrounds and some are retired military,” MacBrayer said. “We help them set up a security team and it may just be two or three people that are designated members to take action if something would happen.”
Both Pastor Stathum and Sheriff MacBrayer say having a security team in place, along with locking doors and installing security cameras can help reduce the number of crimes and speed up reaction to other emergencies that have become reality in places of worship all over the country.
“All around us there is evil, all around us there is trouble and there is difficulty and that also happens in the church,” Stathum said. “We do our very best to provide an atmosphere not only for children, but all the way through senior adults that is safe and a safe haven in a difficult world.”