An additional workshop addressing church safety and security was added to the 2017 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting schedule following the tragic shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Led by David Adams, director of Church Administration and Special Projects, and John Litzer, legal consultant, the Tuesday morning workshop presented practical tools and resources to create an emergency operations plan and to discuss legal policies that influence churches.
“Use people in your church who know your church, community and law enforcement, and use people outside your church to help you prepare,” said Adams.
There will not be one emergency operations plan that will work for every church, shared Adams. He discussed the importance of involving all ministry directors in the church to create a plan that works for everyone. Most importantly, Adams remarked, is pastoral support.
It is important that an emergency operations plan applies to all different types of possible emergencies, Adams detailed. He talked about the importance of bringing in outside eyes to look at the church facilities and looking for spacial issues that could cause a problem in the midst of an emergency.
Adams encouraged consistent communication with outside law enforcement and medical professionals. “Communicate with them in advance,” he said.
The developed emergency operations plan should be a document everyone can understand. “Put it in writing,” Adams said. “Write it clearly and concisely.” This increases the chances that everyone will be on the same page in the situation of an emergency.
Preliminary and continual training is also essential for those who are involved in the development and implementation of the plan. Discussing how to address the congregation about an emergency operations plan, Adams stated, “We need to all be on the same page and prepared.” He encouraged communication with the congregation because there is comfort in knowing the set plan in place. The key, he said, is in how it is communicated.
Once developed, Adams noted that the emergency operations plan, “should not be left on the shelf, but should be in a consistent stage of reworking.”
In regards to emergencies that involve an active shooter, Adams noted, “It is unusual and that is why it alarms us so much. However, there is no shortage of good quality material to help churches develop an emergency plan for this situation.”
Adams also addressed the deeper implications behind the necessity of an emergency operations plan. “Prepare now,” Adams said. “There is no reason to put it off. Our churches need calm assurance from their leaders that steps are being taken.”
In closing, Adams stated, “This is a discipleship issue. It’s about doing all we can to show a broken world what it looks like to be secure in Christ.”
For more information on church security, visit texasbaptists.org/churchadministration.