The clergy in the Southeast Gateway portion of Mid-America have an annual gathering that they call the Super Cluster. For this event, all of the smaller, local clergy cluster groups get together for a time of worship, fellowship, and education. Thirty-one people attended this year's event on January 19th, which was hosted by Abbey Road Christian Church in Cape Girardeau.
After the opening worship (and delicious coffee and doughnuts!), was the main presentation on the topic of church security. The guest speaker was the president of a private security consulting firm who relayed information on how to develop a church security plan that facilitates the mission of comfort, safe refuge, learning, and worship for all.
Some of the main ideas and suggestions included:
- Form a security team and plan that identifies potential security risks and outlines responses to them.
- Be aware of anyone with suspicious, threatening, or abnormal body language.
- Best action is to de-escalate the situation. This can often be done with 'aggressive friendliness.' Make conversation, shake hands, show interest and concern.
- Statistically most incidents occur outside the church building, in towns with a population of less than 10,000, and are perpetrated by a lone, male attacker who is not connected in any way with the congregation.
- Insurance companies sometimes offer premium discounts for churches that have done congregational security training.
- Risk factors for incidents include holding events after dark, offering counseling ministries for couples and families, offering ministries to those living with addictions, having internal church conflict, being located near heavily trafficked highways or close to county lines, and offering podcasts or worship videos online.
- Be aware of your normalcy bias which causes people to not recognize a crisis situation if it arises. In one church, members thought that an actual crisis was a planned skit in the service.
After the presentation and lunch, the group divided into smaller workshop groups. The topics offered were teaching 'pastors' class, discerning mission needs in your community, and solution focused counseling.
New this year was an invitation to all church administrative staff. Their workshop included information on Regional structure and communications.
The closing worship ended the day on a wonderful and hopeful note. Thanks to host pastor Rev. Dr. Jeff Long and the Bootheel Cluster planning team who facilitated the event.