As more and more churches come on-line to broadcast their ministries, I think it is more important than ever that the church safety and security team be consulted on the logistics and safety of this medium, as well as, modify and adapt their purpose to fit the temporary, new “norm”. Despite campuses and facilities being largely unoccupied there remains the ever-present threat to physical security and, if you’re paying attention to online attendance numbers, this likely increased your virtual congregation.
As more and more churches come on-line to broadcast their ministries, I think it is more important than ever that the church safety and security team be consulted on the logistics and safety of this medium, as well as, modify and adapt their purpose to fit the temporary, new “norm”. - Guy Beveridge
Stay with me on this – critical thinking must prevail: simply put, through the use of Facebook Live or other streaming platforms we have just opened our church to everyone with an internet connection and have very little ability to discern motives and intentions. The bible tells us that the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) and that savage wolves will come among us and not spare the flock (Acts 20:29) – with the open, streaming church, we have effectively removed the physical filters our teams provided and given the wolves and lions a way to have unfiltered access to the flock.
Across our nation, local churches and pastors may start to become pseudo celebrities in their communities. And, unfortunately, the exposure and notoriety can lead to greater safety risk for the pastor and, by extension, the essential church staff that work on the broadcast. We all know there are a significant number of unstable individuals interacting in every society. Every media outlet attracts attention, and the church is a lightning rod in today’s polarized culture. Church pastors and staff can be particularly vulnerable to threats or actual harm, including physical assault or worse. The fact that pastors and churches preach biblical truths, call out sin and take biblical stances on high profile issues such as abortion and sexuality already make them targets. Now that those messages are amplified through online “megaphones” and there is no filtering on who can hear and see the message, there is an increased risk that some of these unstable individuals might think the pastor is speaking directly to them and feel like they are being personally condemned.
There is no longer debate about the impact of the media on the thinking, behavior, and emotions of the general population; the effects may be pro-social or anti-social. For roughly the last 40 years researchers using college students have been assessing both narcissism and empathy using questionnaires developed in the late 1970s (Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and Interpersonal Reactivity Index, respectively). Analyses that bring all of the data together reveal that the average narcissism score has been steadily increasing and the average empathy score has been steadily decreasing ever since the questionnaires were developed. The changes are highly significant statistically and sufficiently large that approximately 70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.
As practitioners of safety and security we need to understand that as the level of membership (virtual or real) of our church rises so does our level of risk. As is illustrated above: empathy is decreasing, narcissism is increasing and behavior, thinking and especially emotions are being manipulated by every form of media. As a church steps further into the social media dynamic by broadcasting their message they will also be part of the media that impacts the thinking, behavior, and emotions of the general population. Church safety and security teams and leaders should recognize that broadcasting raises the level of awareness of the church in its community.
The unfortunate reality is that when a church broadcasts, it virtually lets people in its doors that may otherwise be physically filtered out by the church safety and security team on campus. Criminals are cunning and conniving, they recognize gaps or lapses in security and exploit them to their advantage. Pastors and their A/V teams should still practice good safety and security when streaming:
- Whether broadcasting from home, church or other location:
- Turn off geolocation
- Sanitize the background of personal items, guard against giving away too much personal information
- Have a plan to immediately ban/ delete inappropriate people, comments or content that might be shared during the live stream.
- Have a plan to report threats of violence or destruction of property to local authorities
- Be able to provide as much digital evidence as possible
- Establish and maintain security of your location (prevent access).
- Doors locked or manned
- Exterior/ interior cameras monitored
- Mitigate/ report suspicious activity immediately
- If broadcasting/ streaming from a public venue like your church remember situational awareness still applies. Safety and security team should ensure that all safety action plans, and life safety measures are in place and understood by all stake holders.
As church leaders work to meet the needs of their congregation by live broadcasting their services in this current climate of sheltering in place, the need for safety and security is every bit as important as when the church is fully occupied. Remember, when you broadcast, or stream live you are raising the level of awareness of your church to the local community. A community that you cannot physically vet and test for motivations and machinations – churches must stay vigilant and ensure that safety and security teams are consulted and in-place perhaps now more than ever.
Stay safe warriors and remember – Keep them Safe!
"-with the open, streaming church, we have effectively removed the physical filters our teams provided and given the wolves and lions a way to have unfiltered access to the flock."