Every once in a while, I am asked what my opinion is on what truly makes a successful safety team; and I unequivocally believe and state that it’s not any different than that of leading any other team/organization.
I believe that the key difference, in part, is that in leading a ministry team is that a large majority of the individuals on these teams are voluntary. It’s truly the volunteer base desiring to be a servant and to expand on the gifts and talents that the Lord has blessed them with that drives and supports a successful ministry. The other difference is that most sheepdogs are alpha(“A”) personalities. Dealing with volunteers who identify as “A”personalities can certainly be trying at times.
Dealing with volunteers who identify as “A” personalities can certainly be trying at times. - Jason Hensley
As a leader or team lead of a ministry, one has to understand that leading volunteers who are already passionate or driven in the field in which you minister is altogether different than leading somebody who is being lead and directed in their profession or occupation.
In this article I want to break down some critical areas that are extremely important for a leader to establish and institute.
Two and one half years ago when I stepped into my current role,the safety ministry at our church was successful; however, it was smaller. Pastoral protection was the primary function with a secondary emphasis in church safety. We have made a significantly strong paradigm shift in that both of these agencies hold equal priorities; and, thus, we have divided those responsibilities.
I quickly begin to recruit qualified churchgoers either through them hearing of our ministry or by somebody shoulder- tapping them; whereupon I then follow up with them. Obviously, for me, this is a little easier process in that we are a larger church. For those of you who attend a smaller church and oversee the safety team, you will find that you have to be very specific with those in whom you are attempting to connect with as you recruit for your team. I would immediately set up a time for breakfast, coffee, or lunch and vision cast with each person that I’m attempting to recruit. The truth is--most sheepdog individuals want to use their skill set for ministry. The safety of their friends and family are very high on that priority list.
Because I am able to be a little more selective due to the size of our congregation, the members on our arms team are either current/retired law-enforcement or those that spent a career within the tactical community.
We also have other opportunities for ministry for those individuals who are strongly trained observers since we have a fully functional camera room in which we refer to as” Overwatch”.
Now that I’ve given you a little history of our team, I want to explain ‘my heart’ for the individuals who serve within my ministry and my attitude/mindset towards them.
If all you want is a safety team to protect the flock, you might be able to connect a group of individuals together who show up during a week service and keep an eye on protecting your congregation;but I want you to see the bigger picture. As a ministry leader you need to understand that these individuals are people in which you have the opportunity to shepherd, encourage, support and cheer-lead. You will then find that it will then become a great deal more than just an opportunity of ministry -- it becomes community and family.
Four years ago when we moved to San Diego, I left a whole group of brothers and friends in Northern California. This created a massive void for me, and I spent the first six months here on the phone with brothers of mine from Northern California. But that began to shift and change for me as I began pouring into the lives of the individuals on my team.
We quickly began to create community and fellowship. We piggybacked off of our Men’s Ministry, and started a Bible study group and began organizing times of team fellowship such as barbecues etc.
Once or twice a week I make it a practice to take a member of my team to either breakfast or lunch. As a result of that, I want to share some of the secrets of why I think God is blessing our ministry here in San Diego.
Pray for your team:
Shortly after I took my position, I printed out the roster of all the individuals who were serving within the ministry. There were obviously those individuals when I came on board had developed a strong loyalty to my predecessor--and rightfully so.
My predecessor is an amazing sheepdog and a strong believer. But I also knew that I was going to have to spend time developing those relationships and earning the trust of each of those individuals; so as I printed that roster and that register became my prayer list.
I would often find myself praying for the members of my team and then reaching out to them, either by calling them or just simply sending them a text letting them know that I was praying for them and that I was in their corner. I also let them know that if there was anything, I could do to support them to not hesitate to give me a call. This simple action has opened up so many doors of opportunity in sharing with my fella’s.
One of the amazing blessings that has transpired in our ministry over the last couple years is that the county law-enforcement Chaplain began attending our church and has truly become a mentor to me. Chaplain, Chuck Price, is an individual that I trust personally and is simply easy for me to refer to our guys when it oversteps past my skill set.
With that being said, I believe it’s important for every leader to know his/her limitations as well as knowing who they can connect with for answers outside of their wheelhouse.
Scripture repeatedly refers to the importance of prayer; and prayer is truly our lifeline to our Heavenly Father. If you are not regularly praying for the individuals in your ministry, you need to start that “yesterday”. Begin calling out their names to God. As you get to know the people in your ministry, your prayer for them becomes more specific and it is a natural process to follow up with them in order to see what is taking place in their lives.
Support your team:
Point #1 revolves into point #2 which is to be a support for your team. It’s not just about what takes place on the weekend. You need to be personally involved in loving and supporting the members of your team. What begins to take place as a result of that is they begin to look forward to connecting with you and the rest of the team when they arrive on the weekend.
Ministry then is not a drudgery, it then becomes something that creates an excitement in connecting with those who are praying with you and for you as well as supporting you. When someone loses a job, or is in an internal investigation, or is simply having life issues--you become a spiritual resource for them.
It’s also important to understand what resources you have available to provide support to them. Within our church database I can go into an individual team members profile and find out who their assigned deacon is. This allows me to quickly have access to resources within the structure of our church. Also depending on the situation there are others in and around your ministry that want to love on and support other team members.
Use your team:
Often leaders who are not secure with themselves may have an attitude that: “It’s my way or the highway.” This is a terrible practice. For myself, I have been out of the game (Law Enforcement) for four years now. Best practice is always changing, and it is important to listen to those around you in order to continue to chase the best practice.
The fact is, we don’t always have the answers and we have some highly skilled individuals in our congregations and on our teams who we must pause and listen to. For me personally, I currently have a retired US customs director, Hunter Davis, and a retired Navy SEAL, Captain Rob Monroe,on my team; how absurd would it be for me to not take advantage of allowing these two servants of God to speak into ministry. Another amazing resource whom I have is Marc Bailey. He understands the history of our safety team having been a full-time police officer, as well as, spending almost 40 years doing the Evening News. He understands the importance of the way our team presents itself to the congregation.
Let your team speak into the processes and what works best for your church. Multiple times a month I attempt to bring my team leads in and listen to them and allow them to speak into best practice; and in the event something doesn’t go just right while we are addressing a scenario or situation, we are able to round table the problem at once -- and everybody has a voice.
Educate your team:
I send our team training videos etc. Law-enforcement in the state of California could be fickle sometimes. Training is a taboo term for some outside of their department training. So with that being said, I provide video training and we have “coffee time” where we invite the whole team to come to the church and we will do walk-through scenarios. This is especially important for those that are retired. As we know, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”; and many of the things we do fall into the perishable skill category. This is why it’s important to maintain a solid relationship with your current first responders since they would address specific contacts or threats that you, in turn, will be able to communicate that to your entire team. Just starting out? Unsure of what training could be helpful? Become a Protector's Toolkit Insider and we can help you Build, Develop and Lead your Safety & Security Team.
Provide your facilities to First Responders:
Your ability to familiarize authorities with the worship site is priceless. This has been an absolute blessing, and it’s also an easy and simple way of getting a threat assessment. Three different SWAT Teams have used our facilities over the last two years. We also opened our campus up during the summer and hosted an active shooter training for our local police department. Every day, for five days, they brought in 20 to 25 officers. We provided their lunch and in addition provided support for the training with role players etc. Being in San Diego we have also made our facility available to the military tactical community, while in the same breath simply having them walking through your property and listening to their takeaways—for our team has been invaluable.
Give your team ministry ownership:
I’ve already alluded to this in a prior point, but our guys referred to us as a team I have current and retired “Team“ guys and they love the concept. Weekly I’ll get emails from these men with thoughts, comments, and suggestions. I openly welcome that! It would be easy to take certain comments or thoughts personally and think to myself that I’m not doing my job, but in most situations that's not the reason they're bringing it to my attention. I often will find a time to have lunch or contact them so we can unpack it. I don’t always implement every idea, but I will, for sure, listen to their ideas and critiques; and if it works and makes sense for our team, we will begin to process that particular concept and implement it if necessary.
In closing, as a church safety team PLEASE REMEMBER the purpose of our team is to protect the flock, for in so doing the great commission can be fulfilled. Let’s not ever lose sight of that. We are keeping our facility as safe as possible in order for our pastoral staff and those within our congregation to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them, and teaching them. I eat, sleep, and drink church safety; but if we are not fulfilling the purpose of the church or if we are running rogue as a ministry of protection from the purpose of the church, then let’s just pack it in.
Understand that we have a great responsibility, but that there is also a pull coming from the other direction and that is that we are still at church. Put every safety precaution you can in place, but understand and never forget that there are people who are attending your church who are hurting and looking for those who have a love for Christ and His people. Sometimes we can be that first contact that an individual has with our congregation. And I know you’ve heard it said before, but I want to say it again even as a safety team we only have one time to make a first impression.
I pray that there is something I have said within this article that will spark you to become a more efficient leader within your ministry. Anything and everything that I have available, I share free of charge and I’m honored to be a contributor to Protector’s Tool Kit.
Guy Beveridge has been an individual whom I will regularly reach out to and seek support/counsel from as a leader. You have to have these kind of people in place.
As we begin to ramp up to begin corporate worship again, I encourage you to look this list over and make these points a priority in your ministry. God bless, stand strong, and fight the good fight of faith.
Jason Hensley serves as Director of Safety/Pastoral Protection at Shadow Mountain Community Church. His wife Heidi is the Director of Children’s Ministry at SMCC as well. Prior to SMCC, Jason was a police officer in California for close to 15 years. Some of his assignments were Gang School Resource Officer, Public Information Officer, SWAT, and Active Shooter Instructor.
Prior to law enforcement, he pastored two churches in the Central Valley of California. Throughout his adult ministry he has always had a passion for men’s ministry, knowing that the spiritual health of the husband will provide a spiritually health home. Jason and Heidi have two sons, LJ and Jonah. LJ is a recent graduate San Diego Christian College and Jonah is a high school senior and is looking forward to a career as a fireman.
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