Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Church Security Becomes More An Issue

With church security threats moving beyond theft, embezzlement and sexual harassment to violence and shootings, churches are being urged to receive proper training to help protect their flocks.

"Churches are open and accessible for their fellowship, yet those who have a sole intention of doing harm have an easy access into the church. How do Churches prepare and plan for this violent phenomena?" posed Church Security Solutions, LLC.

The latest violence to hit a religious facility took place on Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn., where a gunman opened fire during a children's play, killing two people and wounding seven.

"Criminals know there will be very little resistance, very little preparation, very little security," said Jeff Hawkins, author of An Introduction to Security & Emergency Planning for Faith-Based Organizations, according to The Free Lance-Star, which noted this was the 17th major shooting in the United States at a house of worship since 1998.

The Knoxville shooting follows last winter's tragedy at a Colorado Springs megachurch and a missionary training center in Arvada, Colo. The December shootings left four people dead.

Church Security Solutions and its team of professional leaders have announced they will be touring the country over the next year to provide churches, big and small, training in security. CSS will visit major metropolitan areas with one-day conferences covering cameras and surveillance, threat assessment, legal and liability issues, data security and security team development. The regional conferences will also teach attendees how to control and manage a critical incident should one occur at their church or organization.

"Church leaders today face the unique challenge of providing an open and loving environment in the church without being mistaken for an easy target," says a statement on the CSS Web site.

The 2008-2009 Security Conference Tour launches in Aug. 14 in Portland, Ore., where Pastor Doug Newcomb of Faith Bible Church in Denver, Colo., will share "Lessons Learned" from the day he received the call about the tragic shootings that broke out just miles from his church.

[By Nathan Black - Christian Post Reporter]

What Are People Looking For in a Church?

A number of recent studies have revealed the kinds of churches that tend to attract people. Believe the data or not, here it is.

Based on this research, here are twelve characteristics of the kind of church people are looking for - especially men.

Keep in mind, no single model of church will appeal to everyone. As you read this article you may shake your head and think, “I can’t stand those kinds of churches,” or “My husband visited a church like that and he hated it.”

None of these 12 things matter as much as the authentic presence of God. If the Spirit of God is moving, it won't matter if the pastor is wearing a pink ballerina's tutu. People are drawn to the real Jesus.

But the research is clear: the churches that draw a healty percentage of people, especially men, tend to exhibit the following twelve characteristics:

1. Look for Large

As a congregation grows, its gender gap shrinks. Churches that draw thousands on a weekend are the most likely to approach gender balance. Meanwhile, the statistically average church of fifty to one hundred is the size most likely to experience a shortage of men.

Large churches have many advantages. Probably foremost is quality. Most are led by gifted pastors who are compelling speakers. The music is polished. The facilities and grounds are well-kept and impressive. Men can invite their friends without fear of embarrassment, confident that the service will proceed with professionalism and good taste. Men are less likely to leave a large church thinking, Well, that was cheesy. What a waste of my time.

2. Look for Nondenominational

For decades, nondenominational churches have grown, while name-brand churches have shrunk — both liberal and conservative. No one is sure why this is happening, but there’s little doubt about who’s leading this exodus: men. The National Congregations Study of 1998 found that denominational churches were much more likely than nondenominational ones to report a significant gender gap.

3. Look for Strict Adherence to Scripture

Men have an instinctive BS detector. Men want proof. They’re natural skeptics. They not only want to know what to believe, but why to believe it.

Churches that attract men have a bottom line: the Bible. Multiple studies have shown that churches that hold their members to scriptural standards (particularly in areas of personal morality) tend to grow faster than those that don’t. The National Congregations Study found self-described liberal churches were 14 percent more likely to have a man shortage than conservative ones.

4. Look for a Young, Multiracial Crowd

A study from Hartford Seminary finds a statistical correlation between a younger crowd, the presence of men, and church growth. Meanwhile, an abundance of members over the age of sixty and a surplus of women is associated with decline.

The same study found a strong correlation between a racially diverse crowd and church growth. It’s not enough to preach racial diversity from the pulpit; the people in the seats must represent many tribes, tongues, and nations. Look for a multicultural congregation when trying to attract men.

5. Look for a Congregation That Is Itself Young

Recently founded churches do better drawing males. The National Congregations Study found that churches in existence less than thirty years are measurably more effective at reaching men.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that church plants do quite well with men. Newfound churches are desperate to grow, so boldness, strategic planning and external focus are part of the culture. These needs jibe with men’s interests and gifts.

New forms of church are enjoying some success rounding up guys. One example: Cowboy churches are popping up all over the United States. Worshipers meet in barns, sit on bales of hay, sing country songs, and enjoy a simple sermon targeted at working men and women. Some cowboy churches have lassoed lots of men — running 50 percent male (or better) on a typical Sunday.

6. Look for Energized Men in the Pews

When you walk into a church, look around at the guys. Do they look like they want to be there? Or are they just fulfilling an obligation? If the men seem to have been dragged to church by wives and girlfriends, forget it. Find another church.

Enthusiastic men bring vigor to worship. Plus you get a snowball effect: guys start inviting their friends, who show up to see what the excitement is about. They get engaged and transmit their fervor to the next group of men.

7. Look for a Man in the Pulpit

If you’re looking for a church your man might like, improve your odds by choosing one with a male senior pastor. Churches with a female senior pastor are 20 percent more likely to experience a lack of men in the pews. Why is this so? Men follow men.

Pastors who cut a masculine figure from the pulpit also seem to be more popular with men. Guys are drawn to men who exude a healthy masculinity, but are turned off by softies.

8. Look for a Pastor Who Is Astonishing and Authoritative

At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, eyewitnesses said this of Christ: “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt. 7:28–29) If you want a pastor who teaches like Jesus, find one who’s both astonishing and authoritative.

An authoritative teacher is one who is resolute and consistent in his beliefs. He tells it like it is, even if someone is offended. Nothing disappoints more than a sermon that does not challenge. Even worse is a message composed of familiar, comforting religious jargon.

9. Look for Informal Dress

For years, getting dressed up has been foundational to the churchgoing experience. Years ago, no one would dream of entering God’s house unless clothed in his Sunday best.

Fortunately, this is changing. Most men don’t like getting dressed up the way that women do, so many growing churches encourage their members to dress informally. Some pastors are even dropping the ministerial robe, collar, coat, and tie in favor of more casual attire.

10. Look for Modern Technology

Churches that reach men (particularly young men) do so with modern technology. They use slides and video during the worship service. They invest in a professional, easy-to-use Web site. Some churches distribute restaurant-style pagers to parents in case they need to be summoned during the sermon.

Of course, some folks dislike technology in church. The new wave in worship, known as vintage worship or emerging worship, drives technology into the background, employing acoustic instruments, candles, and iconography to help worshipers connect with the ancient divine. But even emerging worship uses much more technology than a traditional congregation; it’s just kept under wraps.

The lesson is clear: churches that deploy modern technology will have an easier time engaging men, because men think technology is cool.

11. Look for Fun

Men are the biggest market for humor videos, Comedy TV networks and the late night comedians. And thanks to the popular VeggieTales video series, a generation has grown up with the expectation that church can — and should — contain an element of fun.

A church service needn’t be frivolous, nor should it be focused on entertaining the audience. But a little humor really helps men drop their guard. The Hartford seminary study also found that a reverent worship climate was associated with church decline (and a lack of men). So might we assume that a slightly irreverent climate actually helps men connect with God? This squares with men’s taste for parody and self-deprecating humor. A funny skit, video clip, or a pastor who pokes fun at himself will score big points with men.

12. Look for a Clear, Unique Mission

Men love churches that make the mission clear. They focus on the basics. This is what our church is about. Here is our mission. Here’s how you can become a part of what God is doing in our congregation.

But this is rare. Few churches have a unique mission. Most are focused on dozens of different goals. Believe it or not, fewer than 10 percent of pastors in the US can articulate the vision toward which their congregation is moving.

So men come to church, but no one ever tells them why they are there. Men sit on those cushioned pews and ask themselves man-type questions: What are we trying to accomplish? Is all this activity really achieving anything? How do we know if we’re winning?

But when a church’s vision is clear, men invest themselves wholeheartedly. Why do you think purpose driven churches are doing so well? Men need purpose, and a church that clearly articulates a mission will be a magnet to men.

[By Ophelia Livingston]