By Brady Boyd, as told to Laura Brown
Editor’s note: More than 10 years ago, an angry young man approached New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after Sunday services. The 24-year-old pulled out a semi-automatic weapon and began firing. Bullets struck several people in the parking lot, killing two teenage sisters.
As he entered the church from the children’s wing, a church security volunteer with police experience confronted him, gun drawn. When the gunman refused to drop his weapon, the volunteer shot him, ending the attack. About 9,000 people had attended the worship service that day.
New Life Church had a highly trained volunteer security team before the 2007 shooting. And it still has one today. But the tragic aftermath of the shooting only intensified leaders’ commitment to make ministry the heart of everything the church does – including security. In the article below, Senior Pastor Brady Boyd explains his church’s commitment to providing an environment that’s both warm and watchful.
If you look at the shootings and other violence happening in churches around the country, a lot of it is happening in small, rural, or even urban churches. It's indiscriminate. The little church down in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman opened fire, was a church of 120 people. So, you can't say that just large megachurches should have a security plan. I think everyone should have a plan to protect its members, especially given the evil time that we're living in.
We’re not going to put up metal detectors or pat people down. We’re not going to walk around with firearms in our hands. But we can be diligent. Fortunately for me, I live in a military town where a lot of godly people want to serve the church and use their high-level military training for the benefit of the church.
We constantly remind the men and women on our volunteer team that we are here to do the work of ministry. So, we engage with people, and we welcome people. At the same time, we are very diligent and watchful for what's going on around us.
Think of a Border Collie, not a German Shepherd. Border Collies can be trained to bark and to raise awareness, but they also wag their tails, right? They're also friendly. We're not there to be German Shepherds, with scowls on our faces. We're there to be more like Border Collies: protective dogs that are friendly. I know that's a weird analogy to use with people, but it's a good visual.
We're going to be nice and kind. We're going to smile, but we're going to keep our eyes open. It is a delicate balance. I can't remember the last time that someone had a serious complaint about our security team. Most people at our church are thankful that there is a police car parked out front. They’re thankful to see those volunteer security teams stationed appropriately around the room, because they're very aware that this is an open public meeting place, and it's a soft target. We're just trying to make the church less vulnerable, so that the real work of ministry can happen.
Obviously, our security team is not there to profile people coming in, because the church is a place where broken, messy people should feel welcome. Let's say someone who's homeless, or someone who is struggling with drug addiction, or someone who has just gotten out of jail walks into your church. We don't want them to feel unnecessarily profiled because of where they are in life. We want everyone who’s broken or hurt to come to our churches for help and healing.
There is a way to approach people in a kind, sweet, and caring way. You can read a lot about what's going on in people's hearts by looking them in the eye, introducing yourself, and having a conversation with them. If they are exhibiting ultra-nervous activity, or activity that just makes you suspicious, then you should probably bring somebody else into that conversation.
Our team does this almost weekly. If anyone is acting really bizarre, we'll just pull them aside kindly and talk to them. Most of the time, they are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. They're not there to be violent. They're there because their lives are really broken.
We want to be vigilant, but not be afraid. “Wise as serpents, gentle as doves” is really the mantra that we embrace. Let's be wise and gentle as we treat people, but remain watchful and discerning. That's the balance we're trying to strike.
Brady Boyd is the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he has served since 2007. Boyd has written five books, including his most recent, Speak Life.
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