Jim McGuffey on Church Security
Date: January 21st, 2013

In the wake of several highly publicized shootings, we look at how safe churches are, and what they can do to improve their safety, with Jim McGuffey, and independent security consultant with A.C.E. Security Consultants LLC and an expert on church security.  We start with Jim’s background, both religious and professional, to understand where his insights into this issue come from.  Jim spent time in the military, civilian police, and the armored car business before setting out with his own consulting company.  He has also been extensively trained in a vareity of security programs with the licensing to prove it.  More importantly, Jim spent time in several denominations including a stint as a church elder.  He credits the latter experience with his ability to understand the specific difficulties with trying to protect churches from falkling prey to a variety of illicit behavior, including both bodily and property crimes.  He explains how he came to specialize in church security, a service he provides to various religious groups free of charge.  We then dive into a discussion about the biggest threats to churches.  Jim explains that the number one problem is that churches do not think much about security, highlighting the figure that only about 15 – 20% of churches have security programs in place.  Tony brings up the issue of how congregants might react to a visible security program by speculating that this might either ease the fears of parishioners or, paradoxically, make them more concerned about potential threats.  After all, if there is an armed security guard patrolling the church grounds, it is only natural to assume that there must be some problem there.  Jim agrees that this latter response is something that concerns pastors and elders.  If they do create a highly visible security presence with cameras and guards, this may make the church appear less welcoming and scare away members.  Overcoming this mentality is often one of Jim’s greatest challenges.  He also notes that church staff often only start thinking about security after a well-publicized shooting and they tend to overlook more common incidents such as burglary, theft, or vandalism.  Indeed, given that physical violence is often rare yet what we focus on, churches typically find themselves more vulnerable to “mundane crimes” such as embezzlement because they don’t give much thought to these things.  Jim then walks us throgh a typical church security assessment that he would conduct for a house of worship.  While not in any means comprehensive, this portion of the interview might be very valuable for clergy or congregants if for no other reason than simply to make them aware of some common sense things they can be alerted to.  Although a regular security may sound like “overkill” for a church, Jim points out that one of the main impacts of crime on a church is to tarnish its reputation, especially with incidents that are committed by internal members of the church community.  Tony asks if there are certain types of vulnerabilities that church face relative to private businesses or residences and Jim reviews a number of these.  One of the more interesting things that churches often neglect is a process of background checks on volunteers; paid staff are often vetted, but volunteers — often the main source of help for many congregations — are often assumed to have pure motives and hence don’t need to have their backgrounds or intentions examined.  Please note that during our discussion of conducting background interviews for volunteers, Mr. McGuffey’s phone failed thus we have a brief interruption in the flow of the conversation.  Despite these technical problems we finish strong by talking about how Jim generates interest in his services, noting that what he offers is not simply a service for Christians, but is available for congregants of all faith.  Recorded: January 9, 2013.

 

RELATED LINKS

A.C.E. Security Consultants, LLC, Jim McGuffey’s company.

Security for Houses of Worship, an informational website for church security created and hosted by Jim McGuffey.

Carl Chin’s Church Security website, mentioned in the podcast (includes data about the incidence of crime in churches).

ASIS International.

RELATED PODCASTS

Byron Johnson on More God, Less Crime.


3 Responses to “Jim McGuffey on Church Security”

  1. Safety and Security is certainly very important to those who work and attend services, as well as those who vitit them.

    Bill and Jim cover the need for the church to be just as safe as a store, business, mall or other public place, yet it seems that these other locations have a better awareness.

    When you go into many businesses, banks, industrial plants, retail stores, gogernment buildings and schools or other places of higher education, you find they have security. Why do they have security but none in most of the churches you visit, and what is the differences there?

    Most of the businesses, industry and educational areas have a Plan, based on a Risk Review Audit or Analysis. The sad fact is, just as Jim states, most of the churches don’t have such a Plan, nor have they reviewed the risks. For some reason they seem to feel there is no need, yet we find that they experience many of the same problems the others have, they just haven’t recognized or addressed it.

    Many churches leadership, both clergy, staff and lay leaders, feel they can just “just trust God to provide” and don’t take action to “Be Prepared” for an emergency. They don’t seem to realize that the Bible lists many areas of history where watchmen on the wall had their weapons to protect the workers building the wall, who also had their own weapons but needed someone to watch while they worked.

    As a pastor’s son who wanted to be a policeman and not a pastor, who started volunteering in high school as part of the Civil Defense program at the time, starting in Rescue, moving on to fire fighting and then I worked in college as assistant to the Campus Security Officer. I joined the police department and later opened my own private police patrol service, being commissioned by the Courts as a Special Conservator of the Peace, Special Police Officer.

    I build this service up to 150+ officers, with our own K-9, investigations, alarms, CCTV and consulting services. After a number of years I was led to serve as a chaplain for a Christian singles group and a pastor friend asked me to consider becoming a Police Chaplain. He shared how I had a unique background that gave me a greater ability to relate and serve, havning been a PK, an officer and PI and counseling and ministering to singles in a time of need.

    My seven years in serving as both a police and also the Sheriff’s Chaplian and a Deputy Sheriff, give me a way to give back to Him and His for all He has allowed me to do. And from this I decided to use both my security and my law enorcement skills, gifts, experiences and training to give back to Him & His people by serving their securith needs.

    This has brought me full circle and shows that He has a Plan and will for us and it is just all in His timing. We don’t always know what and how He can and will use us but IF we are faithful and listen, He will guide and provide.

    Visit http://www.ourchurch.com/member/c/churchsecurity for more ideas, info and news of interest to churches & ministry.

  2. [...]      HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHURCH by Anthony Gill In the wake of several highly publicized shootings, this podcast looks at how safe churches are, and what they can do to improve their safety, with Jim McGuffey, an independent security consultant with A.C.E. Security Consultants LLC and an expert on church security…. Read this in full at http://www.researchonreligion.org/social-issues/jim-mcguffey-on-church-security [...]

  3. Scott Long says:

    Why can’t God protect you at church?

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