It may sound strange, but I am an experienced church goer. From my childhood roots in the Catholic Church as an alter server to playing guitar at Gator Christian Life in college, and now attending Covenant Church, I have spent a lot of time in church. Churches have changed a lot over the years. They are no longer just buildings for Sunday morning services, but rather a gathering point for home schoolers, pre-school programs, and community programs all week long. This new aspect makes church security an issue that older congregations never needed to deal with.
It seems like every church in my area has a weekday preschool, childcare, or after school program. This opens up significant exposure to the church with injuries, missing children, or much worse. We have found that a security camera system (no matter how simple) can prevent crimes and solve disputes. The next time little Jimmy jumps off the top of the slide and twists his ankle, you can pull up the video to show the parents exactly what happened. Cameras in the classrooms also make parents feel more secure since their children are being monitored. In fact, you could give parents personal passwords so they can remotely log in and see their children in the classroom.
All Hours Access:
Ok, so you may not have people using your church at 2 am (unless the youth pastor is hosting another “lock-in”), but many churches have a lot of people coming and going throughout the week both day and night. It does not take long before everyone has a key to the church-from the janitor to the wedding planner. With all the expensive equipment and sensitive information churches typically house, it is very important to be able to know who is accessing the church and when. To solve this problem I suggest you go keyless. There are a number of electronic locks that are affordable and can effectively control access to your church buildings. Instead of giving out keys, give out a code or a proximity fob. With the codes you can control who has access to what areas and when. Or give out a temporary code for that upcoming youth event. And if something turns up missing, you can view a history of who accessed the lock to track down the culprit.
Like the child care issue above, churches are hosting more and more educational programs. It does not matter if the church is running a small pre-school or a full elementary, middle school, and high school. Controlling access in a school is much different than controlling access for a church. Again, we can turn to electronic locks to help keep the church and school secure. There are several electronic lock systems specifically designed for schools. Some unique features include:
1) The ability to lock and unlock the door automatically throughout the day. Program the classroom doors to unlock automatically when the bell rings and to lock again when classes begin.
2) Emergency lock-down mode. When an emergency happens, faculty can enter a special code on a lock and trigger emergency mode. Emergency mode overrides normal lock functions and can set certain locks to lock or unlock. It can enable special, emergency services access, or lock down areas even for faculty that normally have a valid code.
3) Open house / Event mode. So it is Sunday and the church is using those classrooms for Sunday school rooms. Put the system in Open House mode and all or some doors will stay unlocked.
Of course church security will be different for different congregations. Perhaps all you need is a good restricted keyway and a master key system (read my articles for more information). But as churches expand their roles in the community, security becomes more and more of an issue. Contact a locksmith or security professional and see if they will give you a free quote or security review. Many locksmiths will even give discounts for not-for-profit organizations. Whatever you decide, evaluating your church and congregation’s security is the best way to prevent problems from occurring.