It won’t happen here.
Too many times, that thought process has left people unprepared, say Georgia Baptist Mission Board leaders. And with the rise of phrases like “lone wolf attack” and “soft target,” that responsibility of churches to be prepared takes on an added weight.
“The thinking is ‘This is the Lord’s property,'” comments Stuart Lang. “He’ll take care of us.”
Lang and Ricky Thrasher, both state missionaries of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board in Community Missions and Disaster Response, will lead seminars on Church Safety and Disaster Preparedness at the upcoming GO Georgia events this August. GO Georgia, slated for Aug. 18-19 at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta and Aug. 25-26 at First Baptist in Tifton, looks to provide church leaders with the tools for reaching today’s culture with the Gospel.
While Lang doesn’t dispute the capability of a sovereign God protecting His people, he does have issues with not taking the necessary steps to prepare for an emergency situation. Those circumstances, he adds, don’t just include armed intruders but natural disaster response.
In the meantime, headlines compel church leaders to have a plan in place should trouble arrive. Because when worshipers gather in a church setting, they typically aren’t aware of their surroundings, instead putting their focus on the front of the room.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but Lang encourages that a least a few others present have their attention a little more spread out.
Two directions of preparedness
Their respective expertise places Thrasher handling church preparedness, regarding situations such as an active shooter or fire safety. Lang, on the other hand, will speak to training and preparation in disaster relief. Should a tornado or other natural disaster strike its area, it’s the church’s responsibility to be ready to help others.
“A greater need [for preparation] exists today because churches face situations such as theft, threats, and violence spilling over from family disputes,” says Thrasher.
The commitment to developing a plan may surprise some people, he adds.
“There’s no cost in money, just time,” Thrasher explains. “I’ll meet with them and help develop a plan if needed.”
And, it’s important to develop a plan that fits that particular church, cautions Lang.
“Every time there’s an incident [in the news] the topic of security comes to the forefront,” he says. “Typically, we try to not tell the churches what to do. We talk them through the process and explain issues they’re going to face.”
Proactive over reactive
“People are better prepared for an emergency than they realize,” notes Lang. “It can be a little overwhelming when you look at the steps. But, sit down with some key people in your church and think through your approach. Let us walk through your facility with you. As an outside party, we’re going to see things you won’t.”
Perhaps the biggest mistake Thrasher sees is churches overthinking the plan.
“They can make it too complicated and want to cover every detail and situation,” he notes. “You need flexibility.”
Just making a plan isn’t enough either, he adds.
“Once you get the plan together go over the steps. Include others in making sure who needs to be where. Build the plan, then practice it.”
In fact, Thrasher relays the story of how one Georgia Baptist church did just that.
“They were in the middle of a sermon when the fire alarm went off. It was done on purpose for them to practice a fire drill,” he explains. “Once everyone got outside, the pastor finished his sermon.”
The topic of the sermon? Being prepared for the Lord.