10 Things – Where Do You FIT?

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Sheepdog-Iconography---Safety-TeamThe title of this chapter is a play on words that applies to the church where I serve – Frontline Community Church. Those who serve as greeters, ushers and parking lot welcome team are part of the F.I.T. Team – the First Impressions Team. This ministry is where visitors and members alike get their first impression of the church every Sunday morning. Until recently, the Safety Team Ministry was NOT a part of this team. Instead, it was a part of the Facilities team, and managed by the Facilities Manager. 

The vast majority of churches who have a safety team place their team under the facilities staff person. This is a logical place to put a security-based team, as corporate security teams tend to fall under asset management or facilities. In most cases, safety or security teams are placed here because the executive staff either don’t know where to place the team, or they follow the lead of churches around them and have facilities manage the team.

On its face, the facilities staff would seem to be the logical place to house this team. Safety and security teams often have facility safety as part of their duties, and the personnel often roam in the back halls and unused areas of the church to check for unusual or troubling activity. Safety and security teams also work extensively with other ministries in the church, and the only other department that really works with as many other ministries is the facilities staff.

I believe that this is an area where you should completely throw the box away on what is “normal” for safety teams. Instead, I would recommend a different way of looking at this. I recommend that any safety/security team become a part of the same team that includes greeters and ushers. I believe that this arrangement can have a couple large advantages over the traditional home for safety. By placing the safety team under the same umbrella as the greeters and ushers, the team is treated as a ministry, able to help keep offerings safe, and able to work with other team members who can help in times of emergency.

The first, and perhaps the most important, reason, having the safety team work with this other ministry directly reinforces the “ministry” aspect of the team. As I talked about in the first chapter, your safety team MUST be a ministry. And by tying it to a ministry that is, by definition, staffed with friendly and welcoming people, is a great way to help the culture of the safety team become one that will exemplify the very characteristics they are trying to portray. Remember, if they are trained to serve and surrounded by people who are serving, the team will have a culture of serving.

When the team is serving with the ushers and greeters, they are also naturally better able to help protect and watch over the offering as it is being collected. During the last couple years, the United States have seen a surge in very brazen robberies in which the Sunday offerings are stolen during services. While not every church will be robbed like this, I challenge you to think about what the loss of one Sunday’s offerings would do to the finances of the church. Having safety involved in the collection becomes a deterrent to this type of theft.

Having safety present also helps deter another, far more common and devastating type of theft – embezzlement. It is a sad fact that the largest losses for churches over the last several years have been from internal theft or embezzlement. The most common source of embezzlement comes from a single person who is in charge of counting the money. They will often start out justifying their actions as, “I only need this little bit to pay this bill. I’ll pay it back next week.” Then, while they are counting the following week’s offerings, they justify a little more, “I can’t pay back that, but I still need to pay this new bill.” Before anyone knows it, that “little” bit of money has grown to the tens of thousands of dollars. While I advocate that safety personnel should NEVER physically touch the money, having them present will simply provide accountability for everyone involved.

Another reason for the safety team to serve with the greeters and ushers is that those greeters and ushers will often be the first responders to medical or fire/weather related emergencies. By being one staff, and doing minimal cross-training those greeters and ushers can provide a huge help incase of fire, weather or medical-related emergency. This minimal cross-training can turn what would be a royal mess into a well-orchestrated response to an emergency, thus enhancing the safety of everyone concerned.

If the safety team is part of this greeting team, what should they be doing on Sunday morning? The answer is quite simple. They should be acting as greeters and cheerily welcoming folks into the church. I do not allow my team to stand in the back, or off to the side, and simply glower with their arms folded (at least not any longer). One of the tremendous changes that came from our re-design was to bring the safety team to the forefront on Sunday mornings. My team is trained to mingle with the crowds in the lobby, opening doors and greeting people. Basically, my team has become a new, additional team of greeters and welcome staff, except that we have additional training and duties. The added benefit to this is that our presence, while friendly and inviting, is still a presence. Most people who might be desiring to do bad things will be deterred by the mere presence of the safety team.

When I first began putting this team together, our team was placed under the Facilities Manager, the paid staffer that was my manager. In fact, when the team was originally created, not only was the Facilities Manager my boss, but I also dual-reported directly to the head Trustee (board member). While I got along with, and had the support of, both of my bosses, this occasionally led to difficulties when I received direction from one that directly contradicted the other. To make matters even more complicated, because part of my team was armed, I also directly reported to the senior pastor. I don’t believe I have to explain how schizophrenic this made my job.

During the complete redesign of the team, one of the things that changed was my direct reporting and accountability. My direct reporting and accountability was shifted to the Facilities Manager only. As he became my direct boss, my path and responsibilities became clearer. The Facilities Manager and I have a great working relationship, and he trusts that I know my job, and that I have the heart to serve the church. After he sat in on a couple of my training sessions, he also understands both how and what I teach my team. Because he know what my team is trained to do, and he trusts me to work with them, he doesn’t have to “babysit” or deal with my team much.

When I began the process of writing this booklet, I began to think about the roles that my team plays, and evaluate that in light of where they should be. As I did, I approached three key staff members to talk about where I saw the Safety Team Ministry heading. First, I broached my concerns to the Facilities Manager. I talked to him about how the team really should fall under the FIT team (First Impressions Team), who is Frontline’s greeters, ushers, and welcome team. Once I had him on board, I began to approach the Worship Arts Director. She has the dual duty of leading the worship and technical arts ministries, as well as being reporting head of the FIT team.

To say she was less-than-thrilled about taking on another team to manage would be understating it heavily. Eventually, she began to see why I believed that this change should happen. I have worked with her enough that she knows where my heart is, and she agreed that, on the surface, my team and the FIT team did the same basic thing – greet people warmly.

My next step was to plant the seed with my senior pastor, as he had the power to make the change in reporting. Once the seed was planted, he began discussing it with both the Facilities Manager and the Worship Arts Director. As they all agree, this transition will slowly take place. As I write this booklet, my direct reporting is back to two staff members. On Sunday mornings, I report to and am accountable to the Worship Arts Director. At all other times, I report to and am accountable to the Facilities Manager. The long-term goal is to move the safety team reporting from facilities to the FIT team, where I believe it should be. In the interim, we still warmly greet people on Sunday mornings, no matter who my current boss is.

I had the privilege recently to train a smaller church’s safety team that was just starting up. The head of that safety team was one of my original safety team members, and had taken up similar duties at his new church home. In that training and setup, I was glad to see that he had remembered what we had gone through. He had convinced his pastor and board to allow him to create this new safety team as a new part of the existing greeter and usher structure. While I worked with him, I realized that he “got it”. He understands this new role for safety.

Do you?

Here are a couple questions to think about:

  1. Where does your safety team fit in your church?
  2. Does this embrace the mission of ministry, or does it minimize the ministry in favor of the “job”.
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