Eight Tips for Securing Church Property
Don’t let burglars get the best of your ministry.

Since June, two men in Texas have burglarized multiple churches in a bold way: They visit the churches during daytime hours to steal credit cards and employees' wallets.

In one instance, they tricked a church employee by creating a distraction. Father Dean Lawrence, pastor of the targeted church, said one of the men walked through the front door inquiring about child care, while the other came through one of the side doors asking about work. Using the diversion, one of the men took the employee's wallet out of her purse.

"We probably should be more diligent about making sure things are under lock and key," Lawrence told Click2Houston.com.

These burglaries serve as a good reminder for churches to secure their buildings. While it may prove difficult to stop someone with dishonest intentions from walking into your church building during the day, there are steps your church can take to protect the building and your employees throughout the week. Below are eight tips from ChurchSafety.com that can help you control access to your property and deter criminals.

  1. Use vegetation. One way some churches protect their property is through vegetation. Is there visible, easy access to your roof? Plant a thorny plant or vines on that side of the building to keep people from wanting to climb up that way.
  2. Lock all doors. Many churches have an open-door policy during the week. Besides the front door, make sure all other doors around the building are locked. This allows the office worker to see everyone who comes and goes through the doors.
  3. Keep track of your keys. Many churches give out multiple keys. If this is the case, keep a record of everyone holding a key in your organization; place an identifying serial number on keys to track which person has which key; never hide a key outside your building; and change the locks periodically and issue new keys.
  4. Use lighting. Lighting is one of the most inexpensive ways to boost security around your building. Criminals do not like being seen and sufficient lighting in the right places makes criminals feel uneasy. Install protective lighting around locations that someone might use to enter the facilities, such as doors, windows, or skylights. The parking lot and street entrances into the parking lot should also have good illumination.
  5. Create a secure space for the administrative assistant. Create a physical barrier between the reception space used to greet visitors and the administrator. For example, the administrator may be in a locked office that has a sliding window that opens up to the reception area. Or the office may have a counter that separates the administrator from people in the office. Some churches install a "Dutch door" in the administrator's office. The bottom half of the door remains locked while the top half is open. The administrator should be seated in a location that enables a natural surveillance of who is outside the office, or who is entering the office.
  6. Consider a security guard. Is your church located in a high-crime area? Consider the value of adding a security guard. If you can't afford a security guard, consider asking an active or retired police officer or other capable congregant who attends your church to volunteer time during high traffic hours at the church, like on Sunday mornings or special services throughout the week.
  7. Install a surveillance system. Installing a security alarm and several surveillance cameras around your property can substantially reduce the likelihood of being burglarized.
  8. Get the community involved. Start a Neighborhood Watch program. Contact your local law enforcement agency for more information.

Need more information on this topic? Use ChurchSafety.com's downloadable resource Securing Church Property to learn more about how to prevent burglaries, vandalism, and even arson.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Lindsey Learn

November 14, 2011  2:49pm

Mark, Thanks for your comment. Understandably, not all churches will be able to take advantage of all eight of the above ideas. But I think even small churches could benefit from tips 1-4, and 8. Especially if a pastor or any staff member is alone in the church, you'll want to make sure the doors around the building stay locked. This, at least, will ensure that no one can sneak into the building without going through the front door. If the pastor cannot monitor the front door from his or her office. One thing pastor can do, if they see someone wandering around the church, is meet a visitor outside of his/her office, closing (possibly locking) the office door on the way into the hallway. This can help that staff member monitor someone who's come into the building while protecting the office area. If your church is located close to a neighborhood, tip 8 might come in very helpful. This way, neighbors are keeping an eye out for possible suspicious behavior and can report any unusual activity. Finally, if the pastor is alone in the church most days, set up an emergency call number that he/she can use to contact the police station or someone else who can quickly respond. Maybe this is a quick dial on a cell phone or a an emergency call button located under the pastor's desk. The pastor may want to come up with a code sentence to use when he calls his emergency number so he doesn't alarm the intruder or dangerous person of what he's doing. If none of these suggestions seem helpful, I encourage you to get together with your church leaders to brainstorm some ways to protect your church building and your pastor/church staff that would be reasonable solutions for your church.

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Mark Adams

November 08, 2011  11:15am

These ideas may work for large churches, but they leave much to be desired for those serving in small rural churches. In many small churches the pastor may be the only one in the building 80% or more of the time. The pastor's office may not be located where he can view various entrances and it may distract from his work if he could. In addition, people may feel uncomfortable coming for counseling if they knew others could see them in the pastor's office by just walking in the door. Also, security systems may be cost prohibitive to small churches and the pastor can't be expected to be watching security screens while preparing messages etc. The chance of a small rural church being burglarized may be less than that of a city church, but if it does occur the chance of the burglar being caught may be much less as it may take law enforcement longer to get to the location. Small towns may not even have one full-time law enforcement officer. I am the pastor of the only church in a town of about 125 people. Our county has a population of less than 3,000 (I believe). The nearest full-time law enforcement officers are headquartered out of a town about 18 miles away. What do you suggest under this type of situation?

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