From around the globe, people tune in on Fletch’s warm and sound advice. He’s a friend and “church doctor,” bringing an objective perspective, broad knowledge and vast experience. Your question will get a personal reply from Fletch.
Hey Fletch … Is it legal in California to have a concealed gun in a church with permission from the church leaders? Is it different with or without a CCW?
DRF—You are hitting a hot topic here. Here is an article to read: Concealed Carry in Churches. It contains a chart of the states where it is legal to carry a gun with a concealed weapon permit … and California is in that list. Here’s another article to consider, from an expert on the XPastor site: Concealed Weapons In Church.
Both articles give plenty of caution and concern. Few people are skilled at using a weapon in a crisis situation. Where will the stray shots go? What is the backdrop behind the bullets … are there people present there or a thin wall that leads to a kids’ classroom? A huge issue is how will police know the difference between an active shooter and a congregant who is defending themselves.
I strongly suggest that churches carefully develop plans to work through active shooter situations. Brotherhood Mutual, an insurance industry leader for churches, has an excellent book to help churches assess and train for security issues: The Church Safety Security Guidebook. Let me ask Mike Kramer, Manager of Casualty Claims at Brotherhood Mutual, for some expert advice in this area.
Response from Mike Kramer—Churches need to protect their people, and at the same time, minister to the broken and hurting. For a safety and security program to fit within a church, it must function as a ministry of the church. That said, a safety and security mindset does not happen overnight. It takes time and a team of people who are passionate about creating a program that is focused on the ministry of the church. The framework to get started is: 1) Engage leadership, 2) Assess your needs, 3) Make key decisions, 4) Form a Team, and 5) Create a plan. Regarding allowance or use of weapons within your framework, coordination within the church and with authorities who would respond to an incident requires effective communication and management.
Hey Fletch … We’re re-working our policies that deal with who can use our facility, how often, what to charge, if anything. It’s partially a stewardship issue, but also the common perception is that opening up our facility to the community is a good evangelistic tool. The thinking is, the more you can get unchurched people into your building, the more likely they are to attend a service. Do you believe that’s a correct assumption? Is there any data to support it? Also, another church in our community lost their non-profit status by charging people to use their building. Do you have any info on where that line is between when it’s okay to charge and when it isn’t? Thank you!
DRF—There are lots of views on this issue. As for the church that lost their non-profit status, I would ‘wager’ that it was more complicated than charging for the use of their building. You can charge for building use and may need to pay UBIT—Unrelated Business Income Tax. See this IRS article about UBIT. You can also allow groups to use your facility for free.
Make sure that you have a good policy about who can and cannot use your facility, especially if you charge for it. What type of weddings will you allow? Alcohol on the premises? Will you allow your local police to hold a police training activity in your gym with armed officers? What types of groups or activities will you exclude?
Check in with your insurance agent. They may have both advice and tips for you. Your policy may require the company to be informed if you allow non-members to regularly use your facility.
As for the effectiveness, there is that adage that if someone comes on your campus for a non-religious activity, they are more likely to return for worship. I have doubts about its veracity. People tend to come and stay when there is a personal relationship with one who invites them. Think of it this way. A church down the block is holding a rummage sale and you buy a sweater from them. If the clerk at the cashbox is blasé and unfriendly, would you be likely to return?
It reminds me of a saying by my favorite Rabbi, “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NET Bible®.
Followup—Thanks for the quick reply, Fletch. That was so kind of you! Thanks too for the link about UBIT and great advice. I agree about the personal connection. I’ve gone to plenty of meetings in various church buildings and—while I was grateful they offered their space—I never attended one as a result of being allowed to have a meeting there. It did satisfy my curiosity though! Who was that Rabbi again? LOL!
Hey Fletch … I can’t log into XPastor to get the stuff that I purchased. Can you help?
DRF—Many of us have several email addresses, such as church, personal and family. It looks like you are trying to log-in with a different email address. We will reset your password and email it to you.
Isn’t this a bane in the communications world? Passwords and log-in IDs! I would suggest that you use a good password tool to store confidential information. I’m amazed that I have 115 different log-in IDs with passwords. A good password tool will minimize your frustration in the future. Use super long and unusual passwords to maximize your security. A password tool makes it so that you don’t have to remember them, just use them!
I would go so far as to require a good password tool for all church staff. Laptops are easy to steal and then might be able to be cracked. Some put their passwords in an unencrypted document and leave it on their computer desktop. Other folks in the office have a handwritten paper in a place that no one will look—like in the top left hand drawer. Protect your church information and communications systems by routinely requiring passwords to be changed (and yes, I dislike having to update my password, but it is for the best).
Hey Doc … This is a big one. I have some obligations next week at church and they can’t be moved. But now I just received an exciting out-of-town invitation with an important person in our church. What should I do?
DRF—Jesus said, “ἔστω δὲ ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν ναὶ ναί, οὒ οὔ.” I’m giving you Matthew 5:37 in Greek because the truth it is like a foreign truth to us. The translation is: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no.’” If you have made obligations, and can’t in good conscience cancel them, then you must keep them. Tell the “important person” that your ‘yes’ is a ‘yes,’ that you gave your word. Psalm 15:4 says, “He makes firm commitments and does not renege on his promise” or in the NIV, “who keeps an oath even when it hurts.” NET Bible®
It hurts to not do the exciting thing. It will hurt you more to dishonor your commitments. The right kind of people will see that you honor your word. They will want to hang out with you and extend more invitations in the future.
Hey David … When you recently moved on from your church, you sent out a “keeping you in the loop” email. It was short, factual, upbeat and didn’t throw anyone under the bus. Just wanted to let you know that yesterday I changed jobs (in business) and that I followed your lead.
DRF—Thanks for the encouragement! Emulation is the highest form of praise. When you leave a ministry or business job, don’t burn bridges. As Jesus said, “bless and curse not.” What you will remember is your response, words and actions. In two years you will forget much of the joys and pains of a farewell, but will remember who you befriended or belittled. The words of Jesus have so much application today!
Hey Fletch … Some of our junior staff are terrible at responding to emails. They say, “our generation likes texts.” One staff member took a month to get me his annual review.
DRF—Well, you could see how fast they respond to an email about a possible raise … milliseconds perhaps? Consider that if they are not responding to you, how will a parent feel about an youth group emergency. Email is the primary means of business communication. Use texts for quick communication. You need to do training on email and text etiquette with your staff.
Here are some of my rules for staff. 1) All emails get a response within one business day. 2) Responses can be as brief as “I got it and will get back to you soon.” 3) When people don’t respond to emails, I remind them that they may not be getting a paycheck either. 4) When you go to bed with an empty inbox, you sleep better.
Hey David … I’m working on our church’s cell phone policy and wondering if you have any resources that address that?
DRF—Here is some policy thoughts on that: “Cell phones are a part of our personal and professional lives. There are issues regarding safety, security and privacy. Mute your phone within the office. Don’t take calls during meetings, unless it is a personal or ministry emergency. Keep personal texting to a minimum during the workday, as also with social media. If possible, make personal calls during breaks or lunch. For safety’s sake, only use a hands-free mode while driving, if at all. If you have minors in the car, the driver cannot be on the phone. The driver must pull over to the shoulder to make or take a phone call. For security, have a good password in use on your phone. Set the phone to auto lock after a short period of time. You must have the ability to lock your phone if it is stolen. If you violate this policy, you are subject to disciplinary action, which may include termination of your employment.”
And what about reimbursing staff for their cell phone use. Any ideas?
DRF—I’m not a fan of reimbursing because people have different plan levels. Instead, I favor cell phone allowances. They are taxable but they do pay for ministry work done on them. You can set allowance levels, such as: Level 1—Directors and Pastors; Level 2—Team Leaders; Level 3—Senior Leadership. Do remember that if a non-exempt employee (such as a facility worker or administrative assistant) takes a phone call after hours, it must be put on their time card.