Who will hurt you in your church?
by Pastor and Police Officer Jimmy Meeks
There are at least 4 kinds of people that can bring tremendous harm to the members of your church.
1) The Mentally Disturbed
2) The Angry
3) The Greedy
4) The Sexually Deviant
I'm sure there are other kinds, however, the facts and stats show that these are the types of people that can, and have, brought devastation to churches. A study of church-related violence will soon reveal this to anyone. Sometimes, all four of these traits will exist in one person.
THE MENTALLY DISTURBED
Our world is filled with people who suffer from mental illness. This is a sad fact and I wish it were not true. But there are those who are so mentally disturbed that sometimes their troubled state will manifest in horrific violence.
Your church must be aware of this. Many churches are attended by those who are mentally disturbed.
Let me hasten to add that not all mentally disturbed individuals will harm others. On the other hand, there are those that will. Their mind has come to believe that an act of violence is something they must do. Some killers have even claimed to be "hearing voices" - voices that instructed them to kill.
Your church would be wise to take note of people in this condition and familiarize yourself with their condition.
I am not qualified to address this subject in great detail, but I have read stories of the mentally troubled who brought great harm to others, and as a 30-year police veteran I have witnessed this scenario time and time again...
I have also learned that some of the cases of church-related violence was committed by the mentally disturbed.
Church staff members need to be educated about the mentally disturbed. I would encourage all ministers, and the rest of the staff, to attend training that explains the various mental diseases that haunt so many people. Ample training is available.
Your church would also do well to consider "how" they can minister to the mentally disturbed. Doing so may well prevent a tragedy. And doing so would also be a terrific way to minister to these individuals, many of whom feel bad about their condition. The mentally disturbed were drawn to Jesus - and He received them without question. The church should do likewise.
Anger is a potentially violent emotion. It is also the first subject that Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the door that a murderer will walk through before taking a life. If there were no anger in the world - there would be little, if any, violence...
In the United States there are about 25,000 murders every year. If anger were eradicated, these violent crimes would, for the most part, simply disappear.
Often, an active member of a church that is bound by anger is already known by the church staff and leaders. Perhaps he is one of those you have even told your safety team to "keep an eye on."
Anger is almost always fueled by the thwarting of one's desires. Put simply, angry people are those who did not get their way.
If an angry person is making things hard on your church, you should consider lovingly confronting them. But do not confront until you have a "plan" as to what you're going to say.
And it would probably be best if someone were with you during such a meeting.
During the meeting, assure him/her of your love and desire to help. This is precisely what Paul instructed in Galatians 6 when he spoke about restoring those overtaken by a trespass.
I honestly believe that the "anger issue" is only going to get worse due to the stress of the times in which we live. So, do not make light of someone who has an anger problem.
Cain got angry when his gift was rejected...and then he killed his brother. His anger opened the door for the dark side to take over. The Apostle John explained Cain's predicament: "Do not be like Cain who killed his brother, because he was of the evil one..."
Anger invites the demonic (see Ephesians 4:26-27).
There have been several cases of church violence where a husband went to the church in search of his wife - and when he found her, he killed her. This is an obvious case of uncontrolled anger.
In December of 2007, Matthew Murray killed 4 people in Colorado - two at Youth With A Mission, and two at New Life Church. The posted words he left behind indicate that his anger had become rage, his rage became hate, and his hate led him to kill (see below for his words).
If I ever return to the pastorate, I will do my best to see to it that "anger management classes" are held regularly.
in 2011, in Little Rock, Arkansas, 3 men entered a church during Sunday School and robbed the members. When they left the church, one of them fired his weapon. It also happened recently at another church - a man entered with a shotgun and committed robbery against the choir members.
Greedy people will commit crimes - sometimes crimes of violence. Several churches have been victimized by robbers: the taking of property while threatening harm or actually committing harm.
The way a church responds to this problem is of utter importance. The one who robs your congregation more than likely will not be a member of your church. It will be an "outside job."
So, to prepare against this act (robbery) you will need to scan your church for the places where a robbery might take place.
Be cautious when the offering is counted. And whoever transports the money to the bank certainly needs to exercise caution. In the latter case, the transporter should take a different route as often as possible.
Robbery has also happened at church offices during the week. Initiate all precautions possible in this case. I would certainly start by locking the church door during business hours. And I would install an intercom on the outside entrance door. There is no need to have an "open door policy." It's simply too risky.
You need to understand why a person would rob a church. There is a simple formula the robber has calculated in his mind: his greed + your vulnerability = his payday.
In other words, once he plans on robbing, he then searches for a soft target. Criminals know that churches are soft targets. The trust factor is strong in church people. But, it is misdirected. Trust that we should only have "in God" is often placed in people. And this makes us soft targets. Think like the police: "In God we trust. All others we ID."
THE SEXUAL DEVIANT
The sexual deviant can bring tremendous harm to your church, and effect the victims for the rest of their lives. The truth is, sexual crimes on church property and church-related events, far outnumber the shootings and stabbings that occur at church...
Churches are often guilty of placing more emphasis on restoring the sexual deviant than they do on the protection of its children (and adults). This can have tragic consequences.
The truth is, most churches are not even qualified to deal with the sexual perversion that exist in some lives - especially the pedophile.
A pedophile poses a danger that is unlike any other. Pedophiles know that churches are "soft targets." They are drawn to churches because of the trusting atmosphere that exists.
Churches must beware of placing workers with children who they have not yet got to know. Churches are notorious for acting too hastily in placing workers with children.
The church's job in this matter of sex crimes is to REMOVE OPPORTUNITY for the sexual predator (understand the Crime Triangle) - and to report the violator should he act out. In Texas we have a mandatory reporting law. If, for example, a priest should hear a confession wherein the confessor admits to molesting children - the priest is bound by law to report him (or her).
Let me repeat: Churches must place the protection of children above the restoration of sexual violators. If you fail in this area, and a molester strikes, your potential for restoring lives of broken people will be greatly thwarted.
If a sex-offender joins your church it is proper to welcome him, while at the same time be curious as to why he is there. The staff needs to meet with him ASAP and place a certain question before him: What Is Your Plan For Recovery? You must ascertain this. If he does not have a plan, tell him that forming one is necessary if he intends to worship at your church.
50 percent of sex crimes that are tied to the church are committed by church volunteers: 30 percent are committed by church staff. The church staff needs to know each other and put certain boundaries in place.
For instance, a youth minister must not be allowed to have the youth at his house if there is no adult supervision other than him. There are endless stories about what has happened when this rule was ignored.
I would also suggest that each staff member have someone check their computer at least monthly. The latest statistics indicate that those in ministry are having a terrible time ridding themselves of pornography.
The best organization in the country - in my humble opinion - for helping to protect youth while at church, youth meetings, etc, is Ministry Safe. Go to their site to learn more...