More Than a 100 Church Leaders Gather for Safety, Security Seminar in Warner Robins
By Becky Purser
April 28, 2016
Tom.jpg Tom Gillan of Training Force USA speaks to more than a 100 pastors and other church leaders at a seminar on safety and security for places of worship Thursday at Southside Baptist Church. Woody Marshall firstname.lastname@example.org
More than a 100 pastors and other church leaders gathered at Southside Baptist Church on Thursday for a seminar about safety and security at places of worship.
The daylong seminar was offered by Warner Robins police in partnership with Training Force USA, a training organization based in Tallahassee, Florida. Several Warner Robins police officers also attended the seminar.
Seminar topics ranged from non-custodial parents who might want to go to a church and take a child home to a loud outburst in the sanctuary, said Jennifer Parson, public information officer for Warner Robins police.
“We’re also talking about active-shooter situations and natural disasters and how to create that safety plan and be prepared for anything,” Parson said.
Other topics included domestic and workplace violence, development of safety-security and child-protection policies, recognizing high risk areas in places of worship and offices, and insurance and liability issues.
“It’s not that we expect something bad to happen. We just want to be proactive,” said Jerry Walls, senior pastor of Southside Baptist. “It’s like putting a fence around your pool. It’s not because you think somebody’s going to come in and drown, but you just want to make sure that nobody does come inside and drown.”
There have been incidents of violence at churches nationwide, Walls said.
“It’s not just violence inside the church,” Walls said. “There’s also, you know, as he’s talking about, the possibilities of sexual abuse and making sure you train your workers and you do background checks ... You just have a system put in that protects everybody.”
Walls was referring to Tom Gillan, an instructor at Training Force USA, who talked about child molestation. He noted that the Roman Catholic Church has had problems with priests and nuns who have been convicted of sexual abuse. He offered materials to help educate church leaders.
Many Houston County churches, such as Southside Baptist, already have systems in place to conduct background checks of staff and volunteer workers and to offer in-house training on how to spot child abuse and report it.
At Southside, the church requires background checks “on every single person” who works in the youth ministry, the children’s ministry and the nursery, Walls said.
Annual training on church security also is provided. Southside hires off-duty police officers and enlists church members to watch and report any security issues, he said.
Walls said he’s thankful for Warner Robins police and other Houston County law enforcement agencies for desiring that churches have security and safety policies in place.
“As you can see inside, there are a lot of churches represented, and a lot of people represented, because church security is just on everybody’s mind right now because of the climate in the country,’’ Walls said. “Again, we don’t expect (bad) things to happen. We live in wonderful community, and we’re so thankful. But we would rather make sure things don’t happen and have something in place if it does, so that we’ll be prepared.”