Times are changing. Some changes are great! We get excited about online directories and new programs at church. However, sometimes changes come when we really don’t want them to. Unfortunately, because of the world we live in, safety has become something we need to talk about at Hillside.
Already back in 2009 the leadership at Hillside realized the need for a Safety Team. They put together a team of people who were willing to walk around church during the service, two people at a time, and make sure that everything was OK in both the building and the parking lot. As always, the main emphasis was and continues to be, keeping our children safe. This was a little more difficult to do with our old building design but our awesome Safety Team worked hard at keeping an eye on the nurseries and the Children’s programs and we never had a problem!
When you go into a restaurant and it looks like rain you may decide to take an umbrella in with you. If you take the umbrella in it probably won’t rain, but if you decide to leave it in the car, it probably will rain! In the same way, we are preparing for the possibilities that something can happen at church but pray weekly that our safety guys are bored. The chances of something happening is very slim – but we are ready.
Over the years we realized the need to address safety for our entire church family and not just our children. There are incidents all over the country which continue to remind us that we have to be watching and ready for anything.
Hillside joined the West Michigan Church Security Network about four years ago. This is a group of churches, mostly in the West Michigan area, who meet four times a year to help each other start safety programs, share information/policies and talk about ways we can keep our churches safe. We also share anytime there is an unfortunate event at a church anywhere in the country. At the meetings there are usually 2-3 Kent County police officers encouraging us and offering suggestions on ways we can better keep our churches safe. We ask many questions and get much needed insight. The officers are thrilled that the churches have come to work together.
We also decided about three years ago that training our teams is very important. It’s one thing to talk about what to do if an active shooter or angry person comes into our building – it’s another thing to be able to respond appropriately because you have practiced doing just that. Our Safety Team used to meet 1-2 times a year to go over policies and talk about what needs to happen in certain situations… fire, tornado, active shooter, etc. But we really felt that it wasn’t enough. We are thrilled that Terry Bykerk, a member at our church and retired police officer actually offers training all over the state for businesses and churches. His company is called 2 The Rescue and he has come to train our Safety Team twice now. Our safety guys have given up two Saturday mornings to learn what to do and how to react in many different situations. We have learned so much from Terry and his partner and we feel better prepared to handle whatever may come. However, it is also scary to think about what they need to be ready for. How I wish we didn’t need to think this way.
Like they did before the training, members of our Safety Team walk around church in pairs of two while others in the sanctuary watch to make sure nothing unusual happens in there, and are ready to react if needed. They wear red shirts in order to be easily recognized. They also carry radios to share information with each other and the sound booth if needed. We have installed security T.V’s in a separate room so that we can see anywhere on the property at all times. They communicate with our children’s leaders, Dawn and Kristin, every week, helping out where needed with children and safety
This group of guys is truly a blessing to our church! They are giving of their time and talents to keep you safe. Because of the trainings, meetings, and hundreds of emails from Deb () they are ready and willing to keep our children and church family from harm. They are “Sheepdogs” always watching and ready to protect Hillside. Thank them the next time you see them.
By Deb Oskam
“The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand.” Psalm 12:5.