Churches can experience demonstrations at their doors for a variety of reasons. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision soon in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which can potentially overturn Roe v. Wade. As N.C. Baptists stand for life and commit to advocating for the unborn, church leaders should consider how they will handle protesters that may show up at services or meetings.
N.C. Baptists with law enforcement backgrounds shared steps churches can take to mitigate the impact of protests while still showing the love of Christ.
Before an event occurs:
- Establish a security team made up of existing leaders, greeters, ushers and guest services personnel.
- Train these individuals to both serve those who show up to church and to observe the people and happenings around them. (Their primary task as a security team is to observe and report.)
- Identify security team members by a vest, name badge or shirt.
- If something looks wrong, out of place or suspicious, don’t ignore it. Be vigilant. If you see something, say something.
- Establish a clear leader to whom others report issues, incidents or suspicious activity. Train that leader to make real-time decisions to appropriately handle situations that arise.
- Consult with local law enforcement authorities on basic do’s and don’ts to ensure you are following their guidance. Invite them to talk to your security team.
- If you learn of a planned protest, alert local police. Give them as much notice as possible so they can be prepared.
- Know the law. A person who enters or remains on the premises of another after he/she has been notified not to enter, or remains on the premises of another after he/she has been notified not to enter or remain there by a person in authority, is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor (North Carolina G.S. 14-159.13 – Second Degree Trespass).
If a protest or demonstration occurs:
- Call 911 immediately. Allowing police to deal with protesters outside your ministry allows you to focus on the people inside your ministry.
- Do not confront protestors. Minimize the distraction by giving the protestors as little attention as possible. Don’t respond to protesters. Reduce the chances of a protest or demonstration growing into something more destructive.
- Treat demonstrators with grace and respect, always attempting to deescalate the moment. Although we may differ, this may be an opportunity to show and share the love of Christ. Remember the biblical principle, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
- Protect your people. Secure the facilities. It’s important not to ignore a demonstration. Concern for the safety and security of those attending church requires you to deal with demonstrators appropriately.
- Communicate to your congregation to remain calm, let them know that the proper authorities are handling the situation, and caution them not to engage with protestors. Remind those attending of your mission to love God, love people (including demonstrators) and make disciples.
- Keep your message on point. The media will likely become involved if a protest occurs.
- Have only one person designated as the official spokesperson for your church, and make sure their name is communicated to the staff and congregation.
- Use this as an opportunity to convey your mission, not to debate, criticize or respond to the protestors. Focus any comments on the church’s mission and identity.
- Craft a press release that is simple and concise, communicating your mission and identity as a church body and stressing concern for the safety of the congregation and the public.
The book of Proverbs gives caution that a quarrelsome person can fuel strife like wood fuels a fire (Proverbs 26:22). While we hope no church has to deal with demonstrations, a good plan accompanied by preparation, communication and training can help stop the fire before it even starts.
Sources: Dave Heller, Associational Mission Strategist, Columbus Baptist Association; Cory Smith, Pastor, First Baptist Church Hildebrand; Eddie Eaton, Pastor, Wrightsboro Baptist Church; Rick Hughes, Pastor, Brook Haven Baptist Church, Germanton; Brotherhood Mutual
by NC Baptist Communications