Thinking Out Loud

December 21, 2015

Church Policies: What to do in the Middle of a Service When…

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:35 am

disruption in church service

Last week blogger Jayson D. Bradley asked the question Does Your Church Have a Shooter Policy? (Stop reading here, and click the picture above if you think this is something your church needs to consider.)

While potential gun violence is definitely a concern in the United States right now, it raises the question of whether or not churches, which are open to the public, have contingency plans in the event of various scenarios. Such as:

Does your church have a lock-down policy if a child is missing? We experienced something similar to this first-hand when we returned to pick up our oldest in the church we were visiting and were told, “We never had a child that looked like that here.” We found him wandering the building on his own, though he could have easily wandered outside into a busy street. (We only returned to that church for another visit when the kids were much, much older.) Churches should be just as proactive on this as schools and daycare centers.

Do people leading the service know what to do if someone starts speaking in tongues? So here I’m assuming your congregation is not Charismatic or Pentecostal, because if they are, this isn’t a problem. But in a mainline Protestant church, or mainstream Evangelical churches, this is a potential issue. Fortunately, when I served as a worship leader under various pastors, those churches were in the “open, but cautious” or “seek not, forbid not” category on tongues and prophecies, so we were prepared to roll with it. But sometimes someone may offer a prophetic word that isn’t necessarily from God, and you need a back up plan. (Also, this already-classic sermon interruption comes to mind.)

What if during the music someone starts dancing? This actually happened in one very conservative church I grew up. The woman moved into the aisle and started doing a simple two-step. That was too much. At that point, my mind blurs trying to think of what happened next, but refocuses for the memory of her being carried out sideways as rigid as a board. As Dave Barry would say, ‘I am not making this up.’ There was one man at one end, and one at the other, and she was like a piece of lumber. Just yesterday, Bill Hybels told the story of a Christmas service where people were asked to “show some love” to someone they came with, and a couple started making out.

What do you do if a baby is fussing/crying really loudly? I’ve seen this handled well, but one memory is seared into my brain of it handled badly. The family — which we learned later had never been to church before — sat on the front row of a packed inter-denominational service, and the little girl was quite animated. Finally the guest speaker stopped talking and said, “I’m not going to continue until this problem is fixed.” I’m not even sure that the mom, who wouldn’t know what’s normal in church, even realized the remark was directed at her. The ushers did nothing. (Who’s really in charge when it’s an inter-church service anyway?) And so he went on to say, “It’s still not fixed.” (To make matters worse, I was one of about 40 people on the platform and witnessed this train wreck all too closely.)  Jesus no doubt had kids running all over the place when he spoke informally, and even told the disciples not to stop them from coming. On the other hand, many of our services today are recorded for podcast and video distribution and a kid can make it really hard to hear.

What if it’s noticed that someone has quietly scooped some cash from the offering? I also witnessed this first-hand as a teenager, and have been mostly donating by check (that’s cheque for my British and Canadian readers) ever since. As someone who has worked in retail, I know that even there confronting someone who is shoplifting is difficult enough, and in that situation you actually have to wait until they leave. I think some confrontation is necessary; regardless of the resolution you seek, they need to know that you saw it and God saw it. Are they facing some need where the church could help more directly? The two guys — yes it happened more than once — in my story were looking for cash to buy cigarettes. One was the son of a prominent church leader. I was too young at the time to stand up to them, though years later I asked the sister of the second one if her brother had ever paid all that money he took back to the church. She just looked at me quizzically, and I decided to leave it there.


You be the writer: What other types of situations do you think your church should have a contingency plan for, when it comes to weekend services?

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