By Rev. Dr. Reba Haley

Since the recent racially motivated gun massacre that claimed the lives of nine individuals, it is time to review the safety protocols in the church. The church has to consider the safety of its members.

Every church has an open door policy that is welcoming. In Matthew 26:41, Jesus instructed his disciples, “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation.” In the 21st century, the church must put precautions in place to protect congregants from evil people and demonic attacks.

In light of the recent tragedy in Charleston, SC, the church must restructure how it meets the needs of people. Here are some things churches can do.

Establish a sensitivity ministry, which is designed to train leaders, greeters, ushers and hospitality workers on how to identify parishioners or visitors with mental health disorders. Although the massacre at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church was racially motivated, more and more parishioners are struggling with mental illnesses and churches must do a better job of helping them receive professional help.

Many churches have armor bearers, a person who carries the “armor’’ – such as a Bible – of a pastor or spiritual leader. Armor bearers should be part of the security team to help protect the front and rear of the sanctuary. Armor bearers often travel with pastors and most of the times are closest to the leaders at church and en route.

Armed security can provide protection of congregations within and outside of the sanctuary. Whether it’s an off-duty officer or a licensed armor bearer, there should be someone at church who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

A deliverance ministry is designed to equip leaders in handling spiritual attacks. Demonic spirits are indeed real and church leaders need to know how to cast them out.

A watchman ministry is designed to equip leaders to be spiritually alert and very aware of the movement of people.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year. Ministers could establish sermons on how to handle depression, cope with stress and resolve conflict to facilitate a better understanding of mental illness.

The laws of the land are changing and God’s church must rearrange how it governs or it will be ineffective. Overall, the church must fight the enemy of hatred with love. “ For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (I Corinthians 12:12 KJV).