Are you monitoring your child/grandchild?

First let me apologize for being late with this weeks blog post. I unfortunately had to spend a few days in the hospital, and I am now playing catch-up.

I wanted to take a few minutes this week to encourage parents and grandparents to monitor their children. All too often, after an attack we hear “We didn’t see any warning signs” from the parents. After further investigation, we find out that the signs were there, but the parents were too busy trying to make a living, taking their kids to events (or some other thing), so they missed these glaring signs.

We need to make sure that we listen to our children and grandchildren regularly! We see the case of the grandmother that reported her grandson in Washington State and most likely saved a lot of lives. She found a rifle hidden in a guitar case, and then his manifesto. His grandmother was alert, and watching for signs. She did the right thing, and likely saved a lot of lives.

Having said this, we need to know what our children are doing (even adult children). Who they are hanging out with? What are they posting on social media? Are they fascinated with guns or death? Of course, this is just the starting point, and there is much more that we need to be aware of.

Some say that this is an invasion of their privacy. Well, perhaps it is, but isn’t it our responsibility to ensure our children and family members are mentally and physically well? Shouldn’t we watch them and guide them so they do not get into trouble? Isn’t it our responsibility?

Beyond keeping our children from getting into trouble, we need to make sure all is well with them. In today’s world, our children can be bullied, and now it doesn’t even have to happen face-to-face. Cyber bullying and other types of bullying can lead children and young adults to commit suicide. Some have even suggested that it can cause them to become violent revenge killers. Being aware could save their life, or others lives.

We also need to make sure that our children are not suffering from depression. Sometimes, just the shear stress of being a teenager can cause a mental breakdown. Only those parents that are involved with their children will be able to see problems, especially if the child is trying to hide it from their parents.

We also need to realize that some children, young adults, and even older adults, can lose control if they feel unwanted. This is especially true if they feel unwanted by the opposite sex. Several male mass shooters have spoken (either on their manifesto or on camera) that the girls that have ignored them will pay. Others mass shooters were going through (or had recently gone through) a divorce or split. We need to make sure that friends, family, and our children are safe, and that they are not on the verge of committing a horrible and senseless crime or even killing only themselves.

Finally, I wanted to talk about the consequences of not identifying these behaviors prior to someone acting out. I am fairly certain that most of us could not forgive ourselves if we missed certain common signs, and family members or our children killed people. Even if they do not act, but just talk about acting on the impulse, it can ruin an entire family’s life. If you watch the video below, you can see how the actions of one had unintended  consequences for the entire family.

I hope that you will not forget what was said in this week’s blog. We can stop some of these acts of violence by being aware of what our children, grandchildren, and other family members are doing. If it appears they may be heading down the wrong road, do not hesitate to call the police. While it may be difficult to turn our own flesh and blood in, how much more difficult would it be to know you could have stopped them from doing something, and you didn’t! Until next week, please make sure you are vigilant, … Mark

Choosing the church media representative

We all watched in horror when the shooting happened at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. Much like waiting for a train wreck, many of us were glued to the television.  I found myself desperately hoping a spokesperson for the church would come forward and tell the media that God was still in power, and to not give glory or recognition to the evil person who committed this crime.  Perhaps this was not the perfect train of thought, but they were my thoughts nonetheless.

As I mentioned yesterday, a media relations person can help send the churches message, rather than the media’s message. In the public safety world, we call this person a Public Information Officer, or PIO.  This term and acronym can also be attached to the church. When choosing a PIO, you want to carefully choose the person (or persons) who will best represent the church.  Let me plainly state, you should avoid using the Pastor as the PIO for multiple reasons! One key reason is that in the event of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, they will have their hands full dealing with those that were affected by the incident. They will likely be needed elsewhere, rather than standing in front of microphones, appeasing the general public. They will probably be busy providing compassion, solace, and direction to those in the church. Depending on the circumstances, they may even be accompanying law enforcement to the homes of family members to provide notification of death. As I said, there are numerous reasons the Pastor should not be the PIO, and I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. This is not to say that they cannot give a statement (eventually), but their first priority is taking care of the flock!

When looking for a PIO, some attributes that you may want to look for include:

  • Someone who speaks well
  • Someone who dresses appropriately
  • Someone who can stay calm under pressure
  • Someone who is familiar with the congregants
  • Some who can speak with authority
  • Someone familiar with the Bible

While most of these are common sense, I still want to discuss the reasoning behind each. When you choose someone who speaks well and dresses appropriately, you are making sure that you portray your church in a positive light. If it is going to be a national news story, this is extremely important that we represent God in a positive light! In choosing someone who stays calm under pressure, it will be important that the person representing your church is not hysterical or babbling nonsense. They should in all likelihood be able to remain calm and focused even in the worst of situations. In knowing the congregants, you want someone who can give effectively generalizations (e.g. three people of a family of four, the parents of two children, the only child), but they can also provide specific details without releasing names or violating privacy. You also want someone who speaks with authority because you do not want the message being given to sound wishy-washy or weak; you want the information being given to sound like the person, and the church, stand firm on Gods healing, love, and promises. Finally, you want someone who knows the Bible so they can provide scripture that meets the situation.

Imagine a church PIO on national television that gave a press release that started like this:

“Hello, my name is Joe Davies, and I am the public relations representative for ABC Church. Let me start by quoting scripture: In  Matthew 10:28, Jesus told his disciples “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ” Today, several bodies were destroyed in this act of violence, but we are sure their souls are in heaven! …” Another fine example is this YouTube video of the Pastor and his wife speaking in Sutherland Springs.

Let me close today’s blog by saying the information I shared with you today is basic information. I will get more in-depth in the coming days. Of course, I will discuss what happens if the PIO is not capable of doing their job, where to learn how to be an effective PIO, and a whole host of other issues, as I said, in the coming days. Until then, please make sure that you keep Gods flock safe, … Mark

Ya’ll shoulda see’d it!

Please forgive my title, but how many times have you seen the news reporter interviewing someone, and thought to yourself “Couldn’t they find anyone better to talk to?”. Think of the person standing in front of the camera that has a (not so nice) saying, or someone that swears when they get excited. Well, that is something that the church needs to consider as well. No matter what the size of the church, an incident can happen at any time, and you need to consider what image you want your church to have prior to an incident ever happening.

A media relations person is a positive for any church, and should not only be considered useful for times of crisis. If they can develop media contacts, they can l help the church to share God’s message and to create a positive message for your house of worship. After developing relationships with individuals in the media, they have an inside source that can help the church for in outreach for a special event. By simply asking, they may be able to advertise for the event, or even get the news agency to possibly cover it. How encouraging would it be when the church is having a revival, for it to be standing room only? How wonderful would it be to have Vacation Bible school so packed that you had to ask for more help? How exciting would it be to have hundreds, or even thousands (depending on the market), of people show up for your next fundraiser or food drive? A media relations person, if they are good, may be able to help your church do this, and it can help provide you with direct contact to people that need the Lord!

Similarly, should there be an active shooting in your church, the media relations person will already have a relationship with the media, and in most instances by simply asking, they may be able to convince the media not to show certain things. Some of those “things”  could be body bags being removed, people being loaded into an ambulance, talking with already stunned parishioners, or showing children. They may also be able to reduce false rumors just by having a working relationship with the media person. The media relations person can do more for your church than you can imagine.

Active shootings are not the only crisis that a church could face. They could face a fire, a flood, sexual misconduct, theft or armed robbery, or other types of violence in the church. Your media relations person will be there to guide the way the church is presented and viewed. This can be very important! There are some (albeit few), media outlets that will spread rumors that are not verified, and in some instances, they may even make up stories. While these instances are rare, they do happen.

Over the next few days, I will provide guidance of on how to choose a media relations person, who should be the media relations person (hint, normally not the Pastor), when there should be an assistant for the media relations person, where to get training (some of it free) and much more. Until then, may God bless you, … Mark