Interview with Kevin Robertson, Director of Security at Saddleback Church

SemperVerus interviewed Kevin Robertson, director of security at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, and author of the books Church Security 101 and 201: Creating a Safe Worship Environment (Purpose Driven Communications, 2014 and 2019).

[ Read the SemperVerus article, A Prayer for Church Security Team Members ]

Why is it important for a church of any size to have a security team?
I believe it should be a foundational ministry. There are many ways for us—church leadership—to be good stewards. Keeping those God put under our care, as well taking care of the “tools”—items we use daily: laptops, pens, copiers, electronics—is also stewardship. I liken a security ministry at a church to one’s fire insurance policy at their home. We hope and pray it will never be needed, but if we need it, we want to have it in place.

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Why do you emphasize that a security team is a ministry of the church?
I tell people that God truly knew what he was doing: taking a former cop, turning him into a pastor and head of security at a church. This gives me the blessing of being able to see church security through both “lenses;” from a law enforcement standpoint and equally from a pastoral standpoint. Church security is a totally different thing than security on the streets. I used to interview each potential security staff or security volunteer. In the start of the meeting, I’d tell them, “I’ve got a question for you and it’s the most important one.” Afterwards, they would typically tell me they thought I was going to ask them something tactical, or are they willing to go hands on. What I asked them is, “Are you willing to pray with someone?” Now I want you to be safe, and pray with your eyes open. But this is something, off and on, God puts someone in our path and we’ll need to pray for them.

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What is meant by the term “sheepdog”?
Nothing wrong with the term, just my personal opinion, we don’t use that term at Saddleback. I think it’s overused. We also don’t use the term security “guards.” With all due respect to security guards, they do something completely different than we do. Our security team members are ministers. I like what pastor Rick Warren says, “Not all people are called to be pastors, but all members are called to be ministers.”

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What are the first steps for a church in starting a security team?
So many things to list. But just a few: first get in touch with your church insurance company; make sure they’re on board with you starting this ministry. Then reach out to other churches, finding ones that have existing security teams. Find out what’s worked and more importantly, find out what they’ve tried that didn’t work. Life is too short to make all the mistakes ourselves; reach out to others, learn from their mistakes.

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How should a church recruit security team members?
It depends on the church. Some do live or bulletin announcements about serving opportunities at their church. I find that many (Saddleback included) typically like to keep a lower profile on security, so for us the recruiting is word-of-mouth.

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Why are 2-way radios and earpieces so important for a church security team?
Pre-COVID I used to do between 12 and 15 church security conferences a year. I’d always say (at the end of a one-, two-, or three-day conference) if you don’t take away anything else, please remember 1) it’s a ministry and 2) get two-way radios. I suggest them for the following teams: children’s, lead usher, health care, traffic, security. If you can only afford a couple, as a start that’s totally fine. Get one for the leader of your children’s ministry and the other one for your security person. If you don’t have a security person yet, give it to a lead usher.

ALWAYS use a headset [earpiece]. A few years ago I helped a church in Florida. Met with their leaders. Got them started. After a month they called me to give me some feedback. All was going well except for one thing. They’d bought the radios, but didn’t do what I recommended and also get headsets. One Sunday morning, during the middle of the message, a children’s leader radioed the head usher (who was inside the worship center), “We can’t seem to locate a 4-year-old.” The pastor looked in shock as during the middle of his message about 20+ parents abruptly got up and left the worship center to make sure it wasn’t their 4-year-old. Who was found by the way.

Additionally, in spite of it seeming more convenient to have all ministries on one channel, I strongly encourage this not be done. A couple examples: if a security team member is calling another security team member needing help, and a children’s ministry team member is also simultaneously transmitting that they need help in a classroom to take a kid on potty break. They could step on the security transmission and it not be heard.

Secondly, a security team member might be radioing another security team member about a person of interest. Having other ministries on the security channel will just cause undo fear and concern.

[ Read the SemperVerus article, Church Security: Radio Communications Best Practices ]

Saddleback Church Security Ministry Purpose Statement

To provide a safe and secure environment for the children and adult members of Saddleback Church and the guests and visitors to ensure that their Saddleback experience is one that can focus on their spiritual growth and worship time. To be as “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.”


To ensure as best as we can as disturbance-free of a worship experience as possible for those who come onto any of our campuses. If and when a disturbance does arise, our goal is to remove that disturbance in a Christ-like way and in a manner that is the very least attention-attracting to the situation as possible so that those attending the event go quickly back to focusing on why they are there.

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What other basic equipment do you recommend for a church security team?
A small flashlight and a pair of latex gloves in a zip lock bag.

What areas of training should security team members undergo?
Live scenarios—in partnership with ushers, greeters, health care, pastoral care—doing Distraction and Disruption scenario trainings, escort/control techniques, children’s area lockdown, fire evacuation, non-custodial parent, verbal judo, medical issues, active shooter, to name a few.

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What is meant by the term “EGR guests” and how should they be handled?
A term pastor Rick Warren came up with is EGR, which stands for Extra Grace Required. EGR is a verb, not a noun. At any given time, any person can be EGR: lost a job, left by a spouse, off their medication, etc. I say I’m flexible in many areas, but one area I’m not flexible in: no matter how EGR the person is, they will be treated in a Christ-like manner.

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How does risk management factor into church security?
Huge and there are many facets to RM: paperwork, physical property, etc. I tell peers that as the director of security, 10% of what I do is to protect the church physically. 90% of what I do is litigation mitigation. From just a “crawl step,” walk your property, look for trip hazards, slip and fall areas, blocked emergency exits. We could spend pages and pages on this topic. But just one example: a raised piece of sidewalk, a guest trips, injures themselves, not only do you have medical bill issues, but a potential lawsuit for not addressing the problem. Tithing dollars would be better spent on missions or kids ministry than on fighting a lawsuit.

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Please briefly describe the security ministry at Saddleback Church.
It’s a work in progress, always looking to fine tune and improve, looking for “holes in the bucket.” Also, just because we did it one way in the past, doesn’t mean it was wrong; it was right for that season, but we have to always grow and improve.

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Are there church security networks or organizations that you recommend churches belong to?
The best and easiest is to reach out to local churches in your neighborhood, form interdenominational partnerships, learn from and support each other. Also, reach out to your local law enforcement and fire departments. They’re great, free resources that are too often overlooked. Give them tours and access to your property. Get them familiar with your buildings. Have them do threat assessments of your facility.

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In your email signature, you use the Latin phrase. “Tutela Templum Virtutis gloria merces.” What does it mean and why have you selected that? Also, why do you emphasize Matthew 10:16?
Tutela Templum in Latin is loosely translated as “protect the temple” (church).
Virtutis gloria merces in Gaelic (my family is Scottish) means, “glory is the reward of valor.”
Matthew 10:16 is our security ministry team verse. God placed that on my heart in the first year, “…wise as serpents….gentle as doves…” To me, that totally describes our ministry and what our team does.

Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
If you have any questions or I can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to email me ( I love helping other churches out; that’s my ministry/how I give back. As my pastor, Rick Warren says, “If you love Jesus, we’re on the same team, we’re not in competition with each other. We need to help each other out.”

BIO: Kevin Robertson the director of security at Saddleback Church, which has 16 campuses located in California, four international campuses, as well as an internet campus. He oversees a security team consisting of 32 staff and 167 volunteers. Kevin has been on staff at Saddleback Church since January 2000. He is a pastor, former police officer, business owner, and travels the country conducting church security conferences. He also consults with churches throughout the country, helping them form security teams or fine tuning existing teams.

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