Q: What makes something a mega church, rather than just a normal church?
A: The campus is huge, and the congregation is too, but what defines a mega church is not only the size of the building and large amount of occupants, but what it represents—the Wal-Martification of organized religion, not to mention spirituality. “We’ve got something for everybody,” is the idea behind the whole thing.
Q: Is this church in a small town or in a city?
A: It’s in a giant city. I think we might be the fattest city, and also the dumbest city.
Q: Is that true? That sounds kind of harsh.
A: It’s true—I think we were like in the top five fattest cities every year for the last few years. And there are some good schools but there are some not-so-good ones too…
Q: How many people work at the church?
A: There are probably 500 employees on staff. My department and the Facilities department are the only ones who wear uniforms.
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m a non-commissioned security guard. I don’t carry a gun. I’m just a watchdog like Paul Blart.
Q: Why does a church need security?
A: It’s one of the absurdities of the job. People’s general reaction is always that it sounds like an unnecessary thing, but a church is essentially a hospital. People go there when they’re in need or hurting. Everyone there is at some level of emotional health or wellness. Some people are stable, but we also have people who aren’t as stable.
We have security in churches for the same reasons they have security at the airports, hospitals, sporting events, etc. People fall down, suffer strokes and heart attacks. Kids have seizures and they break things, steal stuff, and hurt each other, and whether on purpose or by accident is irrelevant. It’s all the same.
Q: I never thought of it that way.
A: In any other environment, you have the opportunity to run into people with any spiritual or emotional malady. But then you throw supernatural beliefs in and it makes for a special kind of crazy.
Q: What is the main church like? Is it huge?
A: When you walk in, it’s really loud. Contemporary Christian rock is being pumped into the place. They had to put boxes over the volume control because I used to turn it down. People are walking into this loud, hopped-up environment… But who am I to say, I guess.
Q: Do you know any of the songs by heart?
A: I know seasons’ worth! I know every season.
Q: And is the church a huge building with high ceilings?
A: It’s just a big building with carpet. It’s not ornate.
Q: So it doesn’t have stained glass windows?
A: No, I wish. That stuff’s so chic right now. There are high ceilings and a lot of lights. It’s like an auditorium.
Q: What’s one of the stranger things you have to deal with?
A: I’ve never had a situation with a patron with a gun… I’ve had to call the cops a couple of times. I’ve had to bluff…
There have only been a couple of extreme cases, like this lady who came in with a friend and had a two or three week old baby with her. She had extreme post-partum depression. Her friend was mouthing to the guards, “Call the police.”
Then the lady locked herself in the bathroom. She had the idea that God was telling her to go to a church and sacrifice her baby. But the police came and nothing happened.
Q: Do you attend the church yourself?
A: I don’t really attend church. I tried. The teaching is good, but it’s not my thing.
There’s this assumption by the majority of people—the one-on-one interactions I have—they assume I agree with everything they’re saying.
Q: That’s awkward. It’s like talking about politics at work.
A: Politics and religion. That’s all you get there.
Right around the election there was an old man—he was always talking about the NRA. He wanted me to understand that Obama had written the “Mark of the Beast” into some legislation that was going to pass. He said, “What Obama doesn’t understand is that that the NRA and American hunters are the largest military in the world.”
Maybe he’s right, you know?
Q: I guess anything is possible, but that seems a little bit overboard. How do you not say anything to him?
A: It can be pretty unnerving. I’ll be thinking, “I hope I can get through this.” There’s a lot of game face.
I will say this though. I’m good at my job. I’m intuitive; I’m maybe hyper-alert. But there’s all this extra…. Well, like most people I guess, a lot of what you have to do wasn’t in the job description.
Q: How does someone become a security guard?
A: You have to take an exam with the state and pay a fee every two years to become a licensed non-commissioned security guard. There are levels, like commissioned security are off-duty cops, armed guards, personal protection officer (bodyguard).
Q: Would you ever be a bodyguard?
A: No way! Not me.
Q: Not even if it was for some super-gracious and good-looking movie star?
A: I don’t think so. That’s an unrealistic option for a person like myself.