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The Ministry Advantages of Police Ride-Alongs
September 1, 2016
There is no doubt that we live in a very complicated world that has been twisted and darkened by sin. Now, more than ever, the need is real for pastors, ministers, and those aspiring to those roles to both see and understand the darkness. There may be no better way to personally see and experience the darkness that surrounds us than to sit shoulder to shoulder with those who see the hellish effects of sins every day: the Thin Blue Line – police officers. With so much being said (both for and against) law enforcement officers, taking the time to ride along with an officer has many benefits.
First, as a pastor, you’ll be able to see your city from a new and unique vantage point. Police officers can interact with dozens of citizens in all sorts of situations during a single shift. They cover many miles in their vehicles, and pass through the same neighborhoods multiple times. They see death, evil, and the effects of evil up close and personal. They literally touch it, and sometimes they have to go home mid-shift to clean it off their uniforms. Ride-along policies usually try to keep “riders” back at a safe distance, but the officers can still tell you plenty if they trust you enough. Police officers may not know everything about a city, but no group is more knowledgeable about its human and physical geography – and its human needs – than they are. (The possible exceptions are EMS personnel, but in most areas, ambulances do not patrol, and police officers respond to far more calls.) Getting a look at your city through the eyes of its police officers can be especially useful if you are new to the area.
Second, as a young seminary student, all of the above is vital to your understanding of human nature and the nature of evil. Even if you ride along in a city that’s not your permanent home, you will learn something that will provide valuable context for your future ministry work. We hope you never pass up an opportunity to spend time with people who aren’t your classmates outside the walls of your seminary whether for the purpose of witnessing, prayer, or simply watching and listening. Be a student of your city.
Third, they may not know or admit it, but cops need you. They are, after all, largely not Christians, and yet they are in the trenches in the battle of Good vs. Evil every day. In other words, most of them risk their lives doing God-ordained work (Romans 13:4) without knowing God. That’s an irony that needs to sink into all of our minds. The Christians among them are, in many cases, thoroughly convinced that their work is a spiritual calling from the Lord. Unfortunately, though, many receive little to no pointed encouragement from pastors, in large part due, no doubt, to the fact that Christian police officers are spread out among many different churches. Rarely do they represent a sizable demographic that draws notice as needing special counsel. Additionally, most pastors don’t have much experience with the situations and stresses police officers face, similar to how most church members don’t have much experience with the situations and stresses pastors face. The world of law enforcement is a difficult world to speak into unless you have at least a toehold in that world. Riding a few shifts in an officer’s front passenger seat is a good way to start building rapport.
So, here’s your challenge from us. Call your local police department or an officer you know and ask to go on a ride-along. If you need to provide credentials or a specific reason, identify yourself as a minister or aspiring minister who needs the police department’s help learning about your city. In most cities, ride-alongs are a privilege most citizens never know exist or desire to utilize. In others, they may not be allowed. Even in those cases, however, simply making the inquiry might open the door to a relationship with the police department through other means.
Nearly half of Concilium’s trainers are current or former law enforcement officers at the local, state, and federal levels, and most of the rest of our staff have had numerous close interactions of the type described above. Law enforcement ministry is deeply important to us, and we will be writing more about it often in the future. More than that, YOUR interaction with law enforcement through a ride-along could well change not only your view of sin, but the way you and your church respond to sin. Please take the opportunity to experience what we are telling you for yourself. You will be glad you did!