By Melissa Wuske
Lots of busy professionals have hobbies to blow off steam or side jobs for extra income, but Terry Allcorn, president of Kentucky Christian University, has a part-time job likely to surprise most people. He works as an armed security guard twice a year in Las Vegas for the JCK Show, the world’s largest diamond show, and the SHOT Show, the world’s largest gun show.
“Some people golf, and I do this security work,” Allcorn said.
He became interested in security work about six years ago because some men from the church he attended were involved.
“I wanted to go train with them, and I ended up enjoying it so much that I got licensed and went with them on a trip,” Allcorn said. “I’ve gone twice a year, except for COVID, ever since.”
His security work is a way to “purposefully engage” with others.
“If I don’t purposefully interact with people who aren’t Christians, I won’t interact with people who aren’t Christians,” Allcorn said. “I can become completely disconnected from what everybody in the world is experiencing except me because I work in a Christian context.”
At the Las Vegas shows, he primarily works the night shift—16-hour shifts that start at 5 in the afternoon—since it’s cooler and not as busy. While it’s far from his typical work, he’s found “multiple opportunities for ministry at 3 in the morning,” and he has relied on God to stay awake.
A typical night finds him in a vault full of merchandise (“standing there to make sure it’s still there in the morning”) or on a showroom floor three football fields square (“watching the custodial or maintenance people setting up their booths”).
“One of the reasons I enjoy the work is I get to use negotiation skills that I’ve learned over the years to talk people down.”
With the diamond show in particular, “There’s a level of wealth out there that is beyond my imagination,” he said. “A lot of those folks are not used to anybody saying no to them. So, I’m the guy that a lot of times gets to say yes but sometimes has to say no.”
The stakes are high, but “I’ve never shot anybody, no,” Allcorn said. “A couple times people have gotten unruly, but I’ve never had to deal with that all by myself. It’s really pretty rare.”
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE
His experiences have given Allcorn insights beyond the somewhat small world of his day job at KCU in Grayson, Ky.
“There’s a whole other world out there of people who work overnight that you don’t see during the day. It was really eye-opening to me. Custodial and maintenance [workers]. Hundreds of people.”
He said nearly all the people he has spoken with are friendly toward faith and willing to listen.
“I’m finding there’s simultaneously a deep interest in spiritual matters and yet a bit of a lack of interest or trust in the church. I think the church has a real opportunity to step into this void.”
“I work with some incredibly tough individuals. I would not put myself in that category,” Allcorn said. Still, he’s learned that people are people. “They are experiencing heartbreak and loss and building relationships. There are few people in their world that they can really talk to.”
“Several of us that go on these trips are Christians, and it’s interesting to me that after a while, some will seek us out to talk to us.”
At least four of the people with the security group at the last JCK Show were ordained ministers, and they were able to “speak God into the lives” of those working alongside them. Allcorn sees an opportunity, in particular, for churches to create unique outreaches to the local, late-night crews who work these events—people whose schedules don’t line up with traditional church events.
Allcorn works with “people two generations younger than me” in both his full-time and part-time jobs.
Because of that, “I need to think clearly about how I’m talking with them and . . . [that] I’m communicating what I want to communicate.”
In both roles, he focuses on relationships first. At the university, however, “that’s a real struggle for me [because] I have a couple hundred people I want to establish a relationship with.” It can be difficult “trying to establish an understanding that I have their best interest in mind.”
His encounters in Las Vegas have given him a chance to bridge the generation gap.
“It was never as clear to me in my typical job as it is in this role that we’re not in an argument, but we’re just talking past each other,” Allcorn said. “What doesn’t work is just quick instructions. I have to ask more questions.”
Asking questions and listening intently helped him to mediate a tense dispute between a young security guard and a booth owner. The booth owner was mad that the guard had prevented the custodial staff from cleaning the booth overnight, but the guard told Allcorn the owner had told him not to let the custodial staff into the booth.
Allcorn quickly recognized a disconnect. He asked his fellow guard, “Tell me exactly what the owner said.”
It turns out, the owner had merely wanted the guard to keep a close eye on custodial staff while they cleaned the booth to protect the merchandise from possible theft.
“It sounds like a mundane conversation,” Allcorn admits, “but it was a high-stress conflict.”
AN INVITATION FOR THE CHURCH
Allcorn is grateful for the chance to see God at work in new and different ways through his security work. As he walked through the recent JCK Show, he was struck by the immensity and complexity of the event.
“The number of people it takes to pull it off with different skill sets reminds me of what the church could be,” he said, “different people coming together to pull off a really complex task.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, and their son, Caleb, live and minister in Cincinnati. Find her work online at melissaannewuske.com.