Strategies For Any Church Safety Team
Image via CBN News.
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As I wrote almost a year ago, every church should have one or more good guys with guns protecting the flock. Every synagogue, temple and mosque. Anyplace people gather to worship should have a ballistic response ready for the worst case scenario. Does yours have one? It should to improve church safety.

The first step in creating a safer house of worship involves recognizing that evil does exist. And that sometimes worldly evil will invade sacred locations. Only fools expect bad people to honor society’s norms in and outside of churches. Burying one’s head in the sand doesn’t keep anyone safe. Just ask the do-gooder couple who hiked through ISIS-controlled territory.

Some folks think that creating a security team for their church simply involves finding volunteers to carry guns to church services. Not so. While that’s better than nothing, when well-meaning people only have a hammer, every problem can ten to look like a nail.

Want to get a church security team off the ground in your house or worship? First off, get off on the right foot. Call it a “safety team.” Good word choice will help keep your flock from becoming alarmed. Most folks don’t want to think about the need for armed security in their church, but everyone can rally behind “safety.”

Once you have a team willing to do more than carry a gun, spend some money on good communications. Get radios. Issue them to ushers, greeters and security folks. Greeters and ushers can discretely report potential problems. In fact, your greeters stand as the congregation’s eyes and ears, evaluating everyone at the entry points as they welcome them at services. They will often identify potential problems first – including both security- and health-related issues.

Conversely, if security detects a problem and can communicate instantly, ushers and greeters can immediately help direct the flock away from that threat.

Surveillance cameras help too. Church congregations face a greater risk of criminal violence (robbery) in the parking lots than they do when sitting in the pews. Watching cameras can detect suspicious behavior from non-church members. In larger churches, roving patrols in cars or golf carts can go a long way to deter criminal activity.

Just like schools, churches should lock their doors shortly after services begin. A greeter can welcome latecomers at a locked door. However, why make it easy for a lunatic to invade the sanctuary at an unmanned, unlocked door when everyone’s attention is directed at the preacher?

Included in the safety plan: good first aid skills. Frankly, knowing some basic first aid and how to use an AED or perform CPR will likely save far more lives than that gun on the hip.

Frankly, safety team members should have good skills at de-escalating potential violence, too. Knowing the basics of talking people down while taking steps to lessen one’s personal risk help. And if the verbal judo fails, knowing some hands-on tactics can help quickly restrain troublemakers for police without the need for a full-on brawl.

Ideally, off-duty local law enforcement members of the congregation will join the team.

Lastly, those select safety team members with guns should face a vetting process with church leaders. Yes, while anyone legally able may should carry during a church service, safety team members represent the church to some degree. And the last thing any house of worship needs is an ill-trained, gun-toting “security team” member pulling a gun over a mildly-heated child custody dispute near the kids’ area during or after a service.

I still remember after the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas, people approached me asking about the legality of carrying without a license in church here in Illinois. God bless those Christians for volunteering.

On one hand, these well-meaning men and women expressed a willingness to protect their family and friends from bad people. On the other hand, they didn’t even know the law on carrying on private property in Illinois. Will they have a good handle on the nuances of deadly force law to keep themselves out of jail afterwards? I hope so, but I doubt it.

I would think some training on the legal use of deadly force is reasonable and prudent. Especially for those who wish to formalize their role providing security in their church.

While I’d prefer well-trained (and well-armed) gun owners in a time of trouble, I would eagerly welcome even any gun owner over a whole passel of hysterical Moms Demanding Action cowering under pews or desks. And you should too.

Stephen Willeford, pictured above, proved that in Sutherland Springs. Mr. Willeford didn’t have a background as a Navy SEAL or police officer. Instead, as John Q. Public, he courageously engaged a maniac and stopped the shooter’s attack at the nearby First Baptist Church. In fact, Willeford’s shots put down the murderous attacker, saving taxpayers the cost of incarcerating the killer.

If your church doesn’t have a safety team, take the initiative to start one. The life you save might be your own.

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  1. “Some folks think that creating a security team for their church simply involves finding volunteers to carry guns to church services. Not so.”

    I disagree. If each of these carriers have their mind screwed on right and know what they are doing then this is plenty. What you suggest is “enough” security is borderline paranoia.

    • The purpose of forming a team and providing a little formal training is all about ensuring that people ‘have their mind screwed on right and know what they are doing.”

      We are not suggesting that people need to become operators. What we do need is to know that the people who are representing the church will do so properly.

  2. The biggest problem with the security setup at my church is that it is pretty easy to figure out who the “point-man” is because he is the only guy not on stage who is facing the back of the room. There is usually more than one person carrying, but usually only one is facing the rear.

  3. @L: Isn’t coordination and some of the “herding the sheep” tactics better than relying on uncoordinated POTG?
    I don’t read the paranoia, and mainstream churches/temples, especially larger ones, have gone to these lengths for years. The ushers aren’t all wearing knee pads and MOLLE, just observant and “saying something” in the near term.

      • @L: the sheep/shepherd metaphor is quite common in church, like it’s in their sacred texts or something.
        I’m a sheep, depending on the subject- like small business tax law. If I ventured that way, I would seek a shepherd so I don’t fall into the gaping maw of the wolf that is the IRS.
        If you knew of an impending danger, wouldn’t you herd blissfully ignorant people away from it? Or would that be too egotistical, to think no one else saw the danger?

    • “There are three types of people: wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs. The wolves prey on the sheep and are afraid of the sheepdogs. The sheepdogs serve the Shepherd and protect the Flock. The sheep just want to eat their grass and wish to be left in peace; but even though the sheepdogs are there to protect them – from the sheep’s perspective, the sheepdog still looks an awful lot like a wolf. This is why the sheep want the sheepdogs to have their teeth (guns) taken away. They see little difference between the sheepdogs and the wolves. But even if the sheepdogs pull their teeth and turn to eating grass, the wolves will not. Sheepdogs, do not give up your guns or your right to fight back, no matter how loudly the sheep may bleat.”

  4. We have a church Safety Team….a couple prefer to not be armed… we do not require it. But we always have at least one armed on active security. We have radios for an inside and outside person and the sound man has one as well.

    We usually have at least 5 or 6 people carrying and not on security. If every CCW holder and LEO we had was armed, we would have about 40% of the congregation. Which might be the best scenario.

  5. If you want to see a “well coordinated” security team come to Hammond(Indiana) 1st Baptist. Cop’s open carrying,laymen CC and who knows how many ordinary folks carrying. AND called a security team. Direct,blunt and Baptist!

    • Ours is a safety team but we have uniformed officers, and safety team members working in coordination. Probably 100 guns every Sunday counting people like me who carry in unofficial capacity along side the volunteer and paid security. Granted, there’s around 2,500 people on campus at any given Sunday, so not a super high percentage of carriers.

        • A church being too large is a matter of personal preference. Unless the message is diluted (which is not the only way that growth happens), the size of the church is irrelevant to doctrine. Large churches can be good or bad, based on a lot of factors.

  6. And the last thing any house of worship needs is an ill-trained, gun-toting “security team” member pulling a gun over a mildly-heated child custody dispute near the kids’ area during or after a service.

    Is there any evidence of anything even remotely like this ever happening with typical people who go to church?

    Furthermore, a “child custody dispute” is no small matter: we are talking felony kidnapping which could very well justify use of deadly force.

    Either way, I am really tired of all the hysteria about people being armed in church and the eleventy billion ways that armed church members can supposedly wreak havoc. These same mild-mannered church-going people are armed in grocery stores and we don’t see dozens of instances annually where they improperly/illegally use their handguns in those stores. Why do we think they will conduct themselves any differently in a church?

    And I emphatically disagree that people need hours of class instruction on the legal use of force and when they can deploy their handgun in church. Rather, all people need to know about deploying their handgun in a church setting comes neatly packaged in ONE simple sentence: the only time you draw your handgun out of its holster is when an ATTACKER is MAIMING AND KILLING. Period. An attacker is maiming and killing? You deploy your handgun. The attacker is incapacitated, captured, or fled the scene? You put your handgun back in its holster. This isn’t rocket science.

    • I’ve seen people draw down on only slightly aggressive, empty-handed panhandlers at force-on-force classes on a regular basis. And I’ve heard from plenty of folk seeking help after they used a gun (deadly force) inappropriately. Everything from firing shots off the front porch – like Joe Biden recommends – to actually shooting someone who didn’t need confronting, much less shooting.

      Child custody dispute? Who’s telling the truth? You gonna pull a gun on a father (or a mother) who is taking their own child despite the wishes of the other parent? Felony child abduction or a parent simply taking their child without any legal reason to preclude them taking custody? Man, if you think domestic violence incidents are fraught with danger… Let’s say they ignore your commands – at gunpoint – to stop. You gonna shot ’em dead, Wyatt Earp? Yeah, you’ll be a real hero.

      The problem with formal “security” people is that they can make – or break – a church’s reputation with their actions.

  7. Regardless of your plan, Kyle Lamb and I are trying to help with an instant location-based alert and simple emergency management and communication for leadership and first responders. The app is free for all users around the world – the dashboard to manage emergencies is a subscription.

    • I just listened to your and Kyle’s podcast about this a couple weeks ago. Mayday seems like a system that deserves greater exposure – it is fully capable of saving a lot of lives.

  8. For the last 9 years I have trained church security on use-of-force law, trespass, and other legal aspects of self-defense law here in Alabama. I also train them on what the Bible says about defense of self and others. All teams should be taught their state rules of deadly and non-deadly force by a lawyer. It can even lower your church’s insurance rates.

  9. Ten years ago i pointed out glaring safety issues at the church we had just joined after attending one committee meeting after hours. The biggest issues were open door policy and head in the sand attitude about common sense safety measures. After a dumpster fire, multiple thefts and B&E’s, and 2 vandalisms the church no long has an open door policy and is wrestling with contract armed security on Sundays. When and if they ever get it i will go back… maybe.

      • Violence can happen anywhere, and often does happen outside of “bad” neighborhoods. In this current age of growing hatred of Christianity and Judaism, as well as the propensity for Muslim sects to use violence against other Muslim sects, every house of faith should invest in security. Whether that’s trained and equipped volunteers, paid security or, more likely, a combination, each congregation needs to decide what’s important.

        You say that paid security is a reason to leave that church or area. I know people who would say the same thing about buying high-end jumbotron screens for words when paper handouts or the old hymnal works and is already paid for. And safety in the worship environment is far more important than the method of displaying words to worship songs.

        If you are a person of faith, Red, I pray that your house of worship is safe and never has a need to boost the safety of it’s parishioners/attendees while they minister in your neighborhood. If church leadership wants to invest in security and you are not comfortable with that, your advice is perfect. Change where you worship. If everyone attending, giving and serving there are in agreement, then that is right for that congregation at that time.

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