*The following article pertains to sensitive but important information.
On August 12, 2007, a man burst into a church firing two rounds from a handgun into the ceiling. With shouts of, “Liar!” he then proceeded to shoot and kill the pastor and two deacons. Five others were wounded.
On July 21, 2013, another man barged into a different church mid-sermon, firing one round into the ceiling and another round into the floor toward the pastor, before being tackled by church members.
We are all aware by now of the disturbing trend of mass shootings in our nation, and particularly church shootings. The reason I point out the two instances above is because they did not take place in large metropolitan areas several states away. Rather, they happened right here in southwest Missouri. The first scenario happened at the First Congregational Church of Neosho, the second at First Baptist Church of Norwood.
I do not mention these incidents to be sensational or dramatic, but rather to drive home the importance of your church having a security plan to protect your flock. For those of us who grew up in a time when church doors were left open during the week for those who needed solitude and prayer, it is hard to wrap our minds around the necessity of church doors being locked during services. Yet, sadly, that is where we now find ourselves.
In my travels to our churches, I have observed that some still do not appear to have any form of security in place. By “security,” I do not mean paid security guards. Very few of our churches can afford that. Rather, I am talking about common sense measures that any church of any size can undertake to keep their people safe. Consider the following recommendations from Strategos International:
1) Lock the doors. Any exterior door not being used during worship should be locked. The number of unlocked doors should be kept to a minimum, and unlocked doors should be monitored by members of your security team.
2) Use a team approach. No single person, no matter how much training they have, can keep an entire congregation safe. Train your ushers and greeters on how to respond in a crisis.
3) Have a firearms policy. If you choose to have armed security, be sure you specify who is allowed to carry, and what training they must have. (For individuals, the general rule is that you need permission from the governing body of your church in order to legally carry a firearm at church.)
4) Don’t focus only on active shooters. There are many types of emergencies for which a church needs to be prepared. How do you respond to a natural disaster, health emergency, or report of sexual abuse?
5) Work with your insurance company. Your insurance company can provide good counsel for developing a security plan and for protecting security team members and the church as a whole from liability. (I would also include work with your local law enforcement.)
One final encouragement - It is godly for us to protect the innocent people in our churches. Remember the Hebrews, while rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, kept a weapon in one hand to defend the city (Neh 4). God bless you as you think through these issues. Let us know if we can help!