Again. A church was attacked. 26 people, some children were murdered. As usual, the liberal cry of “gun control” rings out, ignoring that the murderer was stopped by two honest citizens with guns before he could continue the carnage.
Christian churches and Jewish Synagogues have come increasingly under attack in recent years. Many preppers worship at one or the other. But oddly enough, people who will prep to the max and arm to the teeth will often not even consider proper security measure where they worship. It is a combination of the psychological trust that God will protect them, as well as the idea that a House of Worship is meant to be an open and welcoming atmosphere available to all, and that proper security measures would hinder this. There was a time in this country when even a hard-bitten criminal might hesitate to commit a crime in a religious place. Those days are long gone.
And there is a reason I know this. In my real life, I am in the security industry. I have a degree in Industrial Retail Security. I am a member of the American Society for Industrial Security International (ASIS) one of the largest security organizations in the world. I hold their Physical Security Professional Certification, which is one of the most difficult to acquire security certifications in the world.
But more importantly, in the context of this article, I am the Chair of the Phoenix Chapter ASIS House of Worship Committee. And we provide FREE security surveys and advice to any House of Worship that requests it. Notice the emphasis on the word FREE. And I am about as busy in this role as a Maytag Repairman.
Most large churches in this country have quietly adopted a security posture. Some have gone as far as to actually incorporate in-house security guards. Some hire outside security for services. But it is the medium and smaller churches and synagogues that are sadly lacking in proper security. And need it the most. Many of my comments below may ruffle some feathers, but ruffled feathers beat the hell out of a bullet to the head.
There is no such thing as perfect security. But there is a lot that medium and small-sized religious house can do to mitigate the threat.
First, accept the fact that it CAN happen to you!
Yes, you Pastor and your flock. And why not? It has been happening in churches all across the country for some time now. What makes you and your church more special than anyone else? I am not trying to offend anyone here, but it is time for the religious community to WAKE UP and accept the fact that they are targets, and perceived as soft targets, for criminals, the mentally disturbed, and terrorists.
Second, Get Organized
Take stock of your assets. Does your congregation have active or retired Law Enforcement Officers? Military? Combat veterans? Form a Security and Safety Committee. This would be made up of the Senior Pastor and whatever security expertise you may have in the congregation. Take stock of your current situation. Where is your church located? Out in the country? High crime district? If you want some good crime statistics of your local neighborhood, ask your local police. Or you can purchase an in-depth report from CAP INDEX at https://capindex.com/ . It may cost you a little, but it is in-depth and compares your community to surrounding areas. Do a complete and proper physical security survey of your church or facility. If you have members of your congregation who has experience doing these, so much the better. If not, see if you have a local ASIS chapter nearby that will do one for free. Or ask your local police department if they will do one. If nothing else, hire a professional security consultant to do one. Trust me, it will be worth it. A professional physical security survey will show you your vulnerabilities and will show you how to avoid all kinds of pitfalls ranging from local ordinance violation to avoiding theft of your offerings up to mitigating an active shooter situation.
Third, Start Planning
By now your Security and Safety Committee should have a pretty good idea of your assets and vulnerabilities. If you have active Law Enforcement in your congregation, see if they will rotate being armed and in uniform posted in the lobby or out front during services. Get to know your local police department. See if they will use your parking lot during services to do their paperwork or when taking breaks. An armed uniformed presence is a serious discouragement to active shooters. They are called predators for a reason, and are looking for soft targets that will get them the most body count.
All church staff should have an understanding of situational awareness. Ushers and greeters should be especially alert. At least one member of the Security and Safety Committee should be tasked with keeping abreast of current trends in regards to church security. A few people should be trained in advanced first aid, and supplies kept on hand. If you have older parishioners, a defibrillator would be a good idea. There is a tremendous amount of free information from security organizations on the web. You need to develop plans for various contingencies and train for them. How do you evacuate in case of fire? If an active shooter situation occurs, who calls 911?, How is the children’s center secured? What is the evacuation plan? Etc. And rehearse those plans. Here is a link to an ASIS pdf document that has a number of recommendations for church security.
The Subject of Firearms in the Church
This is a delicate subject but one that needs careful consideration. Do you want an armed presence during services? I believe that the best defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun who is trained to use it. Much of this will depend on your location, and the various laws that apply to your jurisdiction. It will also depend on the culture of your organization. This is a subject that the Security and Safety Committee needs to take a hard look at. Exactly who do you want to be armed during services? And under what set of rules.
This is a very short article on a very complex subject, and my intent is to make members of religious organizations think. This barely touches the surface of the issues involved. Christians and Jews especially are under increasing attack in this country from the mentally deranged and political and religious fanatics. Our Sanctuaries are no longer safe.