In light of current events and probable future threats, I put a few reading items on my wishlist relating to security for churches. Most of it seems to be oriented to and written by evangelicals. However, some of these people have a lot of experience.
In one work I found this sobering passage. It relates specifically to threats against the pastor or community’s leader, but, more importantly, I think it applies also to the safety of the entire congregation:
A threat to your man and women of God can come in many forms. It can be either a nuisance attack meant to embarrass the pastor or it can be a full-blown attack that is meant to murder, maim or otherwise harm the pastor. Either attack can be devastating not only to your pastor but to the congregation as well. The best way to counter an attack against your man or woman of God and your ministry is to thwart it before it can manifest itself. Your security survey is the best place to stop it. It is here that the operatives will have the opportunity to review the sanctuary and the blueprint of the building. It is also here that you will be able to assess threat levels and take appropriate action to prevent an attack from being successful.
In order to determine a proper level of threat it is necessary to not only review the actual area that your man or woman of God will be speaking, but to read local newspapers and consult people within the law enforcement community for additional information. With a clear understanding of your current events you will be able to determine the current mood of the public and narrow down the area of potential attackers. To develop the assessment you must ask yourself several questions. They are:
1. Are the subjects that your pastor speaks on controversial (i.e. gays in the church, abortion, etc.)? [It’s not just a ‘pastor’ who preaches on hot issues, the Catholic Church does.]
2. Is your pastor active in politics?
3. Does your pastor have an active broadcast ministry? [hmmm]
4. Is your pastor well known and active in the community? [hmmm again]
5. Is your church growing in size and influence?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you have a legitimate reason to be concerned for the safety of your pastor [nay, rather, congregation!]. It also gives you an idea of your potential attackers. It is this knowledge that you will use when you approach the threat assessment.
From Birriel, Pablo. Ministry Of Defense: Executive Protection For The Ministry (Kindle Locations 19-30). Kingdom Rule. Kindle Edition.
Someone sent me a link to a piece from Right Side News:
Guns In Church? Security Is Heightened As FEMA Helps Churches Prepare For ‘Active Shooter Incidents’
Do you ever wonder if someone might come marching into your church one Sunday morning and start shooting? When I was growing up, I never even imagined that some mentally-imbalanced individual or a group of Islamic terrorists would ever attempt to attack a church service that I was attending, but times have changed. There have been more mass shootings in America during the presidency of Barack Obama than under the previous four presidents combined, and the primary target of the Islamic terrorists in San Bernardino was a Messianic Christian. The shooters in San Bernardino could have very easily decided to hunt him down at his place of worship instead of at a workplace Christmas party if they had wanted to. And we all remember the horrific mass shooting that took place at a church in South Carolina earlier this year. Our churches are very vulnerable “soft targets”, and Christians all over America are starting to realize that security needs to become a higher priority.
Just like schools, malls, movie theaters, concert halls and sporting events, churches are places where large numbers of people gather and where security is typically minimal. As Christmas approaches, [NB]FEMA is holding “specialized training” for churches that includes training for “active shooter incidents”… [FEMA?… good idea? Yes? No?]
If Islamic terrorists were to even just hit one or two of our churches, attendance all across America would immediately plummet. Nobody wants to feel like they are taking their family to a place of danger, and so that is the power of random attacks like the ones that we recently witnessed in Paris. If terrorists can make us feel that they could strike anywhere and at any time, the panic and fear that will create will fundamentally change the way that we go about doing things.
Just look at what is already happening. Church greeters are already being trained to “feel for weapons” as they are hugging people coming in the front door… [Really?]
Christian churches have been refining their security plans ahead of receiving some of their largest crowds of the year for Christmas. On a FEMA webinar last Wednesday on protecting houses of worship, the chief security executive at The Potter’s House, the Rev. TD Jakes’ megachurch in Dallas, gave tips about behavior that should raise concern, such as a congregant arriving in a long coat in hot weather. If needed, church greeters could give a hug and feel for weapons, said the executive, Sean Smith. [?]
And at one Catholic congregation in North Carolina, backpacks, baby strollers and diaper bags have been banned from worship areas…
In Charlotte, North Carolina, St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church, which draws about 30,000 worshippers to its weekend Masses, [Whew!] this month alerted parishioners to beefed-up security, such as uniformed and plain-clothes police officers at services, and a ban on backpacks, baby strollers and diaper bags in worship areas.
So what is next?
Will we soon have the TSA groping us when we arrive for Sunday school?
Personally, I believe that we are going to see some things that were once unthinkable in the years ahead. For decades, we have all been able to go to worship services without even thinking twice about our safety. But now we live in a very different world.
At one time, it was actually quite common for people to bring guns to church. In fact, a 1631 Virginia law actually required men to “bring their pieces to church”…
This goes on to raise questions about armed congregations.
There is no question that terrorists tend to attack in places where they know people will not be armed. That includes churches. Churches are a soft target. Especially squishy are churches with “no guns” signs posted.
We’ve had this topic before on the blog, but before the Paris and San Bernardino events.
It bears additional level-headed discussion.
Sunday morning, June 26, 1980, America changed forever when a lone gunman invaded the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Daingerfield, Texas killing five and wounding ten. He was armed with two military style long guns and two handguns. He wore bullet proof body armor. No one else in the sanctuary was armed. Three men of the church charged the shooter. Two were killed as they forced the shooter out of the sanctuary with their bodies. The shooter was angry that members of the church would not serve as character witnesses during his pending incest/ child molestation trial. 27 years later, in an eerily similar attack, a similarly armed gunman entered The New Life Church in Colorado Springs killing two and wounding three before he was shot by an armed security guard. He carried a military style carbine with multiple magazines, two high capacity handguns and smoke grenades. He also wore body armor. In this case, the shooter was angry because he had been dismissed from a missionary training program.
According to Carl Chinn of Church Security Concepts there have been 792 deadly force incidents of one type or another in faith based organizations since January 1, 1999.
According to Police Magazine, the average duration of an active shooter incident is 12.5 minutes while the average police response time to an active shooter incident is 18 minutes. That pretty well tells the tale. Police response is measured in minutes. The armed response necessary to save lives is measured in seconds.
Kumpe, Bill. Concealed Carry In The Congregation: A Primer On Concealed Carry For Churches (Kindle Locations 75-76). Bill Kumpe dba Genuine Okie Publishers. Kindle Edition.
It is an unsettling topic.
Each church situation is unique, depending on size, the nature of the city or town, layout of the plant, tendency of the priests in their teaching and preaching, parish activities, etc.
Hire security? Frisk people? Ban bags? Encourage concealed carry? Change nothing?
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