Church Safety and Security

Church Safety and Security

Personal defense inside a church is often an unnecessarily controversial topic. God does not begrudge the church member his or her right to self-defense. See Psalm 144. Photo: author

I am often approached by pastors, deacons, and other church members in positions of authority with questions about church security. The interest is usually in forming some sort of “security team” of volunteers and is focused on the legal concerns inherent in doing so. I believe that these well-intentioned inquiries are often born of misconceptions about what security really means. I feel it is important to truly understand what the goals of church security ought to be and what can be done even on a small budget without raising any legal concerns. The goals of church security are the same as personal security inside the home, a mall, or basically any building: deterrence, detection, and response. Below I will discuss ways to accomplish these goals regardless of budgetary constraints.

Deterrence

To potentially deter violent actors, you don’t have to have a big budget. It is very inexpensive to hire an off-duty police officer or an armed security guard to come stand outside the main entrance to the church. An overt security presence might cause a would-be violent actor to think twice before following through with their plan. However, a determined attacker could simply find a way around overt security measures. We have examples such as the Columbine school massacre, where the murderers simply waited for the resource officer to leave his post before beginning their attack. Overt security measures in the form of uniformed officers may provide the psychological “warm and fuzzy” that some people seek when they talk about security, but aside from the possibility of deterrence, there is nothing magical about having one uniformed officer (or ten) on site.

Church Safety and Security

Overt security measures such as off-duty law enforcement officers or armed security guards can help to potentially deter or respond to a violent actor. But they should not be relied upon exclusively, as they can be circumvented. Photo: author

In understanding this reality, church leaders should consider the visible presence of armed personnel as only a piece of the security puzzle. It would be foolish to do what I have seen some larger churches do by posting armed security guards and simultaneously preventing legal concealed carry. Turning your church into a “gun-free zone” when it is not designated as such by state law is tantamount to inviting would-be violent actors in. Making the naïve assumption that overt security measures will be at the right place at the right time if and when something goes down is very shortsighted, in my opinion, unless you plan to turn your church into a fortress complete with metal detectors, pat-downs, etc. This is obviously not the type of atmosphere most parishioners would be comfortable with and, even if it were, fortresses such as courthouses and airports are often defeated by determined attackers. Do not view overt security measures as more than what they are, and definitely don’t rely on them to the extent that you take away the congregation’s ability to carry their own personal defensive tools.

As mentioned above, usually the individuals who approach me are interested in getting volunteers from within the congregation trained and licensed as security officers in order to form a legal church “security team.” Companies will come in and provide the training to help churches get set up with the proper credentials and insurance to make this happen. I would approach this option with extreme caution. Becoming a skilled personal-protection officer is not something you can do as a part-time gig just because you are on the board of deacons. Asking for volunteers will likely invite overzealous individuals, well-meaning though they may be, to bite off more than they can chew.

You don’t want to create a team of poorly trained amateurs and put them in official positions of authority when it comes to security. I have seen several churches do this and have yet to meet an amateur security team that I have confidence in. In my opinion, it is best to leave those services to actual professionals. If you happen to have some of those professionals in your congregation, you have more options, but I would avoid any sort of security team composed of amateurs, even if they are “licensed” amateurs. If you understand the real value of this type of team as discussed in the previous paragraph about overt security in general, you will understand that regardless of whether or not you choose this option, it is not the end-all, be-all.

Detection

With or without overt security, there are several methods we can use to detect potential violence inside a structure. The most efficient method is to control access. Obviously, in a church setting, all are welcome, which means we aren’t likely to have access badges or anything like that for the main service. People can literally come in off the street. That being the case, the best way to control access to the church service is by limiting entry options to monitored access points once the service has begun. If church services begin at a certain time, all side doors that are not monitored should be closed and locked after that time, so people cannot get into the service without someone seeing them.

Church Safety and Security

Controlling access to areas where children are kept, such as nurseries, can aid in detecting unauthorized individuals and preventing them from entering. Options include a locked door and sign-in/out sheet, or electronic devices such as buzzers and access cards. Photo: author

Any nursery areas or places where children congregate outside the main service should also have controlled access. Here, we do have the options of requiring ID badges or employing door buzzers to help restrict access only to parents and workers. You can go about as high tech as you want to accomplish this goal. But something as simple as an attendant sitting in front of a locked door with a sign-in/out sheet is a good start. With controlled access in place, we can see who is coming and going and limit the options for someone to slip in without being seen and/or engaged by someone.

If we make it such that someone is likely to be seen and/or engaged by an usher or someone else when they come through the doors, we have the opportunity to “size them up.” Whoever is handing out bulletins or standing by the door greeting people ought to be looking for obvious cues that an individual could become a problem. While it is true that a crafty individual bent on bringing violence into a house of worship could blend in until they make their move, obvious signs can often be observed simply through basic human interaction. If something about the way a person looks or acts raises a red flag, they can either be denied access or watched more closely once allowed to enter. You have to trust your instincts on this if you perceive something unnerving.

Everyone fixates on the idea of an active shooter coming in and laying waste to the congregation. However, it is far more likely that other less horrifically violent situations could transpire: domestic situations have a tendency to erupt in churches, mentally unstable or inebriated individuals come into services and cause problems, etc. The list of more plausible scenarios goes on and on before you get to the worst-case scenario of a mass murder. Good articles about recognizing pre-attack cues that any vigilant individual can and should read and practice are here on the PDN site. Recognizing the potential for a bad situation before it occurs gives you more options to deal with things before they get out of hand.

Response

When deterrence doesn’t work and the detection strategy either raises significant concerns about an individual or is circumvented, you must be ready to respond. Response can come in several forms. If an individual is found to be a potential problem during the detection process, the response could be asking them to leave and calling the police if they refuse. If an elderly person starts to have a stroke, the response could be rendering aid and calling for an ambulance. That’s one we don’t think about often enough! You are far more likely to encounter a medical emergency than any type of violence inside a church. Do you have a quality aid bag somewhere in the sanctuary? Is there a quick defibrillator in the building and someone on staff trained to use it? Having the ability to respond appropriately to a medical emergency is far more important than the ability to respond to the threat of violence.

Church Safety and Security

Legal concealed carry should be allowed if not encouraged in order to give each individual the ability to defend him or herself in the event that deterrence and detection are not effective. Overt security is only a piece of the response puzzle and should not be viewed as sufficient by itself. The right to carry in a church should not be restricted if it is otherwise legal. Photo: author

If violence occurs, the response might mean fighting with and possibly shooting the bad guy, whether it is a domestic situation, an inebriated person who becomes violent, or the worst-case scenario of an active shooter. If you have uniformed officers or a church security team on site, they are a piece of the response puzzle to be sure. But they may not always be in the right place at the right time to stop the threat. Allowing and/or encouraging armed citizens to carry their defensive tools in church gives each individual the ability to take responsibility for their own security. That is really the crux of the misconception I have seen when churches approach security.

There is no way a church can guarantee the security of the congregation with or without a special team, just as there is no way a police force can guarantee the security of the public. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to defend him or herself when the chips are down. You can have all the overt security presence you want, but if they aren’t in the right position to take action immediately, the individual will live or die based on their own personal preparedness for the attack.

If churches allow concealed carry, churches can and should offer access to training programs for their members. There are tons of extra-curricular activities that are offered to congregations on a weekly basis. Why not make personal defense training one of them? Churches will likely be able to find trainers who are willing to offer their services at discounted rates or even pro-bono if the church wants to host a class. Doing this would be an easy win-win for the individual armed citizen and the congregation as a whole.

Church Security Conclusion

Churches have numerous affordable options to take advantage of when it comes to security, with the goals of deterrence, detection, and response in mind. Overt measures such as armed security guards and resource officers are inexpensive and can provide a potential deterrent effect as well as a response option. Controlled access and behavioral recognition techniques can help detect potential violence and stop it before it starts. Response can come in many forms, from asking someone to leave, to calling the police, having overt security in the right position to respond, and allowing armed citizens the ability to defend themselves.

In addition, churches can and should encourage armed citizens to train by offering classes from reputable trainers. Approaching security in this manner will be effective regardless of your budget. While volunteer security teams are a possibility, they should be approached with extreme caution from legal, financial liability, and professionalism standpoints. As always, make sure you understand the laws in your state before implementing any of the strategies presented here.

Discussion
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100 Responses to “Church Safety and Security”
  1. david

    Actions speak louder than words. I attend a conservative synagogue, and I’d bet that the rabbi and 90+% of the congregation voted for Obama, and that 95% of the congregants think guns are icky. And yet, with the way the world is going, I carry concealed at services with the rabbi’s blessing.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      David, I’ve found that even those who may lean left on other issues are open to the idea of firearms when it is presented specifically in the context of personal defense as opposed to the just as important but often overplayed “defense against the government” narrative.

      Reply
    • Paul

      David, Your congregation and rabbi are fortunate to have you! The way things have been going, every synagogue should be vigilant, and every true Christian should stand with his Jewish brother.

      Reply
    • Ruvain

      The TORAH teaches well…as per Defending
      one’s Family!! Besides,, ,haven ‘t you seen
      enough”” of the carnage b=y the means of
      demonic miscreant’s who have MURDERED””
      our families for countless, generations.. for WHAT, reason? Read Exdous Chap. 11
      .
      As well JEWS who have maintained a “Liberal
      mentality, have suffered by those they support. Mr. Obama, has slapped the face’s
      of Jews who have supported him, along with
      the Noble Prime Minister of Israel!

      Reply
  2. jeff

    At our meeting our doors are locked when it starts and we have a outdoor camera system which is monitored during the meeting by men assigned to watch the monitor. This came about from an actual threat some time back. I personally carry a c2 taser and some form of pepper spray.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      Good deal. Security cameras are a great option that I didn’t mention due to their cost but sounds like they are taking appropriate steps.

      Reply
  3. smokey

    Regarding not making the church a pistol free zone. Here are some comments and questions I have for the author. These are not criticisms, I am seeking input. Michigan has already made churches pistol free zones. The option is left to the “prevailing authority” to allow concealed carry. Our board asked me to carry and supported forming a civilian team. We have done all the things you suggested. Medical team, AED, controlled access points etc. My one concern regarding opening up carry to anyone walking through the door is we don’t want the congregation or one of our team members caught in the crossfire of a well intended but unknown defender. We are spending a lot of time training our team members to the same standard that our local police force requires of their officers. We are including local officers in our training events.. Additionally we have plans in place for how we would deal with violent events. A non team member will not be aware of our plans. I support personal defense, I just want to know how to strike a safe balance.

    Reply
    • CST

      Thank you for your comment. That is the same concern that an “anti-gun” person might express. Either you trust people to be armed or you don’t. That is a decision that each church will have to make on their own.

      Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      The same case could be made about allowing the general public to concealed carry in any public place. The “crossfire” situation you describe presupposes a lot of bad decisions being made in short order during the “active shooter” event. I don’t have any reason to believe that even a CHL holder who doesn’t train would indiscriminately open fire in such a situation. There is certainly no evidence of that having ever happened. But it is a valid concern which is why any church should encourage training and offer it as suggested. On the state law concern.. I am only speaking to states that do not prohibit concealed carry in a church. If your state does, you have to do what you can within the letter of the law.

      Reply
  4. Jeff

    Good article and I agree with many parts of it. However the author contradicts himself by first saying that he recommends against a poorly trained team of amateurs, but then at the end he recommends training church members who are CHL holders. Is that not the same thing as a poorly trained team of amateurs?

    I am member of a large church in Texas and we do have a well-trained security team comprised of volunteers who are all trained and licensed by the State of Texas.

    We conduct simunition/force-on-force, live-fire range, and scenario training within various areas of the church. Yes, we are all volunteers, and yes, we all have real jobs, and yes, serving in our security team is a part-time gig. But, I strongly believe our team, the various communications, operational, situational, simulated and live-fire training that we have conducted far outweighs having a bunch of CHL holders who are not on comms, have not worked/trained together, and whose decision-making and weapon-handling skills have not been evaluated, acting as your line of defense in the event a situation occurs within your church.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      I don’t contradict myself at all. The CHL holder is the last line of defense and shouldn’t be prevented from carrying concealed regardless of what other security measures are in place. If your team trains together regularly then you would be the exception to what I have seen and I am glad you guys are doing what you do. IF you go with a non-professional team, the training you described is paramount. What I am cautioning against in the article is the type of team that does not seek out additional training but is “rag-tag” so to speak and as such sets itself up for failure.

      Reply
  5. Doug Tally

    My church posted the No Guns signs on the church doors, the rectory, 2 other buildings and the k-8 school. I believe the folks that make the decision to post the No Guns signs are 1) far left and 2) are proud to ‘make their statement’. Are there examples yet of gunmen entering where ‘No Guns’ is posted?

    Reply
    • Lonnie Berry

      Legislation and signs posting no guns allowed are only there for the stupid and naive. Anyone with common sense knows that a sign or legislation will never stop someone bent on using a gun to carry out a plan of destruction. Signs and legislation against firearms is nothing but a placebo for people who need a reality check. I have carried a firearm anytime I am off of my property since 1968. I have yet to need it to defend myself and it has never left my holster. I am 73, still can shoot the eye out of a snake and am authorized to carry in every state regardless of state laws.

      Reply
    • Don

      Doug T.: I think the question to ask is: has a “No Guns’ sign ever deterred a bad guy? Signs like that only work on the good guys. Signs like that attract criminals because they will feel safer knowing they may be the ONLY one in the room with a gun when they decide to act.

      Reply
    • Parker

      Doug. This may depend upon how your place of worship is ‘designated’. Since there is a K-8 school on the campus, the entire campus may be considered a school for the purposes of your state’s firearm regulations. Your church leadership may or may not have control of this matter. In addition, calling a building a ‘school’ or holding activities called ‘school’ ups the ante from a fire code perspective in my state. So, if our church hosts any outside events involving a ‘school’ activity, the word ‘school’ is never used in describing the activity. We do not have a school on our church campus.

      Reply
    • Toby

      All the school shotings the liberal media love to report are in gun free zone (AKA shooting galleries). IF we value our Children, then why do we deliberately expose them to such known danger? We just finished a CC Class at Church today with 30 people, and have had voulinteer (mostly Deacons) security for several years. We drill using CLEET drills together regularly, but having extra sane guns in house, is why we had the class. It is a sad thing that a Church needs weapons on site to be safe, BUT keepiing my Church Family alive is worth the risk! I carry two added items not mentioned in this article: Insurance for legal fees if the worst happens, and a bullet resistant vest. I also recommend (GOD Forbid) that each team has access to long guns just in case. I keep one in my trunk just to be ready. I like the radio link idea, and we already have the defib, with doctors and nurses on tap if we need it (it has been used once already).

      We do have a no OPEN carry sign on the church, which will allow us to intercept problems outside, as bad guys usually like to wave them around to intimidate. BUT CC is encouraged, and allows for a wide response to danger.

      Reply
  6. Tailgunner

    I’d carry with or without the Rabbi’s (or any clergy’s) permission. If someone else chooses not to carry, that is their choice. My choice is to carry at all times. You don’t take the spare tire out of your car, depending on where you are driving, do you? I didn’t think so.

    Reply
  7. Parker

    Thank you for the article. My read indicates that the author is leaning toward paid safety personnel; and, it is unlikely that a volunteer team could be safely assembled. Our 8 acre campus would require at least 5 paid safety staff covering 3 services to have even a hope of being useful. I submit that a properly selected volunteer team is best. First Chronicles 26:12-19 (NIV) discusses temple security and how it was a MINISTRY of the Korahite clan. Today, there are parishioners who feel called to serve as Gatekeepers. Recruitment is personal invitation, not a sign-up sheet on Sunday morning. A volunteer team of individuals, following a general set of protocols, reduces the liability to the church. Once people become ‘licensed’ or ‘certified’, a level of competence will be required. However, a properly selected and screened group of volunteers will be just that…a group of well meaning people just trying to do their best by ministering under the circumstances.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      I wouldn’t say I’m leaning one way or another. I’m merely laying out the options. I think a combination of all of the above is ideal. Volunteer teams are great— IF they are properly trained; which sounds like what you are describing. The caution I suggest is from a legal and professionalism standpoint. In Texas by the time you clear the legal hurdles to a volunteer team, you may as well have hired the pros. It’s not an either/or proposition though.

      Reply
    • Ruvain

      ABSOLUTELY!!!!

      Question: Whatever happened to the( our)
      GATEKEEPERS? by way of the Biblical
      Church,, and or Temple? Mordachai ,,was that
      man…(book of Ester) None do so for our
      Government??? We need military men, or
      woman to position them selves in Government.

      Reply
  8. Jerry Vacha

    This article has some great points. I only respectfully disagree with allowing someone to carry because they have their CCW. I am a certified instructor and own a security training and consulting business with a heavy focus on churches. When I work with a church we not only require structured training but also a qualification exam based upon what the State of Ohio requires for all Law Enforcement Officers to take annually. Most CCW holders franky don’t shoot very well and to green light them in a crowded environment like a church under stress is dangerous. We use the 10-10-10 Drill as our baseline before a person can attempt to qualify. It can be found at http://www.SFTAC.org if you are interested. Just like everything else everyone has their opinion and this is simply mine. Thanks again for writing this article.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      We “greenlight” armed citizens in crowded public spaces generally.. Based on your statement I can only assume you would ban them from carrying in theaters, malls, etc? Nothing special about a church. But notice I did specifically suggest that churches encourage training and even try to offer it as an activity to members who wish to carry. I frankly have no reason to believe that licensed security or police officers are any better trained than the average armed citizen or can “shoot better” just because they have credentials.

      Reply
  9. Kathy

    The timing of your article could not have been more timely. I just obtained my CCW license, and for some reason, the scenario of threat and response while at services is one I think about at times. Is it a sign of the times? Hopefully not a premonition with the way the world is going lately. Thank you for the insight.

    Reply
  10. Jeff

    Hi Doug,

    I am so sorry to hear that.

    I am sure you recall the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO? Gun free zone.

    Remember the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre? Gun free zone.

    Remember the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School and Aurora theater murders? Gun free zones. In fact, the Aurora theater murderer chose the only theater of the many in the area that was a gun free zone.

    I bet if we looked, we would find the Christian students in Kenya who are being slaughtered by islamic terrorist today are in a “gun-free” zone, too.

    I could cite many more examples, but this answers your question of whether gunmen enter places where guns are banned.

    Murderers want a body count. They don’t fear being killed, and most take their own lives when pressed by responders. They only fear failing to get their body count. That’s why they pick gun free zones. They prefer unarmed victims.

    Advertising a place as a “gun free” zone simply tells murderers it is a great place to find unarmed victims and get their body count.

    I wouldn’t send my family into a “gun free” zone anymore than I would send them onto a “seat belt free” highway.

    Jeff

    Reply
  11. Rob

    Thanks for the article. It was well written and addresses numerous points of interest. I am an AF Security Police veteran. Our church leaders have asked me to head up a team of individuals to provide security for our members and visitors. They did not know it, but I have been working on this behind the scenes for quite some time. I have chosen, or should I say hand picked, a group of 6 other men to be on this team. These men are not novices and we all shoot often. Our main goal is to protect the sheep of our church. We go beyond just church security. We are concerned about other areas such as Fire Emergencies, natural disasters, power outages, medical emergencies, individual disturbances and yes, active shooters. We know that our chances of having a fire are much higher than someone coming in to shoot up the congregation. We look at the areas you have mentioned and go beyond that. We do not prevent anyone from carrying during our services. (I won’t say how many women and men we have who carry, but you’d be surprised.) Our plan is to train together, take classes and continue to shoot together. We also know that the police are our best friends and they will be called if needed no matter what the situation. Our firearms are only to be pulled if absolutely necessary. If we can handle a situation without them that would be great. It doesn’t matter whether we are at home, the mall, the movies, church, or anywhere our goal is to be safe and to be prepared should something happen. Like the guy mentioned above: we don’t leave our spare tire at home we take it just in case. I wear a seat belt every time I get in the car hoping I don’t need it. The same goes for my firearm. Thanks again for the article and keep them coming.

    Reply
    • Jeff

      Hi Rob,

      I am the Director of Life Safety for my church. I would like to invite you to study Lt. Col. David Grossman’s material, or perhaps to attend one of his Sheepdog Church Security conferences.

      http://sheepdogseminars.com/

      Grossman shares some very enlightening statistics. For instance, there has not been a single death from fire in a church or school in the USA for at least 50 years. Why?

      Redundant layers of safety.

      Fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, fire retardant building materials, fire drills, etc. He makes the point that in that same time there have been literally hundreds of deaths from violence at churches and schools.

      So – our kids are indeed at far greater risk from dying from violence than they are from fire at church or school. We must understand that and prepare accordingly.

      Grossman also makes the point that nobody thinks anyone is paranoid or expecting a fire because we have fire extinguishers, fire alarms, fire drills, etc. But, some think you’re crazy for being armed and training a team to protect the flock from violence.

      We have a long way to go with educating people that the same multiple layer defense against fire also works for protecting against violence.

      Would love to help you in any way I can, brother!

      God Bless!

      Jeff

      Reply
      • Aaron Israel

        Yes. Great resource. The things Jimmy Meeks and LTC Grossman are doing with churches around the country is great! I had the opportunity to attend one of the seminars a couple of years ago and it was an awesome program. What I hope is that people who attend will take the motivation that comes from the event and use it to seek out training resources to move beyond the concept of “sheepdog” and put it into practice through frequent and realistic training. Good stuff.

        Reply
      • Aaron

        Interesting comments. As a MO educator after Sandy Hook our school board said enough is enough and sent a select member of staff to extensive training, thus paving the way for our school being the first public school in the state to have armed teachers. Since we are in a conservative part of the state we received lots of attention, but has all but died down now. The only thing that hasn’t died down is the teams’ ongoing continuous training…as well as signs on our doors indicating the presence of highly trained employees with concealed firearms. Our school’s philosophy is the ONLY way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to give the good guy one. I enjoy all of the articles and feedback from this site and am currently looking at ways to increase the security of my church just as we have at my school district.

        Reply
  12. Dick Hinrichs

    Our church services are attended by about 450 people.They all carry cell phones.If a problem occurred 911 would be calling the police located 6 blocks away.Leave it to the professionals to handle it.

    Reply
    • David W.

      With all due respect Dick, as good as the police are in many areas, they cannot get to the scene in time. Period. By the time police got to Virginia Tech and could be effective, over 20 were dead. I love our police and they do a fantastic job overall, but they will also tell you, many times they cannot get there in time.

      Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      In the time it takes the police to cover the 6 blocks you mention, scores of people could be murdered in a worst case scenario. There were uniformed officers on the actual premises at the Colorado theater massacre and they were not effective in stopping anything. That mindset of delegating one’s personal security to the “professionals” is naive and dangerous. Professionals are a piece of the response puzzle to be sure, but they are seldom in the right place at the right time.

      Reply
    • William A Whisenant

      With all due respect Dick, Every place of worship is not located near a police station. In our location and probably most rural locations a rapid response to a 911 call is 15+ minutes. Our sheriff’s department and local city police, as good as they are, just don’t have the manpower to cover the areas of their jurisdiction. As much as we might like to the the the professionals can provide the protection, it just isn’t possible. It would be extremely naive to depend solely on them in many locations.

      Reply
    • Kenny Ball

      No disrespect…the station is 6 blocks away, but are the officers always at the station? I hope not!

      Reply
    • Rick

      We are all responsible for our personal security. The police will do the best they can. But, when violence breaks out if they aren’t right there at the moment who is going to stop it and how many will be injured or worse before they get there?

      Reply
  13. Galen Decker

    Dick H’s comment only works, if the police who are 6 blocks away, can be there in 5 to 8 seconds, as that is about the time frame of most criminal initial gun confrontations. If not, then some other quick and reasonable means of personal protection is needed in my opinion and judgment.

    Reply
    • Scott Thompson

      I am a retired police officer training citizens, law enforcement and church safety team member. From the time a member of your congregation calls 911 to the first officer get the radio call to respond is at lest 100 to 180 seconds. How much damage can a determined criminal do in that time frame. Better having trained people with firearms on them.

      Reply
  14. David W.

    I am part of a group, Sheepdogs for Churches. The website is: http://www.sheepdogsafetytraining.com/ . I am also part of a volunteer Emergency Response Team at my church. One of the biggest hindrances I find is a combination of the “good ol’ boy/denial/blinders on” syndrome. Some still think we live in the land of Mayberry. The seminars this group does open a lot of eyes to the potential threat out there. Having Col. Grossman lecture is an extra treasure. I encourage you to check the site. You might find something you like or may want to schedule a seminar at your house of Worship. They are done nationwide. The cost is very reasonable. They are also done with facts to back up what is said.

    Reply
  15. Nate

    My concern is risk and liability. I have a considerable amount of handgun training and ‘shoot don’t shoot’ training from both military and civilian sides and as the director of security at a church I find it hard to believe that a regular citizen has the skill and ability to accurately hit their target in an active shooter situation. Yes, we could promote training within the church but once thats done you’ve open the flood gates for everyone and their dog to bring guns to church and this is virtually impossible to manage.

    My point being, amid the chaos of an active shooter situation and there are multiple (likely inexperienced) people are pulling out their weapons to “kill the bad guy”, innocent bystanders are going to get shot. Yes, whoever shot the innocent person will be prosecuted and likely suited, the church will also be held liable. And when we show up in court we are going to be asked what did we do to try and stop or avoid this “accident” from happening. And when we say, “well we don’t have a policy on concealed carry” or “we have an open policy” what will the courts say? And the other problem is the media. No matter how this incident goes, the spin is going to be negative.

    I’m not saying we should be worrying about what the media says, but as a security director, our job is to protect the integrity of the church not just individuals. Security is not a money-making department in any organization and because its not a revenue-generating department, the security department should be considering every measure to save the church money, particularly by not having to put money towards court costs and settlements.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      Valid concern but you are presupposing that your church would become a shooting gallery. There is no evidence of this having ever happened but there is a ton of evidence to the contrary. A case that comes easily to mind is the oregon mall shooting where the CCW holder produced his weapon but did not take a shot due to the risk to bystanders. I don’t believe that even untrained armed citizens would indiscriminately open fire in such a situation. Not only that.. You are only thinking of one scenario. The active shooter situation is not what is happening in churches. MOST church violence is related to domestic abuse spilling over or personal conflict. To disarm the churchgoer would leave them unable to respond effectively in that situation and there is no way that one security guy or 15 can be in all the places that violence could occur. Unwarranted fears about how 1 very rare scenario could play out is a bad reason to create a non-permissive area for the armed citizen. And that is also an anti-gun talking point to boot that could be used to justify the disarmament of citizens in any public space due to the same type of “crossfire” fears. I respectfully disagree but I do understand that concern as it is one that is raised regularly.

      Reply
      • Nate

        I’m very well aware of church violence statistics and know that most of what happens in churches is domestic related. I’m not presupposing anything and just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean nothing will happen. The whole concept of security is to be pro-active not reactive. If we become reactive then we’ve failed. And to not allow someone to come into a church with a firearm is not a gun rights issue it is the preference and a practice of the facilities and property owner. The church could be a very strong supporter of gun ownership but at the same time the desire to protect the citizens from themselves essentially. Communication is an important factor in this.

        Also, the only reason why I mentioned the one scenario is to respond to your endorsement of civilians bring concealed weapons into church. I’m not completely against it and I understand where you’re coming from but people need to see the big picture as well, not just one person’s opinion. When they draw that firearm they themselves are putting themselves and others around them at risk. And an untrained civilian with a concealed weapon is very much a major risk and the likeliness of them firing into a crowd whether intentional or unintentional is more likely than a high trained civilian or a police officer.

        I appreciate your point of view and agree with the article as a whole. You’ve brought up some very helpful points, but I felt the need to help paint a bigger picture on one specific point because it is such a hot topic of conversation among church-goers and church security leaders. Ultimately churches need to know what they are getting themselves into when they allow an open concealed carry policy.

        Reply
        • Aaron Israel

          They are “getting themselves into” the same thing that the mall or the movie theater does by not preventing concealed carry.. You don’t “allow” a fundamental right; you either choose to infringe on it or you do not. Your logic of “protecting people from themselves” is the EXACT same thing you would hear from any gun control group. It absolutely is a gun rights issue. You cannot say you support the rights of armed citizens out of one side of your mouth and then infringe upon them “for their own good” with the other. Us normal folk just can’t be trusted to carry our defensive tools is basically what you are saying. Your logic does not add up. We both agree that training is important and should be encouraged; but it ought not be required as a condition of exercising a right. And I can find no evidence of your fear in the worst case scenario of people shooting into crowds being warranted or born out in any actual events. If you can point to a situation where that has been an issue, I’m all ears.

          Reply
          • James

            I am very confident that the vast majority of concealed carrier realize that they are putting themselves and offer directly in harms way by pulling out their weapon. I also believe that they put themselves and others at a much higher risk by doing nothing when they have the means stop stop a situation. The accretion that the “untrained” civilians would just fire blindly and or reckless into a crowd without regard to bystanders safety is

  16. Rally

    Do to the recent world events of violence against Christians and Jewish alike, My Pastor expressed his concern since I have both Police and Military background. Along with the written request of the property owner we now have a five man / women plain clothed armed “Worship protection team” who will remain incognito unless a situation develops then so that responding law enforcement officers know that we are not the perpetrators, authorized badges and I.D.’s will be displayed. I really appreciate All of your feelings and concerns above. God Bless.
    EPHESIANS 6:11

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      Good job stepping up, Rally! The logical next step with your team, which I’m sure you are already taking, is to seek out quality training and make it a regular occurrence to get together and practice as a team.

      Reply
  17. Matt Lyman

    Thanks for this great Article! I am a Arms dealer and also a member of the Security Team at our Church. We train for this for the off Chance something could happen and I also have let our Teams know that if you carry, know when and when not to use it. I am also trying to get more of our men and women into the RMA Soft Body Armor (IIIa) that we distribute because it’s not detected in a Compression shirt and could save a life if someone trys to stab or shoot the. There are many ways to practice Security and I hope those that have read this have a Plan of Action at their Church and Proper Training.

    Reply
  18. JoeUSooner

    Advertising a church (or a school) as a “gun-free” zone simply informs criminals that they have a government guarantee(!) that they will encounter NO armed resistance until the police arrive…

    I do not consider that a world-class idea.

    Reply
  19. wolverine07

    Excellent article. I am often asked these same questions from churches. Unfortunately, many churches believe that having CPL holders as their security team equates to a professionally trained team.

    Reply
    • Aaron Israel

      Some don’t have the budget for a professional team. CHL holders being organized into an official team raises legal concerns in some states. A church can do its part on a budget by simply encouraging training above and beyond state mandates for CHL holders in the congregation and making it a program that they promote. Few actually do this unfortunately. But it is a thing that is on the rise.

      Reply
  20. joeusooner

    Luckily, my Methodist church leaders take a very responsible position regarding security matters. They have adhered to the precepts of this article, and the atmosphere is both reassuring and conducive to worship.
    Thanks for this insightful article.

    Reply
  21. Texas

    Amazing enough, my church has numerous members who carry concealed. Problem is that they all have no professional training. I’m a retired federal agent who shoots constantly. I keep my skills up. The so called security team is made up of young people who have no experience. I will burn off a copy of this and give it to my pastor. Even though his brother is retired Denver PD officer, I still worry. Thanks so much for this article and I hope our church takes this seriously.

    Reply
    • fundefense

      Thanks for the comment. I hope they will take it seriously as well. If you are in Texas (assuming from the name), give me a shout if they want to get some training going. I can be reached at fundamentaldefense@gmail.com or at http://www.fundamentaldefense.com. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in Texas think that the licensing process is training and just stop there. One of the many pitfalls of state-mandated courses. I try to fill the gap but people have to believe that they need it.

      Reply
  22. Dave Smith

    After the church shooting in Charleston, NC, I spoke with our senior pastor about the issue of security. After several months of discussions with local police and the church’s insurance company, they determined they could not afford an “official” security team of volunteers due to the increased liability insurance costs. Ushers and greeters have been trained in what to look for, what to do, and what NOT to do if they spot a suspicious person. Concealed carry is allowed in the church and there are a few people who do. However, my concern is that there is little communication among these people and the person who has access to the silent panic alarm.

    Reply
    • Rich Moberly

      Bortherhood Mutual church insurance provides excellent coverage for church security. They also have a lot of resources for Church security and safety. While Security & Safety are integrated, they are different avenues. Thanks Aaron from PDN. This is a great article and I will be sharing it with our Team directors.

      Reply
  23. James Baughman

    This subject has been quietly discussed among a few of us in our church. No plans have been made. I think we need to do more. However licensed ccw is discreetly accepted. I know one does, but not how many others do. So its hard to know whether different areas in the “auditorium” are covered. Greatest source of unease is adequate time on a range. So reports like this one are vital thought provokers.

    Reply
  24. Ken Anderson

    The church I attend has volunteer security team from church who carry to protect small congregation. Also video survailance. Skills training always important. Theses articles are great to open communication on defense.

    Reply
    • Jessie cartlidge

      I have read the comments in this thread and find most are taking some sort of measure to protect the pastor and congregation. We have a group of volunteers that rotate duties of gate keepers greeters and ushers. All are “trained” in the level of response we are going to deploy in the various situations that could occur, including a physical attack. Knowing your partners reaction is a key component to the plan. Radio com is also important to address concerns discretely. Concealed carry is not discouraged and only a few key folks know who is. Our “team” is not officially organized and is led by members who got licensed for armed security primarily for the purpose of church security. We have all agreed that we will not be the first to escalate a situation, we will not be the first to pull a weapon and most certainly will not be the first to fire a shot.
      We are trusting The Lord God will protect us at that critical point.

      Reply
  25. Chris

    I enjoy reading articles like this, even though they discourage me. I attend a protestant non-denominational church in the suburbs. Virtually all white middle and upper class. The board is adamant that NO ONE is to carry,even with a valid permit.
    -They think that a roving band of unarmed security personnel are adequate.
    -They think that we are “safe enough” despite our previous and current pastor having made bold statements against homosexual marriage.
    -They think we are safe enough despite having had a well-known former Muslim speaker who has active fatwas against him including death.
    -They think that in the event of a violent outburst, enough people will courageously rush the person that we will be able to overcome the person by sheer numbers.

    I have tried just about every argument I can think of to try to sway the board member in charge of security. He will not budge. He’s more concerned about getting the security volunteers “situational awareness” training than allowing CC in the building.

    If anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.

    Reply
  26. Eric

    Frankly, if my church prohibited carry, I’d leave (and find a more biblical one).

    Reply
  27. Jerry McDonald Sr

    My church has ask me to help with a security team, I need information on how, what to do thanks

    Reply
  28. Baron

    When our church plant moved into a leased building and formally organized as a church, requiring a constitution and by-laws, the boilerplate we got to work with included making the church a gun-free zone. As a church officer and a member, I made it quite clear that, if this were not removed, I would resign as an officer and a member. I encountered no negative feedback when I brought this up. I mention this to note the bias that exists toward concealed carry in churches, whether because of anti-gun bias, or just the feeling of some that guns and churches don’t mix. Note that we have no formal or informal security staff or program, so I and any other members who may be CCW permit holders who exercise their right to carry in church are our ONLY line of defense against the active shooter.

    BTW, my state is one that prohibits concealed carry on church grounds if the church also has a school. Note that this is at ANY time, not just when the school is in session. My former church falls in this category and, should our church plant fail, it is one, but not the only, reason I will never go back to that church, especially as they, also, have no formal or informal security system established.

    Reply
  29. Shawn

    Great article. I am the Director of Training at a large church in Georgia. It has taken a year or so to do so but we have the support of ThenElders and Deacons. We do employee off duty officers however the bulk of our team is volunteers. We train two Saturdays a month 4 hours each session. I also ensure everyone who does carry, qualifies 4 times a year and a majority of our training is hands in scenario based training. Although we do not advertise as a “gun free” zone, we do not knowingly let parishioners carry in church. The last thing we want in a crowded environment is someone who is not properly trained to start shouting. I also go as far as to ensure the persons on our team carry the correct ammunition for the environment we function in. If anyone needs any info on team setup , training or lessons we have learned please feel free to reach out. Thanks again for featuring an article on Church security, this is often an overlooked are. just as the article said make sure you get good quality training. This is a unique environment. At the end of the day your civilian team is in place to protect the flock and not embarrass the church. I tell my guys all the time that we are here to keep the peace until thenPolice arrive. Thanks again.

    Reply
  30. Major Frederick C.Meyer

    As a decorated combat veteran , attorney at law , and concealed carry licensed gun owner in New York State for 40 years I take issue with your abuse of “private security teams”. I suppose you would prefer a congregation to be totally unarmed . Maybe they can “reason” with terrorists .

    Reply
  31. Gary Behrnes

    I am part of a church security team in a church of 3500 members. Team is composed of le officers and ccw permit holders. Also have emt personnel with medical bags and 2 defibrillators. We have quarterly shoot training classes. It takes a lot of work but is worth it for the safety of the congregation.

    Reply
  32. Jay

    I live in a small town and our Church attendance is 35-50 each week. We are in Wyoming and not too worried that there would be an active shooter situation but, myself and at least 1onther member carry concealed every Sunday. Most of the people in our town have weapons and hunt regularly. So glad to not be iin a large city anymore.

    Reply
  33. Randy

    Well written and well thought out. I have lived in seven different cities, four different states and I have attended a number of different churches over the last 30+ years since the first CC permit I got. If it was not in the churches rules and regulations or against State law, I carry with the knowledge of the minister and/or the church elders. It is a shame that even churches are not safe from violent people.

    Reply
  34. Dale

    I cannot think of an active shooter attack that was not in a “gun free zone”. Mandalay Bay was gun free, Alexandria, VA, baseball park was gun free, Newtown, San Bernadina, Flash night club, all “gun free zones”. There is a lot of evidence that shooters pick these venues because they know there is no security. Another note, in our town, there are more churches that law enforcement personnel, most of whom would like to go to their own church on Sunday. And hiring a full time guard for the church secretary is not in the budget. CHL is the only way to go here for most churches.

    Reply
  35. Michael

    Oh Aaron, where were you when we started wading through this swamp? 😉
    We started down this path 6-7 years ago at the request of our Pastor with 3 men, prompted by the occurrence of the types of more-probable events that your article mentions (people with serious mental health issues, potentially violent contested divorces, etc.). For most of that time, we have been “behind the scenes,” quietly supporting security issues in and around our church. In the last couple of years, we’ve doubled in size, “gone public,” and are incorporated into our church’s organizational structure and covered by the church’s insurance (in addition to our own personal insurance). [By the way, the church’s insurers sent an inch-thick write up on the subject!) We have access to excellent training facilities, and are working on promoting a U.S. Marshal’s training class along with 6-8 other local congregations. Physical plant security (access control, parking lot monitoring, on-watch during services, etc.) are well established. While some members of our congregation “don’t want to know” or are truly uncomfortable with the idea, our baseline is still valid: If the statistics catch up with us, how can we live with ourselves when we could see it (potentially) coming and didn’t do what we could?
    But there is much to be done, and your article helps lead the way.

    Reply
  36. Michael

    Excellent and timely article. Because I move around a lot, I have been to many churches. Each church is different in their view of this issue. We have recently left a large church that would not let anyone carry a gun. As part of the security group, we were told that no one, including law enforcement were allowed in the building with a gun. This is one of the many reasons we have changed churches. Currently, we are joining a small church whose pastor has asked me to take the lead on security. We have controlled access points and installed security monitors. For me, the best thing is that the pastor encourages those inclined and licensed to carry concealed. They understand there is a fine line between making the facilities a fortress and a welcoming church. They also understand that a determined individual is unstoppable without members being observant and willing to act when an issue presents itself. Thank you for the article. I plan to forward this to the Pastor at our new church.

    Reply
  37. Semper Fidelis

    One cannot always depend on others for personal defense. …I am licensed and
    ‘CC’ every time I go out. … The World is not a Playground anymore, never has been. My reason for CC is that if YOU don’t want to CC and are reluctant to defend yourself, well then, when that monster is done with you, then I will protect myself. However, if YOU cry for help while the monster is having its way with you, then I may consider helping you, depending on the ‘situation’ with you and the monster. I have had three occasions to defend myself or help others in life, all 3 with good results = 1 dead; 1 died in prison; 1 in jail for life who was long sought after by the law, a mugger with a record a yard long.

    Reply
  38. Rich Moberly

    Excellent article. Great information. While I won’t give details of what we do, suffice it to say, we are legal in the state, involve local active LEO’s, and train, train and it still isn’t enough training. Thank you for caring and sharing. Rich

    Reply
  39. Jerry Merchant

    Great article, I manage a church security team an you have given me food for thought. I am also an NRA instructor with several other certs.

    Reply
  40. JAMES ALLEN WYATT, JR.

    To be 70 years of age if I live until Thanksgiving (11/27), when we were able to attend Church, I was quite probably the only one in congregation that was armed, having literally grown up in Dad’s shop where he built custom hunting rifles and did gunsmithing and since high school and college and the rest of life I have always gone armed and although there were cops in the Church congregation, I was probably the only one armed, having always take seriously the old and now probably considered out moted “BE PREPARED”, firmly believing that to do otherwise was to ASSUME THE RISK with the potential results being INJURY OR DEATH.

    Reply
  41. HCUA

    A couple of years ago, a female deputy sheriff somewhere stopped a shooter at a church before much damage was done. I don’t know if she was attending the service or not, but, she was a stopper.

    Reply
  42. William L Harvey

    Spot on, the discussion starts even before this….houses of worship were not/are not designed with crime prevention in mind. In performing vulnerability assessments with houses of worship, it goes back to crime prevention 101. They are designed to be a place of peace and ‘hardening the target’ is an obscure thought. Well done article, planning a safety team and training them is paramount to success!

    Reply
  43. John F Nice, Jr

    A very good article. I have been reading about this for a little while now as we are in such troublous times. A good book that addresses the issue a little more is “Ministry of Defense: Executive Protection of the Ministry” by Pablo Birriel.

    Reply
  44. Gary Poindexter

    In WI if you DO NOT post a no guns sign on your business you are NOT liable for the actions of armed individuals on your premises. That is, you are not liable for CCW permit holders defending themselves. If you DO post your business you do not have the protection. Aldis took down their signs after there was a robbery and a CCW permit holder, who ignored their sign, defended himself and his wife from an armed robber. A smart lawyer apparently pointed out that denying their customer’s 2nd amendment rights created a liability.

    Reply
  45. Gary Poindexter

    I see most of these comments are from 2015/16 so the PDN link must be a republish. Lots of great comments and suggestions. In WI if you DO NOT post your business you are NOT liable for the actions of those who choose to carry. If you post ‘no gun’ signs you may be liable if there is an incident and a permit holder is harmed.

    Reply
  46. Richard Duree

    Brilliant answer, well developed and written. I hope someone is reading it and I will teach these concepts to my private students. Thank you.

    Reply
  47. SkySoldier

    A pastor at a former church I attened in another state use to go “plinking” with me and a few other men in the church. So, he asked me to carry concealed at church services. Am I a certified security guard, NO, but I am a Army veteran and qualified in a variety of weapons and physical defense tactics (Tae Kwon Do). But, since only about 3% of most church attendees are active or former military, and a few may be active/former LEO, it’s preferred to have plainsclothed security and it not be overly “obvious” as a deterrent. I’d much prefer that a potential bad guy with evil intent not know who the security is in a church.

    Reply
  48. Michael

    My family’s church is small and not wealthy. There are 5 of us that are concealed carry permit holders. We have worked hard on planning and coordinating as a loose response plan, our roles are dependent on what the threat and our proximity to it. Either engage, shepherd people away, medical response etc. As a side note we all carry the same model of pistol for training and ammo, magazine compatibility sharing..

    Reply
  49. Randolph Mills

    Good article. It is a must for every church to have some type of Saftey team. Security team requires special training and certification. A Saftey team is volunteers setting up a guard for the church. A background check of each member is a must and make sure they are adequately equipped. God’s speed to all safety teams

    Reply
  50. Donna

    I believe the people,mental,bad,mean… whatever are always going to get guns.They will buy them off the street,steal them from gun shops or our homes. We need more people to carry a gun,where they can protect themselves,their families, innocent people. We just have to. It’s sad,but it’s the world we live in now.

    Reply
  51. Robb

    We are in the process of starting a team and are considering carrying pepper spray and flashlight to start. I’m in Wa state. Is there any legal things I need to know about

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  52. Robert

    Our church has a coordinated team of highly-trained volunteers, including former SEALs, SF, law enforcement and firearms and martial arts instructors. We have clear protocols, radio contact and codes, and clear presence by wearing “Security” shirts while carrying concealed. Works well and always improving!

    Reply
  53. Charlie Mello

    Wondered if y’all have and recommendation with regard to video surveillance equipment – manufacturers, whether the video capture should be stored on site or utilize a service that is cloud based, etc.

    I also am interested in any recommendations for security communication equipment.

    Reply
  54. Donald Saxum

    Wonderful information I will pass along to my church as we are trying to set up a security plan

    Reply
  55. James Hunt

    Aaron,
    Just wanted to chime in. Much has changed since 2015. I have served on a church team for several years. Our team is singled out as Safety/Security. We have never, praise God, had the need to draw a firearm at a service but we have had domestic violence issues and have many, many more medical incidents than anything else. Our church has an AED, first aid kits, and trained personnel that know how to respond.
    I am currently rolling out a very similar program at a church plant. As for deterrence, we wear a $5.00 hat with the word Security clearly visible on the front. We are positioned in the lobby and sanctuary until the service starts. Once the service starts, we lock all exterior doors except for the main entrance. We have one officer station at that entrance standing “door watch” until the service is over. We have one officer that “floats”, throughout the building during the service backing up the door watch person and periodically checking all child care areas watching out for any issues. We also assign one officer directly to the pastor/speaker. ALL team members are issued midland radios with ear pieces. The whisper mode of these radios allows for communication even in the sanctuary without disrupting the service. Communication is vital for any church thinking of rolling out a program. We are also working up and will rollout soon an evacuation plan and lockdown procedures.
    I agree that having a professional would be great but if none are available, a safety/security team can be developed and employed with some time, effort, common sense and prayer. Jim

    Reply
  56. Jeff Gainous

    Good ideas on church security Aaron. What are your thoughts on churches/synagogues using a command center housed in an exterior modular building that is bullet resistant? Jeff

    Reply
  57. Peter A Ott

    Churches (or anyone) concerned about improving their EDC and emergency medical readiness in a no hassle (ie: no blow out kits or trauma bags to retrieve from wherever) convenient, comfortable, discreet, mobile, and all occasion / weather method should take a look at TacBuddy.com. It is revolutionary in that it is a IFAK – magazine pouch combination. Use it as one or the other or, a combination of both. Perfect for formal events such as a church service bc it is completely discreet and comfortable all day. You can double your EDC and have emergency medical items at the ready. Faster than a trauma kit. It is where needed when needed. TacBuddy.com!

    Reply
  58. pearl

    Does anyone have training material for safety and security specifically made for church.

    Reply