The Ministry of Defense: Protecting Houses of Worship

Editor’s Note: Regardless of your personal religious beliefs, the issue of church security is one that impacts all our communities, and the solutions apply to a variety of public settings. Whether you attend a place of worship regularly or not, I encourage you to read this article and think about how the ideas within it might affect your own thoughts on personal and family safety.

ministry of defense

Photo: author

I was sitting in my home on June 17, 2015 when a friend called and told me to turn on the local news broadcast. My heart sank as I watched the aftermath of a mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina. But unlike the vast majority of people in the country, the churches as well, I was not at all surprised by the attack. In 2004 I had been motivated to write the first book on protecting houses of worship. It is a comprehensive guide to the when, why and how not only of establishing a security team but also how to manage it. When the book was published in 2006, I started the task of disseminating information to those ministries in need. In this article, I will present my view of the current state of affairs in this arena and maybe even get a little prophetic in the process.

Historical Foundation


Community outreach with active security. Photo: Denneco Pruitt

News networks have bombarded the public with the newest wave of attacks against the ministry, but the question comes to mind: is this new? The church has sustained mayhem, death and destruction since its inception. In the Bible, Aaron, the first priest, established a systemic approach to protection with his instructions to ring the tabernacle in the desert with warriors to prevent worshippers from being attacked. We have seen many types of attacks, including the firebombing of churches and vandalism of mosques, synagogues and temples. It has always been this way throughout history; men have always killed in the name of God. I have to agree with Solomon: there is no new thing upon the earth.


No matter who quotes statistics, they must vastly under-report the information because of one very important reason: no agency is required to collect data of attacks against ministries. The agencies that do report do so voluntarily and I would submit to you that most ministries don’t file charges for fear of appearing to the public as “ungodly.” Several years ago, I submitted a copy of my book to the Crystal Cathedral after I discovered they had no security in place to protect their members. To me this was insane, and soon I found out that someone had made their way into the sanctuary and committed suicide. Of the various sources you can review, trends indicate crimes against the ministry increase 15% every year, but this again is based on available information. So more and more we have seen the rise of attacks, and the violence of these attacks has escalated. Which brings us to the next question: why?

What’s Going On?


Larger turnouts require increased observational skills. Photo: Denneco Pruitt

I believe we are seeing an escalation of violence against ministries for several reasons.

  • Scandals: The heavily publicized shortcomings of pastors starting with Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart revealed to the general public that people in the pulpit are human beings. With the removal of this false sense of holiness in the public’s eye and the criminal eye as well, attacks against ministries were no longer taboo.
  • Alternative lifestyles: With the promotion of alternative lifestyles and non-traditional relationships, we see the development of intolerance and sometimes persecution against those who openly express their faith.
  • Radicalism: The expansion of radical Islam has provided us with a firsthand view of the massacre of Christians throughout the world. In many countries, alternative methods of worship are often punishable by death.
  • Indifference: The public is no longer concerned about what occurs in churches because they themselves don’t go.

How Do We Combat the Trend?

MOD security team

Team building through situational awareness training. Photo: Denneco Pruitt

We must examine the various options we have to discourage this current trend. Because of the ferocity of the current attacks, many ministries are pursuing security training, which is good, but is standard training good enough? The unique aspect of the church being a place of spiritual healing dictates that standard security training or guards is not sufficient to assist ministries in making themselves safe. Over my years of providing support in this arena, I have found that to truly make a difference, anyone engaging in security in ministry must have a sound foundation in servant leadership. Things that are permissible in a worldly environment are not permissible within the confines of ministry. A balance of professionalism and love is needed in the execution of duties. The function of the church is to serve those in need, which means a large number of people coming through its doors will have committed a variety of transgressions. It is to be a place of great compassion, and no level of security can be established without taking this into consideration. At all the churches I train, there are several things I suggest they do.

  1. 1. Train: The hardest thing to get a ministry to do is commit to a training program. After years of scandals, they are sensitive to the public view and often err on the side of appearance’s sake. Remind them it is their duty to protect not only the spiritual man and woman of those who come in their doors, but also to be responsible for their physical wellbeing.
  2. 2. Connect: As a Christian, I have been commanded to show kindness and compassion to my fellow man. This is both strong doctrine and good policy. As you make yourself known throughout the community your church is established in, you will make your congregation safer.
  3. 3. Observe: I teach observational psychology to all people who attend my seminars. Learning how to actively see or hear in your environment is a skill that everyone must have to avoid danger.
  4. 4. Prepare: Present real-world scenarios to those who undertake this task. It is impossible to react effectively to something you have never anticipated.
  5. 5. Plan: If you have not prepared an effective plan, you can expect chaos and major damage within your ministry in the event of an attack.
  6. 6. Public Relations: Establish a communications protocol and an official spokesperson to handle inquiries from the media. The public view must be managed carefully after an incident.
  7. 7. Consider: At the very least, review the possibility of an armed option within your ministry. Establish a training program that emphasizes the physical aspects of removing an intruder/trespasser from your ministry grounds.

What is MOD?

deescalate violence

Using communication and direction to de-escalate volatile situations. Photo: Denneco Pruitt

The program I train ministries with is called MOD, which stands for Ministry of Defense. I chose the name because it establishes ministry first. The most important aspect of ministry is to serve — to serve the public as well as the church. To work effectively with the leadership of any church, you must have an understanding not only of its function but also tactical skill. Many schools can provide the tactical training you require to be effective, but where do you develop the understanding of being a minister in conjunction with being an effective protector? You must learn how to blend into your environment and not discourage the people who need to be ministered to the most from entering the sanctuary for fear of falling under the eyes of an overzealous security ministry.

We actively train in the areas of observational psychology, servant leadership, hand-to-hand combat, crowd control, CPR/AED, communications, and crisis management. We also train other things that are specific to our ministry and, for those who request it, I provide firearms training. I also determine the level of service based on the needs of the people attending the church. I have female team members to interact with the female members and visitors of our church. They provide a level of coverage and can enter women’s restrooms and assist in other ways that make them less conspicuous than the male team members. I have a team member who is a member of our deaf ministry. His sole function is to provide information and crowd control to those visitors with impaired hearing. In addition, I have trained non-team members to be my eyes within the ministry, to see potential problems before they develop and to understand how to communicate their concerns to the team.

What Does the Future Hold?

ministry instruction

Author teaches foundation of Ministry of Defense and emphasizes need for a balanced response. Photo: Denneco Pruitt

As this country moves away from traditional values, we will see an even more dramatic increase in attacks. I believe the indifference of the public will make it more acceptable to attack ministries. Recent rhetoric from our politicians is becoming increasingly intolerant to those who believe in Christian values. The establishment of so-called “hate speech” classification to those who disagree threatens the First Amendment rights of the church, and recent SCOTUS rulings suggest more lawsuits and less separation between church and state are coming. As the oppression and persecution of the church escalates, so will the need for security. To those who believe, the Book of Revelation has become a blueprint for what the future holds for houses of worship in this country as well as the rest of the world.

Protecting a ministry is much like protecting anything else. It requires a lot of thought and consideration before attempting to undertake it. You must learn how to negotiate your position with those who will never fully understand their need to tolerate you in the first place. You must develop the ability to be both a warrior and a priest. You must be invisible as to be unobtrusive to those who are passing through the church doors. It is important for you to be the ever-vigilant sheepdog of the shepherd, because wolves are out there.

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89 Responses to “The Ministry of Defense: Protecting Houses of Worship”

  1. William Goshorn

    I would like to acquire one or more copies of the book referenced in this article, MOD: Protecting Houses of Worship. I have been charged with forming a security for my church and would like to get sound information regarding the best approach and structure. Please provide pricing/copy and ordering instructions via return email. Thank you.

  2. Gregory E Harber

    Most domestic violence is perpetrated by right-wing hate, not diversity and inclusion.

  3. Judy T Wolz

    Very informative and educational article. I went through a security training a number of years ago, and I agree that there is a need for security teams in churches.

  4. Frank Dion

    Sad but true and there is nothing we can do to stop it. So we must be prepared.

  5. Cary

    Most helpful. I believe all clergy who lead congregations should encourage and/or receiving training themselves. Psalm 144:1: BLESSED IS THE LORD, MY ROCK, WHO TRAINS MY HANDS FOR BATTLE AND MY FINGERS FOR WAR

  6. Larry Poulton

    Very interesting articles . NEED to get more information so I can show the pastors at our church.

  7. William Duncan

    Very good food for thought. Add me to the list. Thanks, Bill

  8. Robin Lorenzen

    Excellent article! Thought-full and thought-inspiring. My church has a safety team, but will pass this along to my pastors to share with them.

  9. Gary Truckey

    Sir; you are clearly inspired by the Holy Spirit! (At least that's the opinion of this lowly sinner.) Your writing here coincides with the sentiments described in "The Happy Warrior" by William Wordsworth. I totally concur with your ideas and I would love to have been your student! "Sheepdog of the shepherd"; beautiful image!

  10. JDM

    The church I attend has a very formal and structured security team, of which I am a part of it. Several of our team members are retired military and/or active-duty/retired law-enforcement. Most of our members are at least proficient with a firearm and do conceal-carry every time they are on the premesis. Fortuinately when our church purchased the building we are in now just a few years ago, they devoted a large portion of the budget to security and we are blessed to have a state-of-the-art camera network in place monitoring the building at all times. We are also all linked together by 2-way radio so that if someone sees something suspicious he/she can report it to who ever is on main control immediately. We are blessed to have such tremendous pastoral support because I realize many churches do not have this level of support.