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(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a series on church security. Read Part 1 here.)
A July 2013 USA Today article titled “Churches boost security as violent incidents grow” reported that “The number of deadly episodes at sanctuaries has soared over the last decade, and mass shootings at schools, malls and movie theaters have left Americans feeling like it could happen anywhere.”
As I noted in Part 1, there were roughly only 10 incidents of church violence across the U.S a decade ago. In 2007, there were 41 incidents. In 2009, there were 108. In 2012, there were more than 135. And by mid-July 2013, there were already 58.
Why the increases?
There are likely many reasons: several of them related to why there are increased shootings in schools and government facilities across the country. Yet, there are undoubtedly a few unique reasons, too.
USA Today further explained, “Security experts also point to a growing hostility toward differing beliefs as one of the reasons for the trend of violence aimed at houses of worship.”
I ended Part 1 saying there’s a balance between faith and defense, but I believe we’re called to both. One verse in the Jewish Scriptures reads, “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
Gary Cass, chairman of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, told WND staff writer Bob Unruh, “Self-defense is not just a right, but a Christian duty. Jesus told his followers, ‘if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’ Christians are not to be a soft target for the hateful and deranged. Church leaders have a duty not to allow a crazed gunman to come and shoot up their congregation.”
Shreveport, La., pastor Ed Gonzalez told CNN affiliate KSLA that someone once entered his office with violent intent. Gonzales explained via KSLA, “He walked in my office and told me God told him to take me out.” He was fortunately able to talk him down.
The event helped Gonzalez to see what easy targets churches can be and to warn other clergy of the same. He now has security measures in place to ensure that he and his congregation are not caught off-guard or undefended if they are ever assaulted again.
Gonzales forewarns, “Pastors need to awake and realize that we live in a world of turmoil, hatred and bitterness, so they have to do something to protect those sheep. As long as there is sin on this Earth we’re going to have violence.”
With the holiday season approaching fast, it’s a heartache that houses of worship have to consider their safety among their festival preparations, but such is a sign of our times.
If a church has no safety and security plan, I recommend the following:
- Send this article to your local clergy and church leadership; tell them, “Chuck told me to!”
- Consult church security groups and websites like CarlChinn.com, SecurityAtChurch.com, CopAndCross.org and others for safety and self-defense information. .
- Also check out book resources, such as “Keeping your Church Safe” by Ron Aguiar, event management Louisville Metro Police Department and Southeast Christian Church’s director of safety and security. Another great book is Carl Chinn’s “Evil Invades Sanctuary,” Chapter 4 of which provides sound guidance on setting up a faith-based safety and security operation. Another possibility is “Church Safety and Security: A Practical Guide” by Robert M. Cirtin, John M. Edie and Dennis K. Lewis. An excellent book and DVD combo is “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self Defense,” an excellent message that tells the story of how one man saved many lives in a congregation gathered in prayer. Every pastor concerned about church security needs this information.
- Seek out church safety seminars and training conventions like those offered by Carl Chinn or the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management (the Called 2 Duty website). The first Sheepdog Seminar for Churches is Feb. 21-22, 2014, in Denver, Colo.
- I also recommend that church leaders come together with local law enforcement –hopefully who are also a part of their congregation – to discuss church safety. At the very least, I’m certain these public servants and trained defenders with concealed weapons licenses would be more than willing to volunteer by rotating a post discreetly at public events.
- Lastly, prepare an emergency plan just in case the inevitable happens. Christianity Today cited Andrew G. Mills from BuildingChurchLeaders.com, who said, “If a shooter gets in:
“Pastors or other visible leaders should draw attention away from the congregation.
“Throw hymnals, yell from multiple directions, and attempt to tackle shooter from behind en masse.
“Establish communication with the police as soon as possible. (Preferably, only those on the church’s crisis response team should call 9-1-1.)
“When police arrive, stay on the ground until you are told to move. When told to get up, move slowly with no objects in your hand.”
Reported incidents of church violence have indeed radically risen, but never forget – statistically speaking – houses of worship are still the safest places on the globe.
Here’s how being in a sanctuary measures up against other exit tickets from planet Earth, according to Christianity Today:
- “The chance you will die in the next 12 months from an injury are about one in 1,681.”
- In a car accident, the odds are one in 6,539
- In a plane crash, one in 502,554
- From a hornet, wasp or bee sting, one in 3,615,940
- From a lightning strike, one in 6,177,230
- From church violence, one in 18,393,327
Just because God and the odds are with us, however, doesn’t mean we check in our security brains at the door of faith. We’re not likely to be struck by lightning, either, but that doesn’t mean we walk around holding up a long, metal rod during a lightning storm.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but He also hasn’t given us a spirit of foolishness.
No one should hesitate to attend houses of worship and their special events this holiday season. At the same time, from harvest festivals (Halloween alternatives) to Christmas services, no church should go without a security plan and team enforced to protects its people in case of emergency.
Tis’ the season to increase church security.