It is a scenario that was once unthinkable; and now is a growing concern in churches ranging from the rural country churches of Oklahoma all the way to the mega-churches coast to coast the active shooter.
The absolute nightmare scenario of sounds of worship and prayer being replaced with gunshots.
Does the idea of even discussing this scenario of a shooter in a church appear unseemly or unnecessary to you? Then you are the person this article is written for.
What reason do you need to take my word on this topic?
Because my passion includes protecting people.
I am a Seminary graduate with a Masters of Practical Theology from ORU in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I earned an Associates of Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Sociology from Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. My credentials as the founder of 144 Church Protection Seminars include: a 4th Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate, teaching street self-defense professionally since 1999, and an extensive background in law enforcement and security.
I give these qualifications as I have discovered some frustrating similarities between the fields of personal protection, theology and church security: otherwise rational, educated individuals can be incredibly stubborn in being open to new ideas and concepts once they are "set in their ways." It's my hope that you will accept what I'm presenting, and respond with action that will move your church forward in security preparedness.
A prevailing argument given by many well meaning pastors is, "We have never had any issues here, so why should we worry about an active shooter or any church security issues? It's just inviting trouble."
Counter argument: You have never actually died from food poisoning, right? So why bother washing your hands before eating or working to ensure you only eat properly prepared foods?
This is not trying to be flippant, however the first argument sounds as ridiculous to any security professional as the food poisoning argument likely just sounded to you.
Another argument: "We have faith that God will protect us."
(Tongue in cheek) Argument: Ask any Seminary student about how challenging and exhausting earning a degree is. A particularly hard class for many is Church History. What if the week of the final for that class the student had thought, God wanted me to attend Seminary. God brought me to this city specifically to attend Seminary. So, I have faith he will just give me the answers so I'm going to just watch some Hulu and eat some Cheetos tonight instead of hitting the gym and studyingafter all, He wants me healthy right, so He will take care of that too!
OK, how about a much more serious argument: Ninety thousand Christians were murdered for their faith around the globe this year, which amounts to one being killed every six minutes. Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world (Reuters n.d.)
For any church to use the argument that We have faith so God won't let anything happen to our church is an insult to the memory of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been martyred for their faith. Is the faith of the church that has never been attacked, somehow stronger than the missionary who was murdered after giving up everything to spread the gospel?
From veterans to cops, from security officers to true martial art instructors, to anyone who has trained for and survived a violent encounter, they will all tell you the same thing: you must be prepared mentally.
No matter how tough, how strong, how fast, how well armed you are; if your mind isn't prepared, you will at best get injured and fail at your job, and more than likely, in a true life or death encounter, you will die and innocents will be injured or killed as well.
Church security is no different, in fact, it is even more important in so many ways. It is not a matter of if but when there will be another active shooter incident in a church.
In 2014 there were 176 deadly force incidents documented at churches and faith based organizations in the United States.
As a church leader, you must prepare your congregation to accept the potential reality of - and the need to be prepared for - an active shooter in your church.
Anything less is irresponsible.
In short, to get the church' mind right, youas the church leader must have your mind right, that is, prepared to accept this reality and train properly.
A church needs to be prepared for anything from the mundane, such as a child locked in a restroom, all the way to the extreme situation of an active shooter.
As overwhelming as this may seem, there are numerous small steps a church can take to form a proper church security team - a team tasked with one of the most honorable missions there is, to protect the saints in God's house.
I’ve given you points to ponder, discuss and pray about. Be on the lookout for my next article which details interviews with experts and pastors, ranging from a federal agent to a combat veteran, will include proven tips and tactics to help a church begin to prepare for the possibility of an active shooter.
Tim Fancher will be presenting at WFX Conference & Expo in Dallas; Wed. October 11 on a session titled:
The Need For Practical and Purposeful Church Security in an Age of Terror and Violence