Since the horrific, evil tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a deranged, single gunman killed 26 of our brothers and sisters in Christ; there has been a tremendous amount of interest, conversations and debates about church security. The nature of the debates have overall changed. Gone are the days of arguing about whether a church needs security. The debates now center on how to create, implement and maintain proper church security.
While the few true church security experts are cautiously optimistic that church leaders are now finally open to introducing security in to their church; there are some dangerous, and even irresponsible myths, ideas and concepts about security that are circulating throughout social media, the news, congregations and even some pastors.
This article may ruffle feathers.
Church security is unlike any other discipline of security. Just because someone has a security company, then throws some Scripture in their existing manuals and tries to pitch it as "church security," that does not mean that these standard security procedures will work. There exists a near-palpable tension between standard security procedures, theology, social psychology and criminology.
The following are the top three most dangerous misconceptions about church security, with some additional material at the end of the article to prayerfully consider.
The Paper Tiger Team
This refers to the church that has attempted to create a security team from their volunteers, BUT, there is no real training, minimal organization and certainly (and most troubling) a lack of contingency plans for various situations. The church may even feel safe because they have some volunteers "watching the door."
To be clear, any church that at least made an effort after Sutherland Springs, after Charleston, Las Vegas, or any of the many mass shootings in secular and nonsecular areas is to be applauded. Without question, on a few days notice, at least stationing a known and trusted congregation or church leader with a military, law enforcement or security background at the door is a noble effort. Unfortunately, that can be viewed as simply a band-aid approach.
In the past few weeks, there have been numerous churches that had volunteers, and perhaps a police officer come in to speak about standard security best-practices and active shooter basics. That is well and good to get started, but it is shockingly short of what it takes to have a tactical, purposeful and intentional volunteer church security team that understands the numerous special circumstances that are unique to the discipline of church security.
The Paper Tiger Team is the well-meaning team that might look "tough" and prepared and ready to the congregation, but any true predator that is scouting the church will nearly immediately recognize the lack of plan, the lack of discipline and the overall lack of cohesion that is evident in a trained, cohesive team.
Our Members Carry Firearms
This refers to the church that professes to be safe because various members of the church carry guns. While incredibly irresponsible, dangerous and the very antithesis of the core of true church security, this myth is both common and very easy to refute. This is done with two points:
Point One: If a church is openly saying, "Many of our members have their conceal carry license and are armed. Why…if someone comes in this church, they will be shot down!"
Consider this, do not think of this as a congregation member. Do not think of this idea as a bad guy. Simply think of it as a visitor. If you were new to the area, did not know anyone and you were visiting the neighborhood church; would you feel comfortable wondering how many hidden guns might be all around you and what would happen in a shootout?
Obviously, as the author of the article, the idea of all aspects of protecting a church is favorable. However, the idea that a church uses this approach in lieu of forming a trained, disciplined church security team directly violates the spirit of a core concept of church security. A church must always strive to implement proper people and procedures to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere; while still maintaining the correct level of command presence and needed vigilance through purposeful planning.
Boldly proclaiming that a bad guy will get filled with holes by randomly firing congregation members fails to meet that goal
Point Two: This is very simple. What about the children? Do you know what kind of ammunition every member of the congregation is carrying? Do you know if they have any idea what is on the other side of that wall? The inherent, unacceptable risk with this cowboy mentality is bullets flying, and a stray round penetrating another room. The church security team, if armed; simply must consider the types of rounds they are carrying and ensure they are designed to flatten upon impact and are less likely to penetrate a wall.
Point Three: The Cop in the 3rd Row Fallacy
This is the all too common response when a true church security expert asks about existing church security procedures and the pastor says, "Oh, well, Officer Smith is a cop, a sharpshooter and he is always in the third row; so we are safe, we don't need anything else."
The simple response is: How does that make an entire church safe?
In other words, the idea that a police officer, who is there as a congregation member, will somehow be able to simultaneously prevent, react to and manage everything - from a child throwing a temper tantrum that is locked in the bathroom, to a car filled with unknown subjects repeatedly driving through the parking lot, all the way to the active shooter - is certainly misguided.
How is Officer Smith to know if there is a potential threat in the parking lot? Is there pre-planned radio communication? How is he to know if there are raised voices coming from outside the nursery due to a custodial dispute when the praise and worship music is drowning out all sounds? Further, if the officer is there in plain clothes, in what way does his presence create a visible deterrent or a command presence to any potential subject who might be scouting the church as a potential target?
To try to claim that the church is safe because a cop or cops are members is irresponsible. It is unfair to the officers, it is unfair to the congregation and it is unfair to the entire community.
Finally, briefly consider this: the unreached, the unbelievers, the agnostics and those that have fallen away from the church. According to a March, 2014 study by The Barna Group, 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
If someone is undecided about God, or have left the church, and as likely to look for reasons to not believe as reasons to believe, what impact will continued church massacres have on their faith?
In other words, there is a spiritual component to this, to include spiritual warfare! A church has an obligation to protect its members in the natural, just as surely as in the supernatural. Further, we must be mindful that by taking the steps to harden the church against threats, while theologically balancing implemented security measures to continue to create a welcoming presence can only be maintained by a purposeful, intentional approach.
An approach that recognizes the threats that these misconceptions create. We must not be idle or tarry in our intent. The ramifications are beyond the four walls, it must be recognized that the unbelievers will try to justify this as further proof against God.
As Scripture says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12