Sunday morning on 12/29/19 a church volunteer security guard saved the lives of over 200 attendees at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. The volunteer was an experienced firearms instructor, he was legally carrying a firearm and took down a gunman with a single shot.
Unfortunately, another volunteer was fatally shot while reaching for his weapon. No matter how you address it, view it, or prioritize it, church security is a growing risk and a need for houses of worship in the US. But it is not as simple as arming trusted individuals or your congregation.
As a pastor in Newark, OH and Risk Advisor for churches at the Hummel Group, this topic is both personal and a priority. Every church is unique, every risk is individual, and every solution is custom. There is not a one size fits all strategy to church security and safety. State laws on concealed carry, location restrictions, liability concerns, management responsibilities, available resources, ministry size, and more all play into the process of providing the best solution for each congregation.
For example, the church I pastor meets at a local high school auditorium. That provides unique challenges in the state of Ohio. Our church is also just over a year old. As a growing church, with a healthy children’s ministry, and a mobile set up, where does that leave us? All church leaders know it is hard enough to find volunteers to greet and teach in the kids’ ministry, now we have to staff and train a security presence?
It can be overwhelming to know where to start. But I want to encourage you. Don’t be overwhelmed. It takes time to build a trained security team, to provide policy and procedure guidelines, proper management of ongoing operations, selection of qualified individuals, to understand the details of your insurance coverage, catastrophic violence response, and more. Despite all of that, there are still some immediate steps you can take while you build your safety ministry.
As I examined our challenges and considered potential solutions, my first step as a risk advisor and pastor was to contact our Sheriff Department. Our church executed a special duty contract to have a deputy present for a specified time every Sunday. That allows us time to address the specific need, direction, and management for our security team. The last thing we want to do is overlook state law, liability gaps, put untrained volunteers in dangerous situations, or to do nothing at all. But again, that works for us and our needs. If we met on Wednesdays at the same location, I would have to address security for that as well. If we had an office staff, I would have to consider their safety as well. Not all church shootings have happened during Sunday service. As you can see, this begins to expand quickly, and the oversight is multiplied. That is why having an expert team to assist in more than just insurance coverage is valuable. This is our passion at the Hummel Group. Our ministry is serving yours.
If your church is considering beginning, improving, or expanding a safety ministry give us a call. We can help provide expert resources, guidelines, and coverage. Please note concealed carry by members/attendees is a separate discussion that we are able to assist with. If you do not want to oversee a security team, but want to examine the best options for individuals, we can walk you through these best practices as well.
Contributed by Luke Gibson, Business Risk Advisor, Churches and Non-Profits