Wednesday, March 14

Situational Awareness at Church

Note: A friend passed this article on to me this week for the blog. The story did not end the way I was expecting it to; however, it did leave you with some good pointers to think about. 

Read for yourself below...

From: US Carry

"As I was waiting in the lobby, a guy walked in the front door that looked “scary,” to say the least. He walked up to me and asked me who was in charge. Since I was the only one there, I told him I was. He then asked to speak with me in private because he needed to confess something. In my head I was thinking, “great, this guy’s going to tell me he just murdered someone.”

Click for Article

Thursday, March 8

Churches Become Centers for Aid

From: St. Louis Review

{HENRYVILLE, Ind. -- As one of the few buildings in town to come through intense storms March 2 nearly intact, St. Francis Xavier Church has become a natural staging area for relief efforts, community organizing and prayer.}

Click for Article

Note: Is your church ready to assist in a disaster?

Monday, March 5

The Front Line of Defense - "Think About It"

The Front Line of Defense

May 2nd, 1996 is a day I and many others will never forget. It was the day a man with a gun, a military pack which he claimed was filled with explosives, and a grudge came to our ministry. He walked in through the front doors like anyone else. The two receptionists were the first people he spoke to, and they were the first hostages in his attack.

You never know what is on someone’s mind when they walk through the front doors of your church or ministry. But the first one to understand the nature of the visit is typically the receptionist. After all, it is their duty by title to receive guests.

Many of the suggestions on this website and others have to do with the 2-10 hours per week of maximum traffic in a church (weekend services). The subject this week is on the 40+ hours of the regular workweek, and the most vulnerable person in the building during that time – the front receptionist.

We view our ministry as a necessary outreach for a particular world or community need. Not everyone in the community looks at our church or ministry the same way.

To consider the position of the front receptionist, we must consider the culture we intend to project, and the ministry they should emulate with their character. We must not however, ignore the dangers of the position by placing them in harm’s way without protection and training.

Think About It…

Ø When discussing the safety protection measures and training you will give the front desk receptionists, have your ministry leader or pastor assume for the duration of that conversation that the person sitting there day after day is their own wife, daughter or mother.

Ø However you set up your security plan at your church, don’t leave out the weekday (and weeknight) operations. Over 60% of deadly force incidents happen in these “non-event” times. It is reasonable to conclude that all crime categories follow similar statistics, yet churches who do have security often only consider security for weekend and other events. There must be some procedures set up during non-event times, and those procedures should center on these front line positions. Few people understand the overall church activity as well as these folks. Include them in the plan, and make certain you intentionally consider their safety.

Ø In medium to large size ministries, there is no excuse for not having duress systems of some sort. In the case of the May 2nd, 1996 incident that opened this subject, the ladies who were taken hostage used such a system to summon support. Intentional responders were beside them within 17 seconds of the start of the attack, and we never left their side until it was over. Give front line personnel an easily operable means of calling for help. Panic buttons that they either wear or can activate discreetly are a no-brainer place to start.

Ø If your ministry is a church, consider locking the door in front of them during the week. If you can afford it, place a microphone beside the door. A microphone with a camera is best, and can be interfaced with a switch to allow receptionists to remotely unlock the door for known guests. Many wolves will simply turn away and go somewhere else if they come to such a delay type system. It sends a message that the church has considered security. Most any security vendor can supply, connect and program such a system for less than $700.00. Many churches have spent more than that on software protection or presentation technology. Take protection of these vulnerable people as serious as other “priorities”.

Ø If you are a small church and simply cannot afford an entry intercom system, lock the doors and move the receptionist out of site of the front entry. Simply post a sign that indicates, “If you need to contact us and the doors are locked, please call 555-xxx-xxxx”. To leave an entire building open is not necessary, and exposes weekly operations staff to unnecessary risk. The vast majority of people now have cell-phones; it is not an insult to require them to use it to contact you from the front door. A ministry can maintain an open culture with entry control. It is easier to accept such practices after someone gets hurt. Read the story of Clinton Dobson and the ministry assistant on 3/3/2011. When I visited that church a few months after the attack, the doors were locked and the wording of the posted sign by the door was as suggested in this point.

Ø If there are any restraining orders or protective alerts for your ministry or area, make certain the front receptionist is aware of them, and has the relevant pictures and information in a discreet place where they can regularly review them. Have them trained on what to do should that person appear.

Ø In addition to the front receptionists, consider other front line positions as well. A priority is those who occupy the interface / transaction areas of your benevolence operations.

Ø Any point of sale or other public interface position (such as the mail office, or shipping / receiving in larger organizations) should get equal attention and training.

Ø Equip your front line folks, whether they face guests or take their calls at the published numbers (or both) with procedures on threat or suicide calls. Not everyone agrees, but I like to see these folks told that they will receive one threat call a year that is a drill. This way they are expecting it, and are prepared to remain calm during the call anticipating it may be the drill. If you write and request it at I will send you a threat call checklist you can use as training for your folks.

Ø Anyone who receives mail should be trained on suspicious mail. The US Postal Service has a good resource to print off a suspicious mail or package awareness poster at

Sunday, March 4

Guns in Church - Final Thoughts...

I hope you found last weeks post on guns in churches helpful. I tried to solicit some of the best people I know to comment on the topic. We were given prospective from former and current law enforcement officers, church elders, NRA members, CCW holders, fire and rescue chiefs, paramedics, a professional gun magazine author and more. We also received input from an individual who has been involved in a church shooting. I tried to get people to comment that were also from different parts of the country. We accomplished this with prospective from the North, South, Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-West…

There will never be a time that everyone will agree on this issue; however, I hope that seeing these different perspectives will be helpful in planning for your church environment. I do not think that there is one universal answer for all churches. The right choice for your church will be based on multiple factors to include location, size, membership and more. I think this weeks posts can serve as a good reference tool for churches when approaching and researching this subject.

Please feel free to continue to send in your comments. 

Thanks for helping share this information with others.

Tornados and Churches.... Beware!!

Warning: Tornado season starts early!

From: The News Tribune

{Abbott Loop Community Church leaders scrambled Saturday to cope with the dramatic auditorium roof collapse Friday night that one witness said looked like a tornado while it was happening.

The damage put the church's building at the corner of Abbott Road and Lake Otis Parkway out of commission for now, said Frank Curry, one of the pastors. The congregation will meet temporarily at Anchorage City Church, he said.}

Click for Story

Saturday, March 3

"Armor Bearers" Become Common in Churches?

Note: This article was written by Bob Chauncey who runs the Church Security Institute (not to be confused with the Christian Security Institute, which is run by Chuck Chadwick). Bob published this story on his blog and offered to share it with us to aid in this weeks topic of guns in churches.

‘Armor Bearers’ Become More Common in Come Churches
By: Bob Chauncey

This minister is the “armor bearer” of his Senior Pastor. An armor bearer — a Biblical reference to the one who carries the spear & shield of a warrior — is traditionally the person in the church who assists the pastor in everything from adjusting the temperature in the sanctuary to picking up visitors at the airport to running interference for the minister.

This minister’s day job is working as a deputy sheriff. But on Sundays, for the past 10 years, he has been the spiritual bodyguard of his Pastor. During the service, he is seated behind the pastor, his attention directed at the congregation in the pews.

“I’m looking for new people coming into the sanctuary. I see what clothing they are wearing, if they have their hands in their pockets. I look at their ankles — a bulge could be a firearm,” said the armor bearer, who has served as an armor bearer for more than half his life.

In many churches, the armor bearer is not armed and is not responsible for protecting the minister. He is more of an unpaid personal assistant. “The term ‘armor bearer’ was basically a person who assisted the pastor,” one pastor. “What it has evolved into is men and women who are prepared to assist and deter any kind of attack.”

In most small churches, the responsibility for church security falls to the deacons, ushers and greeters. While larger churches can afford private security and off-duty police officers, small churches rely on the keen eyes and quick responses of a few men trained to intercede.

Greeters are instructed to watch for people entering the church who behave oddly or look suspicious. Ushers are trained to deal with those who become disruptive. Often, it is someone who arrived at church intoxicated, high or angry. Without disrupting the service, ushers will escort the person outside the church.

“The key to security of a church is not about bodyguards. It’s about layers of security — from the guy directing traffic to the greeter to the deacons who might help them to their seats,” said a former security director, who now heads his own faith-based security company.

Rarely are they required to intercept someone who is violent or threatening — nor are they expected to put themselves in danger. “You can’t tell people to put themselves in harm’s way,” said one pastor.

“I consider that my role — to make sure the man of God is protected,” said one armor bearer, who served in the Army and nearly 10 years in law enforcement. “Before he would die, I would die. That is my job.”

At one Worship Center, trouble has to pass through the discrete but discerning eyes of greeters and ushers who are instructed to sense danger from the averted gaze, the sweaty-palm handshake, the shirking of an embrace. If trouble makes it past those full-body screeners, there’s the person or persons who i/ares the Armor Bearer.

If lethal force is required,” said the pastor, “we have a person serving here who is armed and dangerous.

At the same time, nearly every congregation has men and women with military and law-enforcement experience whose training and background have prepared them to step in when there is trouble inside the sanctuary. Churches need a Safety Security Plan, Teams to carry out the Plan in order to Be Prepared for whatever may come, a natural disaster, fire, medical illness or injury, disorderly or disruptive persons, a lost child, kidnapping or even an attack.

It’s too late after it happens to be sorry you did not have a Plan… take time to make one before it happens so you can show you were Good Stewards of what He provides, a church should have a Good Shepherd, usually the pastor or Rabbi, or ministry leader, whose job, like the Shepherd, is to provide for and protect his flock under his care.

Friday, March 2

Protecting Our Churches - "Pray, Watch, Work"

Note: The below article was written by Bob Perkins. Bob served and retired from the Louisville Police Department in Kentucky and then went on to finish a second career as the Police Chief for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Police Department (Louisville, KY). Bob helped to Co-Found the Vigilance Church Security Conference, and has have been an authority on the topic of Church Safety and Security for years.  Bob has done an excellent job bring scripture into this conversation and helping to focus our minds from an academic basis. 

 By: Bob Perkins

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 4, the strategy of the Jewish faithful of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was to pray, watch and work.

The enemies of Israel planned to strike during the time that the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  This was after they had returned from captivity by the Babylonians.  Because of these threats “half of the servants carried on the work while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates", (verse 16).

In verse 17 we find that "Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon." 

As I travel and speak with leaders within our churches, denominations and conventions about church safety and security - inevitably the topic of weapons within our churches is debated.  In my thirty-four years experience in law enforcement, I have come to charge the leadership to look at four different options.

1. The best scenario for members to carry weapons within our churches in an effort to provide safety and security is best left to those members trained within law enforcement.  Many of our churches have sworn and experienced law enforcement officers within their walls.  They have been trained and tested when and how to use deadly force.  In this scenario "liability" is transferred, not entirely, but in a large portion to the governing agency in which that officer is sworn.

It is imperative that the leadership of our churches discuss and decide where these officers should be stationed within the sanctuary during the service.

2. The next option is the use of retired law enforcement or current trained military personnel in providing safety and security within our churches.  These persons have been tested and trained in the use of deadly force with weapons and should be able to provide adequate coverage.  In this scenario though, in the case that deadly force is used, the transfer of liability is not available.  Leadership within our churches need to be fully aware that in the event anyone uses deadly force within the boundaries of the church property and that person was authorized by the church to use such force,  a legal battle is probable.

In the event your church allows retired law enforcement or current military personnel to carry weapons or use such weapons, they must be trained by certified instructors on a semi-annual basis.  This is the minimum.  This training would not only include the physical use of such weapons, but also local, state and federal laws must also be incorporated.  Just as important, the mental capacity of this person needs to be evaluated as it pertains to taking the life of an individual.  All such training must be documented and kept for at least seven years for each person.

3. Another option I would not recommend but often I find in churches, allow untrained members to carry weapons on church property without any prior law enforcement, military or professional training.  This often is a very sensitive issue within churches. These persons are highly respected, in leadership positions, or able to persuade their church that they “know what they are doing" in the use of their weapons.  If the church allows these persons to carry and use such deadly weapons, the height of legal liability is magnified.

4. I am asked often if pastors who share God's word from the pulpit should carry deadly weapons concealed on their person while in such pulpits.  I truly feel this is not a good practice.  Pastors should be like our missionaries who share God's word and love within third world countries.  These missionaries and pastors should be filled with the Holy Spirit and know that at any time, they could be attacked and/or persecuted for what they are sharing with others.  If a pastor or missionary is carrying a concealed weapon, there will be times while they are sharing God's wisdom and love that, they will come to feel the presence of such weapon on their person.  It's at this point and for this reason the pastor or missionary is distracted from the totality of what they are sharing to honor God's kingdom.  It is the responsibility of other members within the church to provide such protection for the pastor.

As Nehemiah wrote in chapter 4, before discussing and implementing any use of deadly force with weapons, members are to first pray and ask God for guidance.   As with anything we do within our lives, we should first ask God how we can honor His kingdom with our actions.  The use of deadly force can and will lead to the taking of precious lives and/or inflicting serious physical injury.  It is important to study and know God's word from His bible. 

Other scriptures where you may look:

Psalm 122: 6-7, "May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within our palaces."
Psalm 4: 8, "For you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety." 
Proverbs 133, "But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil."
James 1: 5, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

Remember Nehemiah's strategy which was to pray, watch and work.

Thursday, March 1

Guns in Church? An Armed Citizen's Perspective

Note: This article is written by Matt Larson. Matt is writing from the prospective of being an armed citizen. Matt is not a LEO; however, he does have extensive experience in emergency operations as a former fire and rescue chief and paramedic. Matt does a great job in this article presenting information on current laws and regulations related to carrying guns. Matt also does a fantastic job stressing the importance of gun safety!

Guns in Church?  An Armed Citizen's Perspective
By: Matt Larson

Throughout the United States, more and more private citizens are lawfully carrying firearms concealed on their person for protection.  In every state but one (Illinois), some form of lawful concealed carry is in place.  In most states, any law abiding citizen who meets minimum training standards must be given a permit to carry a firearm upon application.  In three states, no permit is required – anyone who can lawfully own a gun can carry it concealed.

In a few states, lawfully armed citizens are prohibited from carrying in places of worship. These states are:

· Georgia (Bill in committee to allow carry) {Updated}

· Arkansas
· Louisiana
· Michigan
· Missouri (unless given permission by the minister or similar official)
· Mississippi
· North Dakota
· South Carolina (unless authorized)
· Texas
· Utah (if posted)

Statistically speaking, if your church is not in one of these states, Illinois, or the District of Columbia, the overwhelming probability is that one or more persons in your congregation are armed.

But having an organized, formalized armed response team is another matter entirely.  I would strongly encourage any church considering organizing such a team get an attorney involved from the outset.  There are a great many legal pitfalls here, and having competent legal counsel is vital.  Just one example is that in many states, if you are employed as a security guard – even as a volunteer – your concealed carry permit does not permit you to carry a firearm in that capacity.

All of that said, I am writing this more from the perspective of the armed citizen, and I am going to leave the organizational aspects to others.  Two excellent articles have already been posted here on these topics, and I would advise anyone interested in the field to read them.

I want to talk about 4 things in this article.  The first is safety, and some of the safety measures that should be in place where people are going to be armed.  Then, I want to discuss the three phases of an armed conflict: preparation, the fight, and the aftermath.


Safety is and must always be the first concern.  Take, for example, the recent tragic death of a young parishioner in a Tampa, Florida church.  A member of the congregation was showing a firearm to another member.  He believed that he had unloaded the gun, and handed it to the other person.  That person pointed the gun at the wall of the closet they were in and pulled the trigger.  The gun discharged, and the bullet passed through the wall and struck a young woman in the head, fatally wounding her.

There are 4 cardinal rules of firearm safety:





The incident above violated all four, and a life was lost as a result.  Beyond that, there was no sufficient reason for the gun to have been handled there and then. 

But the incident raises a valid safety concern.  If you are going to have an organized group of people carrying firearms in your church, you need to provide a safe area for any unavoidable handling of the guns.  This includes a safe direction in which to orient the firearm when handling it, such as an outside brick or concrete wall, a sand bucket, or a commercial product designed to absorb an unintended discharge.


Preparation encompasses everything one does before the outset of violent hostilities.  This includes training, mindset and practice.  I'll be blunt – if your only training was the 2 hour long class needed to get your permit and your only practice is standing in a range booth calmly punching holes in stationary pieces of paper, you are not trained to use a gun in a defensive situation.  If you are not mentally prepared to align the sights of your pistol on another human being and kill him or here, you are not ready to use a gun in a defensive situation.  If you never practice with your firearm, you are not ready to use a gun in a defensive situation. 

In my opinion, anyone who carries a firearm for protection should invest in quality training on at least an annual basis.  There are many qualified defensive shooting instructors throughout the country who offer classes for the armed citizen.  Defensive shooting is a shooting discipline unto itself.  You must learn to draw from the holster while moving.  You must learn to shoot while moving.  You must learn not just how, but when to shoot.  These are perishable skills, and you will need to refresh them from time to time.  As a well known shooting author once said, "Thinking yourself armed because you own a gun is like thinking yourself a musician because you own a piano".

Mindset encompasses the will to deploy force against another human being, potentially including taking a human life.  This is a moral and ethical decision that every person who owns a firearm for defense should seriously consider.  One must understand that the criminal doesn't struggle with this issue – for many serious criminals violence is a way of life, and they will deploy it at will.  Understand that the gun is not a talisman which will protect you from harm by it's mere presence. Understand that once the gun has been drawn, the conflict is going to end with the assailant surrendering or with bloodshed.  Once you have rung that bell, it cannot be un-rung. 

Practice is necessary to preserve the skills you have learned.  Shooting skills are perishable and degrade with time.  I would strongly urge anyone who carries a gun for protection to actively participate in IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, or any other shooting sport that requires you to shoot while moving, shoot at moving targets, etc.  If your only training and practice is to stand in one place and shoot at a stationary paper target, then the chances are that you will stand in one place and trade gunfire with an assailant.  This is a proven, time tested recipe for getting yourself killed.

 The fight

Hopefully, it never comes to this, the actual life-and-death fight to save yourself or someone else from imminent death or great bodily injury.  This is the moment every serious student of the defensive pistol trains to avoid at all costs.

But the bad guys get to make plans, too.  And sometimes their plans work out better than ours.

I am not going to get into shoot / don't shoot criteria here.  The law varies from state to state, and this is a topic you should have picked up in training.  Know your local laws. 

I just want to touch on a few points here.  The first is that when it is time to fight, fight.   Consider the nightmare scenario of an intruder opening fire in a church service.  People are being hurt or killed.  This is what is known as an "active shooter" scenario. This is no time for discussion.  This is no time for "fairness".  You are not obligated to warn the shooter, or give him a chance to surrender, or talk him into seeing the nature of his wicked ways.  All of that is just a good way to get yourself or someone else killed.

If the fight is on, you need to finish it now.  If you have a clear shot on the active shooter, take it.  Prosecute the fight to the conclusion – shoot him to the ground.  Continue shooting until the threat stops. 

Understand that real life shootings are nothing like the movies or TV.  Rare indeed is the single gunshot than instantly incapacitates an assailant, who then falls bloodlessly and silently to the floor.  Reality is much uglier.  Even after suffering a mortal wound, a human being can continue to fight for a couple minutes or more. A bad guy can fire a lot of shots in those couple of minutes…

Make sure the fight is over before you holster your gun.  Remember that wolves travel in packs, and do a good scan of the area before you assume everything is over.

The aftermath

The worst has happened.  You’ve been forced to shoot another human being to protect yourself and / or someone else.  The assailant is lying on the ground in a pool of blood, perhaps thrashing and screaming.  People are panicked.  Hopefully, nobody else is injured, but that may well not be the case.
What you say and do in the next few minutes and hours will have an impact that lasts the rest of your life. 

Hopefully, your church has a disaster plan that includes handling medical emergencies, and at least basic first aid can be administered to the wounded.  Which brings us to a serious item to consider – how to handle the wounded assailant.  Do you attempt to treat him?  How do you know he doesn't have another weapon?  These are things you should consider long before you have to make the decision.  Remember that whole preparation thing?

In short order, the police are going to arrive, along with ambulances, fire trucks, reporters and gawkers of all kinds.  The first thing you need to do is avoid having a "blue on blue" situation. 

The police are arriving at the scene of a shooting.  They don't know you, or the guy on the floor with all the holes in him.  They are going to secure the scene and make sure nobody else is harmed.  If you're standing in the middle of the room with a gun in your hand, things can go bad in a hurry.  We naturally turn toward sounds that we don't expect, and if you have a gun in your hand and turn toward the arriving police officers, they may well take you as a threat and respond accordingly.

Having someone meet the responding officers and let them know that the fight is over and the guy with the gun is a good guy can save your life.  Consider this in your preparation phase.

OK, so the police are there and you've made sure you're not going to be mistaken for a bad guy and shot.  Now what?

Remember, the police do not know you.  What they do know is that someone has been shot, and someone (you) did the shooting.  Expect to be ordered to the ground, very probably at gunpoint.  Expect to be handcuffed, very probably roughly.  Expect to be searched.

Do not resist.  Do not argue.  Comply immediately with all commands.  Remember that the officer does not yet know you are the good guy – and he or she wants to go home to the family at the end of the shift.  That means ensuring their safety by securing the potential threat.  You are that potential threat.

So now the police are in control of the scene.  You're out of the woods, right?  Wrong.  What you say and do in the following minutes and hours can be the difference between going home to your family and going to prison for a couple decades.

You've just been in a fight for your life.  You are flooded with adrenaline, you are emotionally compromised and you are in no condition to give a detailed accounting of what just happened.  Understand a couple of things here.  First, the police officer you talk to initially may very well believe that you did absolutely the right thing.  But they are not the end of the chain – what you say will be considered by the officer's supervisor, a detective or two, a prosecutor and maybe even a grand jury.  Second, you're not going to be thinking clearly and you're not going to have a clear recollection of everything tat just happened.

As an example, even trained police officers are unable to recall exactly how many shots they fired in a shooting.  Stress plays tricks on the memory.  But if you give a statement and say you fired two rounds when you actually fired 5, somewhere up the chain someone will look at it and think "did he forget, or is he lying?" 

One noted expert in the field of defensive shootings, recommends that you make a very concise initial statement to the police along the lines of:

"Officer, I was attacked by that man.  I was in fear for my life and I defended myself.  There is his weapon (if applicable), there are the witnesses (if applicable), and I will sign a complaint.  I will give you a full statement after speaking with my attorney.  I do not wish to answer any questions at this time without my attorney present." 

People can – and have – talked themselves into a jail cell after a completely justified self-defense shooting.  The things you say now, in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, will be evaluated later by people who are not under stress and who may read something entirely different into your words.

Speaking of people, expect that you will be discussed in the media, savaged in the comment section of your local paper, shredded on internet discussion forums, etc. 

I hope this piece has provided some food for thought.  I don’t want to dissuade anyone from carrying a firearm for protection.  Having been a paramedic for almost 15 years, I have seen what criminals will do to other people to get what they want (or even just for amusement).  I believe in the right to protect oneself.  But I also believe that there are more than a few people out there carrying firearms who have not given all of these issues due consideration.  I hope this article leads to some self-discovery and honest self-evaluation for those who do choose to carry in church and elsewhere.

Be safe out there.