Heightened Security in Houses Of Worship

What should be a sanctuary often isn't.

by
posted on June 22, 2023
protect the church

Results of a Lifeway Research survey—released June 6—reflect a growing number of Protestant churches are enlisting gun-owning members of their congregations as part of their safety procedures. In the past three years, according to its findings, the number encouraging members to volunteer or engaging professional security services has increased 9 percent. Meanwhile those enforcing a “no guns allowed” policy declined by 6 percent during the same period.

Seven-four percent of the churches with more than 250 members—of the 1,000 contacted for the survey—enlisted the aid of armed attendees. Only when calculations included smaller congregations with limited financial and human resources did the figure drop to 54 percent, however.

The findings, conducted nationwide, reflect a significant percentage of the nation. Nearly 140 million U.S. citizens are affiliated with the Protestant faith or one of the mainline churches associated with the denomination.

Identifying, screening and training the faithful qualified for the protective ministry, however, can be a daunting challenge. Full Armor Church has filled that void for more than six years and brings unusual experience and knowledge to the task.

“We began Full Armor Church in 2016 in response to a growing request for church safety training and provide on-site training courses, a church security curriculum and offer background checks for faith-based organizations,” said Dwayne Harris, a law enforcement officer in Tennessee with 21 years of experience and president of the firm. “Over the last four years, interest in our church safety training has more than doubled, and we are seeing more and more ministries looking to create or formalize their safety and security programs and equip their volunteers and staff on how to respond during emergencies.”

According to Harris, there are some good reasons every church should consider heightening their training and preparation. “By nature, ministries are vulnerable,” he explained. “The open-door models that enable them to serve their communities also make them susceptible to harm and exploitation. The key to creating safer houses of worship is increasing situational awareness, incorporating safety measures into daily processes, and improving emergency readiness. Although the risk of an active threat is highly discussed, ministries are more apt to navigate a medical emergency, domestic dispute, or an encounter with a person experiencing a mental health or substance-related crisis.”

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