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Churches Train Members to Protect the Flock

More Considerations for Church Security Training 

Proponents of safety classes, simulations, and preparedness training for churches say the benefits outweigh any risks or uneasiness. Worshipers, they say, are more at ease knowing their well-being is a priority and that leaders can immediately address any concerns.

Plus, experts say having well-trained security personnel—whether hired guards or volunteers—can prevent lawsuits. Law professor Eugene Volokh tells the Associated Press that victims and their families can sue a church that fails to protect worshipers or provide inadequate training for security staff.

Critics say having security on church grounds can give people a false sense of safety, causing them to let down their guard. Others say arming worshipers is inadequate because well-meaning but poorly trained individuals might make a tragic situation even worse.

“Carrying a firearm is an awesome responsibility,” says Brad Orsini, a former FBI agent who now handles security for The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “Because you have the ability to have a carry concealed permit does not make you a security expert. Because you have a firearm doesn’t necessarily mean you should be carrying it at the church on the weekend.” 

Regardless of the security decisions each church makes, experts warn that denial is no longer an option. “You can’t just go to a church and be inside the four walls and think what’s outside can’t come in here and can’t hurt you,” says Chris Crews, who’s on the security team at his Pentecostal church in Missouri.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the Sutherland Springs pastor who’s now running for political office, says he felt safe before violence shattered his congregation and family. After all, he carried a gun and so did several members. Yet the church lacked a formal schedule to ensure a gun was always on the premises. On November 5, 2017, Pomeroy was out of town, and others who usually carried weapons weren’t present either. “We thought we were prepared, but we weren’t,” the pastor says.

Now the Sutherland Springs church has a set schedule of gun-carriers, plus security cameras and radios. “There’s no scripture that shows me that we need to keep weapons out of the church,” says Pomeroy. “There is scripture that says we are supposed to protect the flock.”