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How your church should prepare for an active shooter

| by Thom Rainer

I hate the title of this article. 

I hate that I even feel compelled to write about the topic. 

Still, many readers and churches we partner with contacted me after the tragic murders at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Here are some basic issues. 

Preparation checklist 

1. Don’t be in denial. Church shootings are increasing every year in America. And while the percentage of churches with shootings is relatively small, this issue is one where we must be prepared. The downside is just too great.

2. Have a church security plan. This plan should include all issues of security, from active shooters to child abuse. Local law enforcement is almost always very willing to work with churches and make recommendations.

3. Remember that church security is a ministry more than an expense.  I have little patience with church leaders and members who say they can’t afford security. The church doors should not be open if it can’t afford to keep members safe and secure. The church or leaders may have to spend money to go to a training seminar, or to retain a local police officer every weekend. Those are investments in security, not expenses.

4. Keep church security as a matter of prayer in your church.  While we should work as hard as possible to make our churches as secure as possible, let’s never forget that we should seek God’s power, strength, and protection.

5. Organize a church security ministry team.  You need leaders who are passionate about this issue. And it is especially helpful if those leaders have a background or experience in security, safety, or law enforcement.

6. Keep your facilities secure.  Too many churches have too many members with keys and access to the buildings. It is not unusual for doors to be left open and security to be lax because of the nearly unlimited access. 

I know one church where a former member had a key and decided to have a meeting at the church without asking anyone for permission. Your church needs clearly controlled hours of operation and clear guidelines on access. If the locks have not been changed in a while, it’s probably time to do so. Today. Ideally your church can upgrade to digital access that can be changed instantaneously and at any time.

7. Strive for total member awareness. Remind your members from time to time that they should watch for anything unusual at the church. Train greeters at different places around the church facility—from the parking lot to the worship center—to be aware as well. Those with keen eyes and discernment can save lives.

Pray for First Baptist

We continue to pray for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. (Here is the blog I wrote the day after the tragic shootings.) Feel to add your name as one who is praying for the church. And as we pray for them, we pray for wisdom and protection for all other churches.

Active shooters are a harsh reality of church life today.

We can be prayerful.

But we can also be prepared.

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.

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