One of the top priority issues facing our agency's church clientele involves a genuine concern about church shootings and how to protect churches during services and church activities. With that in mind, here are some risk management factors to consider in dealing with church security.
Create a Church Security Team
An important part of swift reaction in the event of a violent church incident is the development and training of specific individuals who have been authorized to act on behalf of the church body in securing the premises. This may involve armed or unarmed security personnel, but all should have training to follow specific protocol and have an understanding of the duties to which they have been assigned.
How to Create a Church Security Team
To establish a church security team, consider these steps:
Identify the Need: Assess the security needs of your church and determine if there is a need for a dedicated security team. Consider factors such as the size of the congregation, the location of the church, any previous security incidents, and the overall safety concerns.
Seek Leadership Approval: Present the idea to the church leadership, such as the pastor, elders, or board members. Explain the rationale behind forming a security team and how it will contribute to the safety and well-being of the congregation. Gain their support and approval to move forward.
Recruit Volunteers: Seek volunteers from within the church community who are interested in contributing to the security team. Publicize the opportunity through announcements, newsletters, or church gatherings. Emphasize the importance of commitment, reliability, and a heart for serving others.
Screen and Select Team Members: Conduct a screening process for potential security team members. This may involve background checks, interviews, and reference checks to ensure that individuals with appropriate qualifications and character are selected.
Define Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the security team members. This can include duties such as monitoring entrances, patrolling the premises, providing assistance during services or events, coordinating emergency response, and maintaining communication with church leadership and local authorities.
Training and Education: Provide comprehensive training to equip the security team members with the necessary knowledge and skills. This can include training in areas such as emergency response, CPR and first aid, conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, communication protocols, and legal considerations.
Collaborate with Local Authorities: Establish a positive relationship with local law enforcement agencies. Inform them about the formation of the security team and seek their guidance and support. They may be able to provide resources, training, and advice on security best practices.
Regular Meetings and Communication: Schedule regular meetings with the security team members to discuss updates, address concerns, and ensure coordination. Maintain effective communication channels to share information and encourage reporting of any security-related issues or observations.
Periodic Reviews and Improvement: Regularly review the performance and effectiveness of the security team. Seek feedback from team members, church leadership, and the congregation to identify areas of improvement and implement necessary changes. Stay updated on current security trends and practices to enhance the team's capabilities.
Remember, while establishing a security team is important, it should be done with a balanced approach that aligns with the values, mission, and culture of the church. The primary focus should always be on creating a safe and welcoming environment for worship and fellowship.
Prepare and Plan for Emergencies
Many church leaders might be hesitant to broach the subject of church violence scenarios but the ultimate goal should be to prepare the church for such an event in order to minimize injury and prevent ineffective response from the church congregation at the time of an incident. Drills, building maps, hand signals, and code words should be determined and carried out so that the church members can feel more confident about the pro-active approach from church leadership.
It's smart to have a plan of action that's reviewed by leadership and presented to members before a crises. Templates are available online that include planning for every possible emergency, from mass shooting to flooding and fires.
Here's a short list of several good templates that could help:
Know Legal Regulations for Security
Most states have some type of policy regarding Concealed Carry rights within the church and church leaders should be certain they have done due diligence in verifying the legal parameters regarding who can, should, or should not carry in the church. Any policies and procedures documents that specify these issues for the church should be followed consistently with no deviation, and should be reviewed by an attorney familiar with your state's laws.
Oklahoma Law for Church Security
In Oklahoma, the state extended the right for churches to protect their church and stand their ground in 2018, after a highly publicized shooting in nearby Texas. (News Article on Law). Oklahoma also shields a person who defends their church from lawsuits.
Missouri Law for Church Security
In Missouri, it's been the law of the land where guns could not be brought into churches, except with a concealed weapons permit. However, in April of 2023, the Missouri State House introduced a bill to allow anyone to carry weapons in churches. (News Article).
Arkansas Law for Church Security
In Arkansas, the law was changed in 2017 to allow concealed weapons holders to carry a gun in churches, unless the church strictly forbids against the practice (Press Release).
Kansas Law for Church Security
In Kansas, the law allows for concealed weapons holders to carry a gun any any church, unless the church forbids against weapons and clearly posts the policy in the church (Policy Review)
Review Your Insurance Coverage Each Year
With the implementation of a security team the church leadership will want to verify if coverage is available or can be extended on the current policy to protect Security Operations within the church. This entails a phone call to your agent to clarify what your policy will cover. Church insurance carriers determine the coverage limitations and specifics of each church policy. Some companies offer coverage endorsements which are very basic with limited coverage for security while others provide very broad coverage for security personnel activities and injuries, as well as coverage for damage to weapons they may use within the scope of their duties. Don't hesitate to call your agent today and determine which coverage is best for your church.
Our producers at Loomis Insurance will be glad to work with you in providing coverage to meet your needs. Call us at 1-800-743-7205 for more information.