Recent church shootings have caused religious leaders to seriously consider the safety of their congregations. Church security and safety teams are, unfortunately, becoming commonplace. Some teams are composed of church members with law enforcement, military or civilian security experience. Others are church members with registered personal weapons and the desire to protect their family and fellow believers. In some cases, contract security firms are being hired to protect congregations.

Both are created to keep the congregation safe but the approach is different.

The general effectiveness of the team is dependent on its level of management, training, tactics, and procedures. The overall successfulness of the team is reliant on the operational philosophy. Is the team designed and trained to be reactionary or protective? Both are created to keep the congregation safe but the approach is different. Also, the skill sets are quite dissimilar.

Reactionary teams, as the name implies, react to threats and are specifically trained for that eventuality. The majority of training offered to churches is centered around active shooters because it is the most deadly threat. In Texas, a highly trained church security member ended an active shooter situation in less than six seconds with one shot. His reaction surely protected other members of the 200 person congregation who were attending service. The video of the incident showed his near-perfect reaction but it still could not save the two church members who were killed.

Protection teams are more interested in preventing situations or reducing the threat. This is done primarily through planning and communication. In most houses of worship active shooter incidents, the shooter had previous-contact with members of the congregation. In the Texas incident, the shooter had previous-contact with the pastor but he was still able to enter the church, wearing a costume and armed with a shotgun, without being contacted by anyone. The shooter also had a previous arrest for assault, a mental issue and his brother died near the date of the shooting. A properly trained and functioning protection team would have detected one of these issues and that would have been enough to be on alert when the shooter entered the church. If he had been contacted while entering, the shooting may have been prevented or the shooter could have been the only person injured.

It is more effective to create a protection team within a church and have it be part of a church network than it is to create expert tactical marksmen and women. An expert tactician is required for a react team. Also, the marksman can only shoot when a life is in imminent danger. A protection team can start solving the issues as soon as one congregation member is concerned.

One concern has been raised, the protection team must be able to intervene and resolve the situation. The resolution may be talking to the person, calling the police or in the worst-case scenario, using a firearm. A protection team gives you options because it is active and not just waiting for and unexpected situation to occur and act in time to save lives or prevent injury. We now know that six seconds is too long.

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