By Marilyn Tinnin
Does Your Church Need a Security Team?
Few contemporary issues spark more passionate discourse than gun rights. The only thing opposite sides seem to agree on is the fact that gun violence is out of control across the country. Even among Christ followers, there are those who find the thought of carrying a concealed gun into a worship service a complete anathema to the gospel while an equally devout group of their brethren believe it is just foolish naiveté to think a church service is not a prime target for some of the radicalized terrorists that have dominated much of the news cycle in recent years.
According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, from the 1950s through July 10, 2016, an overwhelming 98.4 percent of mass shootings have occurred in gun-free zones, with just 1.6 percent occurring where citizens are allowed to have firearms with them. Who can forget the tragedy in the Charleston, South Carolina prayer meeting in 2015? At the same time, who wants to think that paranoia would spawn the vigilance of a “Barney Fife” type guarding the front door of the church!
Dr. Clyde Morgan, a decorated Vietnam veteran, seminary graduate, Criminal Justice Ph.D., and certified Law Enforcement Instructor, makes it a priority to stay on top of legislation, public opinion, and facts involving second amendment rights (the right of the individual to keep and bear arms). He owns a fine shooting range just off I-20 near Morton and provides firearms training, instruction, and several original strategic courses for individuals and groups.
He has been called on more often in the last year to assist churches formulate a sensible yet effective security-team training program. Those requests have resulted in a well-written course complete with workbook, specific instructions, and hands-on firearm training for a well-equipped team.
In 2016, when the Mississippi legislature passed the Church Protection Act, House Bill 786, there was much national reporting about it—true, false, and everything in between. Many churches, prompted by staff on church property on a daily basis, began requesting specific policies and procedures that provided a higher level of security than had been in place before.
Some houses of worship consider themselves to have a security team although it may be nothing more than an usher assigned to each entrance during worship services. There may have been no serious thought given to plans and procedures just in case a threat appeared. The new legislation does address several of the legal questions regarding security team requirements that would give a security team member the right to defend churchgoers against a culprit with criminal intent.
Park Place Baptist Church in Brandon is one church that has tackled the sticky subject. Wes Cochran, who heads the team, is a member of the Army National Guard and a twice-deployed veteran of Afghanistan who commanded a 150-man security force. He says his church has been working on the security team parameters for the better part of a year. “Your mindset is, ‘Of course, we are going to church. We want to be welcoming and we want to be safe, but we also want to be informed and to know what things we need to be paying close attention to.” An effectively trained security team knows how to do both, and to the average churchgoer the fact of a security detail in place is discreet and virtually invisible.
Jesus made an interesting statement in Matthew 10:16. It seems quite relevant to this debate. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
If you would like to know more about Church Security Team Courses and compliance with the Mississippi laws, contact Dr. Morgan at 601.825.3971.