Nearly eight in 10 Baptist Courier readers responding to an online survey said that church members who are not law enforcement professionals provide security for their congregations and that many of them carry concealed weapons.
The survey, which ran from March 28 through April 11 at BaptistCourier.com, posed a series of questions on church security and elicited 148 responses.
To the question, “Do church members who are not law enforcement professionals provide security in your church?”, 79.59 percent replied yes. And within that group, two-thirds were armed with concealed weapons, according to survey responses. In a comments section, a number of respondents noted that their armed church members have legal concealed weapons permits.
Nearly a third of respondents said their churches employ law enforcement or professional security firms during church activities. Among that group, six in 10 have sidearms or carry concealed weapons, according to the survey.
Among respondents whose churches have a security team (or, as suggested by respondents, “safety team” — see explanation below), 39 percent said their teams had undergone training by law enforcement personnel or a professional security firm, while 40 percent said their church security teams had not had such training.
Less than half of churches (43 percent) have a written security plan, but less than 60 percent of those churches routinely follow their security plans, according to survey responses. One respondent noted that a written security plan that is “diligently carried out by trained volunteers or professionals should be a priority in every church.”
The vast majority of respondents, more than 83 percent, said their churches either lock or guard some or all entrances during worship services or other public gatherings.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents said their churches require volunteers who work with children and youth to undergo background checks.
Of the 49 respondents whose churches offer a weekday daycare or school, they described security procedures that include locked doors with buzzer or passcode access, security cameras, identification verification, fire drills, windowless lockdown rooms, and having two adults in every classroom.
The Courier’s security survey attracted responses from readers representing churches of all sizes. More than 72 percent said their churches have fewer than 250 members. Nine respondents reported their church membership was more than 1,000. More than half of the survey’s responses came from a pastor or church staff member.
David Little, director of missions for Lakelands Baptist Association and a member of Abbeville First Baptist Church, pointed out that the use of the term “security team” in the Courier’s survey could be problematic if churches adopt the same wording.
“Churches should avoid calling themselves security teams when in fact they are ‘safety teams,’” said Little. “Security teams, by definition, carry a higher level of training requirements by law and a higher level of liability, according to insurance agencies.” Little’s comments were echoed by Bill Westafer, pastor of Cowpens First Baptist Church.
Crowfield Baptist Church in Goose Creek uses the term “response team,” said pastor David Coleman, who added that his team coordinates its safety planning with local law enforcement, including establishing an off-campus staging area for use in case of an emergency.
Benjamin Harr, pastor of Willow Swamp Baptist Church in Norway, said that a church’s greeting team is “vitally important” in the face of fear and increasingly visible security. “We cannot be scared to let people into our churches,” he said. “In Matthew 23:13, Jesus calls out religious leaders for shutting the world out. We must not do the same.”