Due to the shooting and unfortunate events in Maryville, Illinois this past Sunday, knowing what you need to do to protect your staff and congregants has become a top priority for churches. We have received many emails asking about what you can do to prevent such events. Though events like this are rare, being prepared needs to remain a priority for all churches and ministries around the United States. We are saddened by the shooting and our thoughts and prayers go out to the First Baptist Maryville church family.
Churches can work to stop a shooter or anyone else intent on harming church members with the proper security measures in place. Remember, although the church is "open to the public," the church is, in fact, private property. It is totally reasonable and appropriate to remove a disruptive person from private property.
The church should have a written security plan in place. When writing a security plan for your church, seek the help of professionals, including your local police.
Identify the police and medical professionals who attend your church and can help in case of an emergency-your church's "emergency team."
Train your staff and your emergency team to recognize and deal with "danger threats." A danger threat is someone who poses or threatens to pose real and present danger to persons or property.
o Have a weapon;
o Are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs;
o Appear to be mentally ill;
o Are homeless and appear to be unstable or aggressive;
o Are embroiled in a family law or child custody case or a lawsuit involving congregants or members of the staff; or
o Are hostile to the teachings of the Christian church or fiercely opposed to its political views.
Train your staff, your volunteers and your emergency team to recognize the behaviors of people who are danger threats to your church. These behaviors include:
o Display and use of weapons;
o Assault and battery;
o Robbery and burglary;
o Domestic violence;
o Sexual abuse;
o Verbal abuse, including hate speech and verbal threats;
o Violent political activity; or
o Unusual or aberrant behavior, including things such as:
o Carrying a large bag into the church;
o Wearing inappropriate clothing considering the weather conditions. For example, in warm weather a person enters the church wearing a long over coat and dark glasses;
o A first time visitor insisting on sitting very close to the stage; or
o Sweating profusely and not involved in the service.
Train your staff and volunteers on how to confront a danger threat in your church:
o Speak firmly;
o Speak respectfully;
o Speak in a way that is not embarrassing; and
o Speak in a way that leaves no room for negotiation.