SBTC helps small churches improve security
November 8th, 2017 / By: Mark Kelly | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
GRAPEVINE—Church security issues exploded into the forefront for many congregations Nov. 5 with the murder of 26 people during a worship service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
For most small-membership churches, however, improving security is no simple matter, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has excellent resources to help, including free seminars around the state in Dallas in November, Plano in December, East Texas in January, Houston in February, Lubbock in March and El Paso in April.
“Smaller churches face security threats, but they do not have the same resources [as larger churches] to address them,” said Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, in a Nov. 6 column in Christianity Today.
Employing off-duty police officers, impaneling security teams, adapting buildings and installing security technology involve significant expense, Barber wrote. In addition, Texas state law until recently required churches to pay for background checks and training of security personnel, as well as submitting an annual licensing fee to the state. Fielding an unlicensed volunteer team was punishable by a $10,000 fine.
Effective Sept. 1, however, a change in state law allows congregations to assemble security teams composed simply of volunteers who are legally allowed to carry a gun. Passage of the law “ensures churches are empowered to make their own decisions about how they want to implement their security policies without jumping through unnecessary training and licensure hoops,” State Representative Matt Rinaldi told Fort Worth’s NBC 5 in late July.
Churches should not jump too quickly to address the possibility of an active shooter like the one that traumatized the Sutherland Springs congregation. Not only are medical emergencies or severe weather events more likely to occur than a shooting, but arming church members for official security purposes raises serious legal and insurance liability concerns.
“Police officers go through constant training to know when to shoot and when not to shoot,” said SBTC Church Ministries Director Mark Yoakum.
Toward that end, the SBTC offers congregations, free of charge, specialized consultation and several excellent resources. Two on-line videos from the 2015 Equip Conference provide an overview of church security and explain how to get started. Then a congregation can request an on-site consultation that looks at the unique situation of the church.
“This is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” Yoakum said. “We will point out vulnerabilities and things they need to look at. We will talk about both prevention and what to do in case of an attack, help them develop a plan. We also look at child and preschool security at same time. All that is offered free of charge to the church, paid for by the Cooperative Program.”
Churches interested in scheduling a consultation can fill out a request at http://sbtexas.com/church-ministries/church-administration/church-security. In the meantime, church security conferences are being scheduled around the state in the coming months. A list of those dates and locations also is available on that web page.
Smaller churches may face challenges in making their buildings secure, but Barber added they have the advantage of generating “a loyalty and a resiliency that make them hard to kill.”
He predicted that sister churches in the rural area of Sutherland Springs will reach in and give a helping hand, convinced “the martyrdom of these believers will bring people to Christ.”
Church Security Resources
This link searches the SBTC website and the security videos are among the results:
These links take a visitor directly to each video:
This link gives details on upcoming seminars: