Houses of worship have been vulnerable for years because they are in business to welcome everybody. What has been done to ensure houses of worship are safe from harm or danger. Have houses of worship thought about what security measures they can implement to ensure their congregation is safe?
Over the past few years, church shootings like the one that occurred in Texas a few years ago garnered a lot of attention. But we know mass shootings in houses of worship are extremely rare events. How then can houses of worship prepare for the range of potential violence they could encounter on Sunday mornings or whatever day you meet? While there are some excellent resources and organizations that can assist with developing formal and specific plans. Some general action tips that can assist houses of worship.
How often do houses of worship communicate with their congregation?
Communication is something that should be done as much as possible, and consistent with the leadership and decision-making structure of your church. Houses of worship should solicit the input of your congregation before making a formal security plan. Be realistic about your security context. Threats to houses of worship vary in kind, degree, and probability. Your house of worship needs to be honest about the most likely threats of violence they may face in your particular context, and the most appropriate actions to protect against them. Don’t think in a bubble. Think about varying incidents that occur outside of houses of worship. While the main priority of church/synagogue leaders must be to focus on the safety of the congregation while in the church building, houses of worship should consider how they can protect members outside the church doors. Lastly, domestic violence is a huge issue for houses of worship. Now that doors to the churches have opened, will we see an increase in houses of worship violence? The one threat every house of worship should expect and prepare for is a spillover of domestic violence into the church. Over the past 50 years, the targeting of a family member or intimate partner has been the motive in almost 20 percent of church shootings. Although statistics are not kept is this type of violence, usually, violence that starts in the home is likely to be one of the most prevalent types of violent attacks encountered in the house of worship buildings.
Overall, houses of worship should prepare their congregations to be ready for whatever threats of violence they may face. This can be accomplished by reaching out to qualified security consultant professionals to assist with this type of work. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Continue to be proactive as opposed to being reactive. We are living in a world where the inevitable could happen at any time and any place.