I have had the privilege to be invited into several churches this past year (2018) to train church security teams. Quite literally, I have been to all sides of the U.S. (Ohio, N.C., TX, MO, CA, FL) and have seen firsthand how churches are handling the issue of church safety and security. The three most interesting things have been:
- The skills teams are choosing to focus upon.
- The organizational support and detailed organization of individual teams.
- The dedication of the men and women tasked with overseeing this ministry in their church.
If you think about all you have going on in your life with family, career, hobbies and things that take our time everyday, your role on the church safety or security team is a small portion of everything you have going on. I get it.
However, the role you play, how you respond to potential crisis/actual crisis is actually rather huge and can have positive and negative effects on you and your life. With time in seemingly short supply, and commitment levels of various degrees, it is important your church safety and security team focuses on skills you will most likely be called upon to use.
Are Guns The Answer?
Give me one thousand people and each person will have a differing opinion on this specific question. Each opinion will be markedly different dependent upon their political persuasion, and their bent toward conservative or liberal ideas. This is the minefield in which I have to be sensitive to when taking calls on church security, and the overall view of the specific denominational stance on whether guns have a place in the church.
The first question I ask of any inquiry is “How does your pastor/board view the idea of church security?” The responses I hear vary from “My pastor wants everyone to be armed” to “They shut me down when I brought up the idea” and everything in between. I believe I have offended people by simply saying “Guns are an option, but not the only option.”
Why do I say this? It is because in all my years of law enforcement, whether training or in SWAT, I have come to realize when dealing with violence, not every problem is a nail which requires only a hammer. If I am afraid of everyone who is violent, loud and out of control and see this problem as a nail, well, there is only one way to deal with a nail. Bring on the hammer, right? Especially if we are talking about a person who is untrained in a full array of skills.
On a personal level, I never leave the cave without my club. I feel more assured when I have a handgun on my hip if someone is trying to randomly kill me. If this person brings an automatic weapon, I want the biggest caliber round, cycling at the greatest possible capacity, with the most accuracy and superior tactics to end the threat. However, through hundreds of simulation drills and an ever growing collection of news stories, what I have been finding is most active shooter drills/incidents are solved by someone in close proximity to the person committing the violent acts. The violent person’s weapon is attacked and then he is swarmed by people around him causing him to stop his aggression through pain or death.
This is ringing true in school shooting incidents, supermarket shootings, church shootings, or any kind of shooting our culture now endures. Citizens are being trained to recognize the sound of gunfire and to respond by locking down, hiding, running or fighting. Unarmed teachers, managers, regular citizens are advancing upon the armed person, some of them taking rounds, but fighting through and disarming him or sending him on the run.
If the church security member has received firearms training, it is mostly static line shooting which plays out under stress. Instead of advancing on the violent attacker, he stays a distance away, draws his handgun and misses the opportunity to shoot because others have stepped between the attacker and the armed team member.
Yet, when I speak to team leaders throughout the country I am hearing about the various types of training they are focusing upon. Some of these teams meet once a year and review policy. I once received an email with the headline, “Help! Our team leader has called a training session.” This person described how his team members were blowing off training because their team leader talked at them for three hours reviewing the same material they reviewed last year; no skill development, no role play exercises, no working through problems.
Worse, this is being done in a marathon session where the value of the content diminishes with the ticking of the clock. The longer things go, the less we retain.
Below: An Example Of Guns Being An Option, But Not The Option
How Should A Church Train The Church Security Team?
You might be thinking, “Great, Glen thinks we should hire him to train.” I couldn’t disagree more. I think with a little guidance you can turn your team into a well oiled machine with capabilities your members will actually need to deal with the day to day problems that might arise. All while keeping them sharp in the important, and let’s face it, the fun things you may be required to do.
Look, I realize most churches don’t set aside much money for this type of ministry. Many of the churches or conferences I’ve been to regularly hire speakers and trainers to come in. Most churches in CSA membership are from smaller churches, 100 to 500 regular attenders. I get more no answers then yes answers, so that set me to thinking, “How can I provide training in the skills that matter? How can this be done in small increments on a monthly basis and provide a way for team leaders to document performance and build a training certificate file in case things go side-ways? How can we make this affordable for individual team members if the church won’t cover it?”
There really is a tendency to focus upon the big stuff when you get the opportunity to train. The big stuff is more fun to train on and provides more cohesiveness for your team. The small stuff seems boring, but it doesn’t need to be.
How I Train For The Big Day
Over the years, I have learned a lot of learning can be accomplished by doing little training sessions often. Ninety-eight percent of my skills are built in my basement, in my office, and walking up the stairs at home. I focus on the absolute down and dirty, nuttin’ fancy, basics of movement. Movement and angles, aggression, drawing, grip, front flash sight, moving off line, room entry, moving down a hallway quickly and verbal commands are all worked upon everyday for less than five minutes a day. Ten reps x three hundred days is three thousand reps.
What could you do applying the same training techniques for your team?
Here Are The Five Things You Can Train On For 2019
First, I looked at over 400 articles I have posted over ten years and looked at many of the crimes perpetrated against churches. The great majority of incidents against churches have to do with property crimes like theft, burglary, arson, explosive devices. Some crimes are committed during church meeting times and others during the night time hours. Your team should work on patrol and observation on the interior and exterior of the church. Knowing what to look for, what to do when you find it, and how to respond to a perceived threat is a critical skills set. Misinterpreting or misreading a situation and overreacting can lead to unnecessary overreaction.
The second area of importance is on medical events. Heart attacks, strokes, head injuries (crazy youth groups), and wound injuries. Your team can make a real life saving difference if everyone is cross-trained in the basics. Instead of depending on a doctor being in the congregation or on your life squad that is ten minutes away, you can begin delivering important life saving interventions and look like an ace doing it.
The third area to focus upon is on emotional, disruptive, deranged, mentally ill, and potentially violent people. This is the scary stuff of training where many things can go wrong, and if done correctly, things can go nicely. The skills need to be hardwired into your team members’ brains, and this is done by repetitive practice, again and again, then again, and finally again. This is easily done with a simple system and a little guidance.
Fourthly, training for extreme violence events – both armed and unarmed. This is the stuff of fast, skilled, and no hesitation tactics that work. For unarmed weaponless assault against innocent people, your team should possess the skill and know how to take someone down safely to stop his aggression.
For active shooter events, if you are practicing by standing on the line at a range, drawing your firearm in austere conditions, peaking over your sight to see if you are hitting, and then holstering your weapon without your heart rate going above 150 beats per minute you might fail in a real event. If something violent occurs, unless you’ve been there before in training, your response will be delayed and your senses will be overwhelmed. There are critical integrated shooting and moving skills your armed team members need to possess.
I know this is true because I have seen it happen in training to myself through out my career and to my students in training events. It is good to know you have the grit to act while under fire BEFORE an event! The worst time to find out is when the lights are on. Joe Frazier, I believe, said it best,
If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you’re going to get found out now, under the bright lights.”
The other side of the coin is understanding what your congregants will be doing as you respond. You can know this by training them in skills requiring early recognition, taking away hesitation, and giving them concrete skills to harden their area while they plan for the next step.
Lastly, your team needs to incorporate all skills levels into role playing exercises, so you can document judgement, knowledge, and skill level. Once all the skills have been introduced and trained on, you will be able to move your team into real training so they know how to respond and they will know how their teammate will respond. This is important for fluid movement and coordination under stress.
You might be saying, “I don’t have time to do all this!” No worries, I will be posting articles and videos in the coming months to show you how to make training fast, easy and painless.