--Send this column to your local clergy and church leadership; tell them, "Chuck told me to!"
--Consult church security groups and websites -- such as http://www.carlchinn.com, http://www.securityatchurch.com, http://www.copandcross.org and others -- for safety and self-defense information.
--Also check out book resources -- such as "Keeping Your Church Safe," by Ron Aguiar, who is Southeast Christian Church's director of safety and security. Another great book is Carl Chinn's "Evil Invades Sanctuary," Chapter 4 of which provides sound guidance on setting up a faith-based security operation. Another possibility is "Church Safety and Security: A Practical Guide," by Robert M. Cirtin, John M. Edie and Dennis K. Lewis. An excellent book and DVD combo is "Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense," which tells the story of how one man saved many lives in a congregation gathered in prayer and answers some basic questions about church security.
--Seek out church safety seminars and training conventions, such as those offered by Chinn or the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management (http://www.nacssm.org). Sheepdog Seminars for Churches' first seminar is Feb. 21-22, 2014, in Denver (http://www.sheepdogseminarsforchurches.com).
--I also recommend that church leaders come together with local law enforcement -- maybe even officials who are a part of their congregation -- to discuss church safety. At the very least, I'm certain these public servants and trained defenders with licenses for concealed weapons would be more than willing to volunteer by manning a post discreetly at public events.
--Lastly, prepare an emergency plan. Christianity Today cited Andrew G. Mills from Building Church Leaders, who said, "If a shooter gets in:
--"Pastors or other visible leaders should draw attention away from the congregation.
--"Throw hymnals, yell from multiple directions, and attempt to tackle shooter from behind en masse.
--"Establish communication with the police as soon as possible. (Preferably, only those on the church's crisis response team should call 911.)
--"When police arrive, stay on the ground until you are told to move. When told to get up, move slowly with no objects in your hand."
Reported incidents of church violence have risen radically, but never forget that statistically speaking, houses of worship are still the safest places in the world.
Here's how being in a sanctuary measures up against other exit tickets from planet Earth, according to Christianity Today:
--"The (chances) you will die in the next 12 months from an injury are about 1 in 1,681."
--In a car accident, the odds are 1 in 6,539.
--In a plane crash: 1 in 502,554.
--From a wasp or bee sting: 1 in 3,615,940.
--From a lightning strike: 1 in 6,177,230.
--From church violence: 1 in 18,393,327.
Just because God and the odds are with us, however, doesn't mean we should check our security brains at the door of faith. We're not likely to be struck by lightning, either, but that doesn't mean we should walk around holding up a long metal rod during a thunderstorm.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but he hasn't given us a spirit of foolishness, either.
No one should hesitate to attend houses of worship and their special events this holiday season. At the same time, during everything from harvest festivals (Halloween alternatives) to Christmas services, no church should go without a security plan and team to protect its people in case of emergency.
'Tis the season to increase church security.