Churches don’t have to choose between security and hospitality


Maintaining a secure but welcoming environment simply requires balance.

On the heels of 2018’s horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pa., came this FOX News headline: “Violence prompts churches to weigh security vs. welcoming.”

While I understand the sentiment behind this idea, it misunderstands what makes a church secure.

There is in fact no stark choice between being secure and welcoming. It’s simply a matter of finding the right balance for your congregation.

Misinformation abounds

I don’t blame churches for getting the wrong idea. Many houses of worship have gotten press for going to extreme measures, including signs that say “We are heavily armed.” In addition, there’s no shortage of stories about guns accidentally discharging in churches and even an occasional vigilante shooting.

“A church’s most important security measure is not firearms. It’s a congregation that’s aware. ”

Why is that?

Because a trained security team can spot a threat in the parking lot and lock the doors. A children’s ministry that only allows authorized adults to retrieve kids will prevent Amber Alerts.

Instead of checking out during a worship service, an alert church has people walking the lobby, hallway and parking lot to make sure all is well. Heck, they can smile and greet latecomers while they’re at it – a ministry twofer!

Safe churches also have a plan to lockdown if an intruder is on the premises.

Finally, churches that embrace security involve all ministries. From the ushers to the nursery, from the parking lot to youth ministry, the more eyes the better.

 Strategos instructor Burt Whaley explains how to secure a church children’s classroom door.

Strategos instructor Burt Whaley explains how to secure a church children’s classroom door.

Security teams should be incognito

In terms of impressions, a well-run security team should be nearly invisible. If your team is decked out like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you need to rethink your approach. Not only does the over-the-top approach look intimidating, it also lets bad guys know exactly who to target.

Notice we haven’t yet mentioned the role of firearms.

If every church practiced the things I’ve listed so far, we’d have a much safer world. Even without guns.

Whether or not you employ firearms in your security is a personal decision. However, understand that anyone carrying a gun needs extensive training. Concealed carry training is insufficient for engaging in a public firefight. Specialized tactical instruction is mandatory to prevent “friendly fire.” And remember, friendly fire is never friendly.

The bad news: Bad guys are still out there.

The good news: Your church doesn’t have to surrender its mission to be secure.

About Vaughn Baker

Vaughn Baker is the president of Strategos International. He has 20 years of experience in law enforcement including patrol, investigation, SWAT and special operations. He has trained thousands of school, health care, government, law enforcement and military personnel. Vaughn has also developed specialized intruder response curriculum for schools and churches. He has created some of the nation’s leading training on behavior pattern recognition. Vaughn is also the author of The Church Security Handbook. Contact Vaughn.