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October 5, 2009

Church Shootings in the Spotlight

Continued coverage shows need for planning, preparation.

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Last week’s Washington Post article, “Sense of Sanctuary Lost as Church Attacks Spike,” underscores the unfortunate attention that church shootings now draw from national media and those outside of ministry.

The Post’s piece recounts several recent, high-profile shooting incidents, including one that took place in February, when a man arrived at a Maryland church’s Sunday services toting a Bible and .38 caliber revolver, confronted his estranged wife in the parking lot, and shot her five times. She died on the scene. He recently received a life prison sentence.

The article makes two interesting observations:

1) Violence at churches appears on the rise (our sister publication Christianity Today covered this trend in its October issue, providing specific statistics that show this increase here);
2) and, a “small cottage industry of faith-specialized firms has sprung up almost overnight, offering nervous churches, synagogues, and mosques vulnerability assessments, security systems, and emergency planning.”

With more than 300,000 churches in the country, the rate of shootings in churches remains very small (in a separate chart, Christianity Today shows the odds of dying in a church shooting are 1 in 18.4 million). But with the steady increase in incidents, and the expanding publicity these events draw, it’s even more important for church leaders to plan and prepare. This will help minimize risks and liabilities.

The Washington Post article makes loose reference to a cottage industry emerging to help. Indeed, it seems numerous consulting firms and resources have “sprung up almost overnight,” as the writer asserts. Like any purchase or contract, it’s imperative for church leaders to do their due diligence before hiring a consultant or acquiring a training program.

In addition, the following resources may help along the way:

ChurchSafety.com’s free article “Simple Tips for Confronting Gun Violence at Church”;
ChurchSafety.com’s free article “Violence in the Church” (preparing yourself and your staff for the unthinkable);
• A free, three-minute video clip from church law expert Richard Hammar on the risks and dangers of allowing churchgoers to bring concealed weapons;
Church Law & Tax Report’s Feature Report, “Does Your Church Need a Security Guard?
ChurchSafety.com’s electronic training resource on dealing with dangerous people.

Matt Branaugh is director of editorial for Christianity Today International's Administration Team. He also is editor of Your Church, a magazine that covers legal, financial, administrative, facility, and safety issues for church leaders, and TheYourChurchBlog.com.

Related Tags: church shootings, emergency, Law, liability, Richard Hammar, risk, safety, security, violence

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