After the terrible tragedy in Texas last week, many of our churches are considering how they can best prepare for an emergency in their community or congregation and how United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence. Below are some of the resources available to clergy, trustees committees, church leaders, and others on this topic.
United Methodist Resources
Embracing Love: A Prayer for Texas (UMCOM)
Keeping Churches Safe and Welcoming (Video)
Ways United Methodists can take a stand against gun violence (UMC.org)
Book of Resolutions: Our Call to End Gun Violence
Services and Liturgies for Times of Crisis (Discipleship Ministries)
Ecumenical and External Articles
Why Church Shootings Don’t Intimidate the Church (The Washington Post)
FEMA Protecting Your House of Worship (fema.gov)
Tip Sheet from the National Disaster Interfaith Network (N-DIN.org)
Thom Rainer: How Your Church Should Prepare for an Active Shooter (thomrainer.com)
Steps Toward Preparedness
Click here to read an email sent by Dr. Matt Woodbery, Director of Connectional Ministries, to clergy.
There is no assurance that a violent episode can be avoided. However, we can be prepared for the possibility of an incident occurring. Here are a few suggestions:
Gather a Safety and Security Team. Seriously consider developing a team charged with the responsibility of planning for security gaps at the church. Ideally, at least one person on the team will have a background or experience in security, safety, or law enforcement.
Develop a church security plan. A great resource to look at as you develop your plan is https://www.fema.gov/faith-resources. Additional plans to consider include: Church Emergency Plan, Emergency Calling Chain & Response Procedure, and Media Protocols. The Office of Connectional Ministries will be providing additional guidance as you begin to think through what these various plans can look like and how to implement your plans.
Work with your local emergency responders. Contact community leaders and your local law enforcement agency to see how they can be of assistance. We have heard of many communities where active shooter training is being provided by the local police department. Most police and sheriff departments welcome the opportunity to help church leaders determine security issues. Action plans can be developed in partnership with local enforcement officials that help reduce confusion in a security response.
Conduct an assessment of your facilities and work to keep your facilities secure.Invite your local law enforcement to give an objective assessment of your facility not only with a mind toward active shooters, but physical security of the property as well. Looking at your building and grounds with fresh eyes is a major step to improving church security. Too many churches have too many members with keys and access to the church buildings. It is not unusual for doors to be left open and security to be lax because of the nearly unlimited access. Key control, i.e., those who have keys and an accurate inventory of all keys for your facilities, should be maintained and closely monitored. Your church needs clearly defined hours of operation and clear guidelines on access. Some tools you may use to conduct your assessment: Property Checklist; Building Security Checklist;Perimeter Security Protection Checklist.
Train ushers and greeters and strive for total member awareness. Remind your members that they should watch for anything unusual at the church. Greeters at different places in the church facility, from the parking lots to the sanctuary, should be trained toward awareness as well. Those with keen eyes and discernment can save lives. Once a plan has been developed, ensure that ushers are familiar with the procedures. You may even consider having a response card posted at the narthex or entrances where greeters stand for quick reference.
We have grieved with our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs, TX over the past week following the tragic church shooting. As we have watched the news so many questions have come to our minds regarding our own local church safety: How do I keep my congregation safe? How do I prepare for an active shooter? How can I make my church more secure?
To help answer these questions, the Office of Connectional Ministries is hosting a one-hour workshop that will provide practical steps a church can take to reduce the risk of an incident occurring as well as how to be prepared if an event should occur.
The training is set for Tuesday, November 28, at 10:00 am at Forest Hills UMC in Macon. Brent Loeffler, a member of Bainbridge First UMC who also serves with the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, will lead the training.
There are three ways clergy and church leaders can participate:
Join us in person at Forest Hills UMC in their fellowship hall. Forest Hills UMC is located at 1217 Forest Hill Road, Macon GA 31210.
Watch the live stream of the training. A link will be posted the morning of the training at www.sgaumc.org/churchsecurity.
Stay tuned for a recording of the webinar that will be available following the training for viewing at your convenience at www.sgaumc.org/churchsecurity
We also encourage you to work with your community leaders and your local emergency responders. We have heard of many communities where active shooter training is being provided by the local police department. Most police and sheriff departments welcome the opportunity to help church leaders determine security issues. Action plans can be developed in partnership with local law enforcement officials that help reduce confusion in a security response.
If you have questions, please contact Allison Lindsey at email@example.com.