I recently was writing a proposal for a church in Iowa and the staff member that I was in communication with asked a very good question. This church is just getting started and are looking to the future of having an armed component. The question that this staff member asked was "What prerequisites do you recommend and liabilities should we consider to help determining who qualifies as a good candidate for armed carry?"
Before I share my answer to his question, I want to stress that the likelihood of an active shooting incident happening at your church is very remote. BUT, that does not mean that we don't prepare for one. There are way too many companies out there that are focusing on training active shooter response and forgetting about the prevention and the ministry of safety and security.. I tell people all the time that we can't lose the focus that the church is here for the hurting and the broken. Let me share a note from a pastor at my church after dealing with a couple of situations this past weekend. "With each person - security made appropriate and relational contact. What I observed is the security team approaching each gentlemen in an intentional, genuine, and relational manner - not in an "we have our eyes on you, buddy..." There was genuine care and concern - they wanted to do what they could for the gentlemen -the security team was warm, friendly, and even smiled when talking to the guys :) :) - but you could tell there was a deeper intentionality in why they approached these gentlemen. It was great work."
Here is my email response to the staff members questions. I could have included so much more but wanted to share this with you whether you have a team in place or looking to get one going.
"Something to think about, and this would go for armed and unarmed, is that you want to have the person who has calm presence about them. They have demonstrated good discernment. If you have someone that is eager to be part of the armed component, it is probably better not to have them serving in that capacity. What you want to avoid is the “John Wayne” types. Usually the type of people that you want as part of the armed component are people that are not just believers of Christ but followers. The person that understands what a true relationship with Christ is has one. The reason is because they will typically be the type of person that is slow to speak, quick to listen, not easily angered, and has the understanding that everyone is a child of Christ not that everyone is a suspect. They understand that the likelihood of an active shooter is slim to none but they are willing to train, be prepared, and willing to deal with all the other issues that may arise because they are called to “Stand on the wall” knowing that most likely never draw their “sword” but are quick to offer other assistance. Titus 1:5-9 is a good guideline that I like to use for someone that is serving and as such is a representative of the church.
As I am sure you know and understand, us guys can easily have issues dealing with pride in our lives. When someone has a prideful spirit, it can easily cloud their judgment and provide a false confidence. I will never say that I have ever “arrived” both in my personal and professional life. I look to other men to continue to train me (I am actually limping today from my Aikido training last night. Not looking forward to going through airports tomorrow.). I meet with men from our team each week for a Bible study opportunity of iron sharpening iron. This helps in keeping us all grounded and our focus on what God has called us to do for the hurting and the broken that come to our church.
A couple of personnel ideas for the armed component would be to start with those that are law enforcement or former law enforcement. Most often they have the necessary training and temperament to make the right decision when everything is going wrong. Keep in mind that often these people might not be able to serve because of departmental rules or risk of liability to their department. Many of them that have been in my trainings in the past say that it is hard for them to take what they do day in and day out and put it in a ministry perspective. I have one tonight that is going to actually do some training for the team that he is on. My trainers and mentors are either current or former law enforcement.
Another group would be current or former military. This group has the right “Sheepdog” mentality of protection but don’t assume that they have the necessary training to work as armed security in ministry. As a retired military person myself, I can say that I was one of those people. Ministry and military mission mentality are very different. You will also have men and women currently on your team or who want to serve on the team that you know have the criteria above. I would have them serving for a period (6-12 months is an idea) so that it can better be determined the type of person they truly are. You are not going to get it right every time and asking someone to stepdown can be a hard thing to do, but sometimes it is necessary.
Ok, now let me wrap up on liability. I cover this pretty well in my book and I think you got one. If you don’t have an insurance rider through the church to protect both the volunteer and the church I would recommend getting one as soon as possible. They are typically rather inexpensive, but I did talk with one church that was getting charged a lot and they ended up changing insurance carriers to one of the major ones for churches that deal with this already.
I didn’t use to recommend personal insurance for the concealed carry person but I do now with the world that we live in. Hopefully those that are willing to carry for the church are the same people that are carrying in their daily life. I don’t think that there is anyone better than USCCA. I have a link on my page that keeps up to date with current offers as well. http://www.cv-ministries.com/additional-resources.html . I work with one church that requires it from their people if they are going to be part of the armed portion of the team. Regular training and training records kept for all team members and additional training requirements for the armed component"
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