Basic Security Steps For Houses Of Worship

Basic Security Outline For Houses Of Worship

1. Situational Awareness (knowing what is around you at all times)

2.Verbal de-escalation (Talking the perpetrator into submission)

3. Unarmed/Non-lethal de-escalation (Pepper spray, Stun gun, Physical force, etc.)

4. Armed Engagement (Using a last ditch effort in a situation to save lives.)

” The best thing you can do to avoid injury and loss of life, is to prevent the attack in the first place.  When preventative measures fail, being caught without the means to defend yourself, even in a house of worship, is a mistake you may only get to make once”  Ron Aguiar, Oasis Safety

Putting Together An Effective Church Security & or Safety Team

Once upon a time, the lack of peace and safety church leaders worried about, mostly happened somewhere else; Now, the rise in deadly shootings and other crimes has visited churches. Church leaders of many houses of God are seeing their need to prepare for the unthinkable. The ranks of those who say “It couldn’t happen here” have begun to shrink.

Church security is increasing at houses of worship worldwide due to threats such as active shooter attacks and acts of terrorism. The FBI Hate Crimes Stats report revealed there were 7,175 hate criminal activity events in 2017, with practically 21 percent of those encouraged by a religious predisposition. Houses of worship can be targeted because of the religious beliefs they practice or just because of the market make up their congregation.

You may not have the ability to avoid a mass shooting from ever occurring. Still, you can enhance the security at the House of Worship and have a plan in place to respond effectively to an emergency.

We must defend the church from violence. While force should be viewed as a last resort, we must prepare to use it properly and effectively. We must remain alert to potential threats and know how much force should be used in any given situation as well as what the laws are regarding its use.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 declares that it is when men cry “peace and safety” than sudden destruction will come.

Now, peace and safety has become a call to action.  That’s why is here today. Don’t take church security lightly or it may be one of the last things you ever do.

For example:

Sept. 15, 1999 Church in Texas

  • Over 150 teenagers at church singing hymns.
  • Suspect entered and shot 14 people.
  • Ended up killing 7 people and injuring another 7 before killing himself.

March 12, 2005  Church in Wisconsin

  • Suspect opened fire on the congregation, killing 7 and wounding 4 before taking his own life.
  • He was described by people that knew him as a normal guy with no warning signs.

Dec 9, 2007 Church in Colorado 

  • Suspect was asked to leave a youth center.
  • Returned, opened fire killing 2 and injured 2.
  • 35 minutes later, he went to a church and killed 2 people.

March 8, 2009  Church in Illinois

  • Suspect walks into the church and shoots the pastor dead, point blank. 
  • Several church members confronted the shooter with aggression and overpowered him.

March 31, 2013 Church in Ohio

  • A suspect killed his father at the church.
  • Afterward, he shouted about Allah and God. 
  • The suspect was later arrested by the police.

December 2019 West Freeway Church of Christ

  • A gunman opened fire at 10am. in a Texas church on a Sunday, killing two people and injuring others before two “heroic” congregants shot and killed him at the scene.

This is just some of the hundreds of examples where someone walks into a church and starts shooting or otherwise causing havoc.

Why we need security & safety teams in churches & houses of worship.

The Mentality of a shooter

He will continue until stopped.  Primary motive is revenge or other motives.

Hatred, domestic or marital issues, child custody dispute, congregation dispute, denied services, disappointment in leadership’s decision, physical/mental illness, financial trouble, or just mad at the world. Or it could simply be anything.

         Are there pre-indicators?

Key Findings:

Unless person communicates their intent directly, Predicting an active shooter incident is difficult  and even More difficult in large congregations.


  • The idea may brew for weeks or months
  • Pre-implementation 2 days prior to the attack
  • Higher risk on Sundays usually after church begins.
  • Can happen anytime but mostly 8am to 2pm

Causes & Categories

  • Difference’s of Religious Opinion/Ideology
  • Domestic Disputes
  • Youth Issues
  • Retribution
  • Mental Illness

     Workplace violence


“The best thing you can do to avoid injury and loss of life is prevent the attack in the first place.”

“When preventative measures fail, being caught without the means to defend yourself, even in a house of worship, is a mistake you might only get to make once.”

Keeping Your Church Safe  by Ron Aguiar

Dr. Don Boys says, “Christians don’t shoot to kill.  Christians shoot to stay alive.”

Considerations For an Effective Church Security Team

(NOTE: There is not a “one size fits all” for Church security teams.)

There should be sufficient & proper training of volunteers, with annual updates in…

*1. Situational Awareness. (or knowing what is around you at all times) This is probably the most fundamental and important 1st. step in the whole process of security. (Is. 21:6) “Situational awareness” can be defined as “paying attention to what is going on around you.” Awareness is a choice.  One has to choose to pay attention.  Remember, never put yourself in a situation you can’t see your way out of. * [See below for more information on Situational Awareness.] 

2. Verbal de- escalation of conflict when dealing with disruptive persons ( How to approach a disruptive person without putting them instantly on guard, or triggering their flight or fight response.) (Prov. 15:1) This is probably the second most fundamental step in the process of security.

Here are some principles for verbal de-escalation of a conflict situation.

The four main goals of de-escalation give it its power.

  • Keep lines of communication open. You’ll gain insight into the situation including things that may calm the person.
  • Get the person talking. Much of a disruptive person’s frustration comes from feeling ignored or misunderstood. Also, when talking there is little chance for action.
  • Actively listen. Make the person feel heard.
  • Maintain control through clear and calm communication. You will be able to better control the situation by keeping the level of conversation quiet and calm.

Tips for Maintaining Body Language as You De-Escalate the Situation


*Mindful: be conscious of your posture

  •  *Open: use an open, yet defensible posture

*Move Slowly: use slow and deliberate movements.

  •  * Don’t Point: never point at the person. It communicates accusations.
  •  *Don’t Shrug: shrugging your shoulders communicates that you are uncaring or unknowing.
  •  * Relax: don’t display a rigid posture, cross your arms, or puff out your chest. This shows you as defensive or aggressive.

Be aware of your facial expression:

  • Relax Your Face: don’t furrow your brow or frown.
  • Smile: start friendly with a natural smile. If the situation escalates it’s okay to relax into a neutral expression. Nothing is more aggravating than a fake smile.
  • Eye Contact: keep and maintain natural eye contact. Never close your eyes or look away. Don’t stare. The person may interpret this as a challenge.

Be aware of your voice:

  • Volume: keep your volume soft. Generally, the softer voice is matched. It’s also calming.
  • Slow Down: your rate of speech should be natural or slower than natural. This is soothing.
  • Friendly: keep your tone of voice friendly and helpful.

Keep your thoughts and emotions in check. They come across through body language:

  • Maintain the Mind of Christ: do not prejudge, criticize, argue, threaten, engage in power struggles, or disregard the feelings or position of the person.
  • Understand Without Agreeing: we recommend using the phrase “I hear you.” It shows that you understand what the person is saying and the emotions they are feeling. It does not say you agree with their actions or interpretations.

Additional Tips Helping to De-escalate the Situation

  • Avoid intervening too quickly. People argue and it is a healthy part of relationships.
  • Avoid interrupting a disruptive person. The whole point is to get and keep her talking to calm down.
  • Don’t ask “why” questions. Why questions are logic-based. Emotional people do not think logically.
  • Don’t rush the interaction. Time is on your side. Don’t try to hurry verbal de-escalation techniques.
  • Avoid asking a lot of questions. If you do ask a question, it should be a “softball” type of question.
  • Avoid accusatory statements such as “act right – this is a church”, “you’re acting crazy”, or “you need to calm down.” These statements are very inflammatory.
  • Avoid saying “I know how you feel”, or “things can’t be that bad.” This isn’t about you, and you can’t know how they feel. Do not suggest that things will get better because they may not.
  • Avoid shouting or giving rapid commands.
  • Don’t take anything personally (lying, tricking, deceiving, threatening, etc.).

Never make promises you can’t keep!

3. Unarmed or non-lethal de-escalation (take the perp. down with pepper spray, stun gun, physical force, etc.)

4. Armed engagement (using a last-ditch effort to save lives).

*Again remember, never put yourself in a situation you can’t see your way out of.

Side notes:

*No one should be on a church security team without being properly trained in the 4 areas above .

*Everyone on a church security team should be properly trained in the use of their weapon.

*No one should be on a church security team If they are unwilling to use deadly force if necessary.

*Special emphases should be on the parking lot personal, door greeters, and ushers (Levites) as a first line defense for spotting something out of order. These are the three most vital areas for spotting potential problems.

Remember, security can be balanced with a warm, welcoming environment at your church by using friendly greeters while keeping an eye out for the unusual. 

More Suggestions for Keeping The Church Safe

  • Security cameras with someone monitoring them at all times during services & events is strongly sugggested.
  •  Physical random patrolling of the parking lot and grounds around the campus during services & events( No one person should do this alone.  Security personnel should always work as a team effort.)
  • Two way radio communication is strongly suggested. (With The chief of security monitoring all transmissions.)
  • Work with local law enforcement, if possible, asking them to Periodically and randomly Patrol the parking lot During service times and special event time periods.
  • Develop a church security plan as part of the security policy. Then Create a manual outlining the policies & procedures of your security program and make sure everyone concerned reads and understands them.

End Note:

I would never want to be the person to tell someone they can’t exercise their Biblical, Constitutional and moral right to self-defense. But I would say, if there is a situational threat in the church, let the properly trained security personal handle the situation and the other congregants NOT get evolved except as a last resort.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”

James 1:19 KJV

*Practical Situational Awareness Saves Lives

You’ve probably heard the oft-quoted saying, “When seconds count, the police are there in minutes.”.

We need to be constantly alert to what is going on around us; what is often referred to as “condition yellow.” In case you haven’t heard of this, there are five conditions of alertness:

  • Condition White – Unaware of what is going on around us; where the sheeple live and where we don’t want to.
  • Condition Yellow – Aware of what’s going on around us and constantly scanning for potential threats.
  • Condition Orange – A potential threat is observed and we are watching to see if it develops further.
  • Condition Red – The threat seems to be real and we are waiting for it to materialize. We are ready to draw our sidearm and react to it.
  • Condition Black— ln the fight! 
  • Selecting the right vantage point from which to observe is an important part of making sure you have the ability to observe. The classic example is eating in a restaurant. If you’re sitting with your back to the door, your first opportunity to be aware that anything is going down is when you hear the bad guys yell or take their first shot; so much for condition yellow.
  • Rather, always position yourself so that you can see most of the area you are in, especially ingress and egress points. If it isn’t possible to see the whole room and the doorway, pick the doorway. At some point in time, any bad guy will have to come through it, in order to get where you are.

If you and I don’t have keen observation skills, we could very well miss the signs we’re looking for, even though we’re in condition yellow.

Seeing the things which are right in front of our eyes is a skill that takes time to develop. Sadly, you can’t just decide one day that you’re going to live your life in condition yellow and be able to do so perfectly. You need practice and more practice.

This doesn’t just mean practicing the specific act of using your situational awareness, but also practicing your observation skills. The idea here is to literally learn how to see in a whole new way. As you do, you will naturally use it to improve your situational awareness

  • Don’t expect to become an expert in situational awareness overnight. This is something that takes considerable time and effort to become good at. You may not even realize that you are getting better, because the improvement will come slowly.
  • Nevertheless, you will find that you can and will improve with practice. You’ll know you’ve reached your goal, when people around you are amazed at what you notice that they don’t.

Log on to USCCA/DELTA DEFENSE for more information & special membership rates for groups!

Don Woolett

ABOUT DON: Bro. Don Woolett is a member of the Hodgenville Pentecostal Church, Hodgenville, Ky 42748.  He is a member of the HPC church security & safety team and holds credentials as a minister with the Free Pentecostal Church of God Association, Cincinnati, OH. He is an ordained Chaplain with Chaplains International, Inc. Bro. Don’s church and family security qualifications include US Army combat special operations, Security team fundamentals certification, Dealing with disruptive persons certification, Optimal situational awareness certification, Conflict resolution certification & training through USCCA, US Law Shield, University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine  in general industry safety standards, & More.  Bro. Don & his wife, Debbie, reside near Hodgenville, Ky.


NOTE: Any and all information contained herein is presented as a suggestion and best practice, and not necessarily applicable to every situation, place of worship or church. Please consult with your church attorney or insurance company for final say or any applicable content.

Copyright 2020 Don Woolett/  P.O Box 337, Hodgenville, Ky.  42748

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Duplication & Distribution without permission Prohibited. Thank You For faithfully Supporting This Ministry.