FULTON – Pastors and lay leaders from churches throughout the state of Missouri gathered at First Baptist Church, Fulton, for a security training event presented by Strategos International, Nov. 19.
Missouri-based Strategos International has trained more than 7,500 law enforcement, military, church, school, security and business professionals since its establishment in 2002. During the recent training session in Fulton, Strategos president Vaughn Baker – who is also a lay leader at Abundant Life Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit – taught 108 church staff and members how to watch for and respond to suspicious activity in the church. This lesson – summarized by the slogan, “See something; say something” – not only improves security, but it can also enhance the ministry of the church.
“Awareness isn’t just for security,” Baker said. By learning to watch for suspicious activity, church leaders will often improve their ability to notice people who are hurting or in need, to whom they can minister.
Moreover, church leaders must not compromise their “core mission,” defined generally as creating an environment of “comfort, refuge, worship and learning,” for the sake of security and safety. Nevertheless, a church security team may need to “escalate” their approach in order to “de-escalate” a situation. Baker assured church leaders that they have the right and responsibility to protect innocent church members from harm.
“You have the right to fight back,” he said, explaining that civilians can legally use force either to protect their own lives or the lives of others. Some people, arguing that Christians show no faith in God when they implement church security plans, have questioned Baker’s views. In response, he reminds these people that they plan for the worst on a daily basis by looking both ways before crossing the road, wearing their seatbelts and using smoke detector in their homes.
“All we’re doing is that we’re teaching churches to put their seat belt on and to look both ways before they cross the street,” Baker said. “Prepare in advance.”
While also defending the right of churches to use armed security, Baker reminded his audience that armed security personnel at a church should receive a high level of training, above and beyond what is legally required of concealed carriers.
According to Gary Schultz, pastor of First Baptist, Fulton, the Strategos training was “overwhelmingly positive.”
“I was excited about the opportunity to host Strategos,” Schultz said. “They are very well known and very good at what they do, and I learned a lot from it.”
“Church security, in our day and age, is something that is necessary,” he added. “With the incidents that have happened in society over the last several years, how those keep increasing, it is incumbent upon church leaders to make sure there are procedures in place in case something goes wrong, whether that is during the week or especially during a service.”
According to Jerry Field, support services team leader at the Missouri Baptist Convention, numerous churches responded when the convention offered this training event. For this reason, he said, the convention has organized another Strategos training event at Miner Baptist Church, Sikeston, on Feb. 15. Additionally, the convention may organize as many as four of these training events throughout the state during 2014.
To learn more or to register for the Feb. 15 church security training, visit www.mobaptist.org/church-security.