‘Protecting the Flock’ conference offers church security information
Photo: Brown Missionary Baptist Church Executive Pastor Derrick Anderson in the church sanctuary. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
The news sadly is reporting more and more about attacks, fires, and shootings threatening the faith community, making the area that people call a place of worship and a sanctuary feel less like a sanctuary.
Scanning news from the U.S. Department of Justice, even just recently, we read about a Nevada man charged with a federal hate crime in a California Taiwanese Presbyterian Church shooting, a Minnesota man indicted in a mosque arson, and a Colorado man pleading guilty to a federal hate crime charge in a church arson, all that in just a week’s time.
At one time the number of church shootings in the country had increased nearly 35 percent between 2014 and 2018.
These are some of the tragic occurrences an upcoming conference hopes to prevent from happening in the Mid-South area. The conference, called Protecting the Flock: Church Safety and Security Seminar, is hosted by Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven on Friday, June 9 and Saturday, June 10. The conference will be held at the church’s Main Campus on Stateline Road.
Brown Executive Pastor Derrick Anderson says the purpose of the conference is to equip churches to maintain a safe environment while continuing its mission.
“We want church to be an environment where people can enjoy their relationship and get closer to God and feel that sense of security,” Anderson said. “But we feel that God has armed us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted us. To be able to do that, we have to prepare for anything that can happen.”
The list of presenters for the conference is diverse and well-versed in security issues and how they related to the faith-based community. They include Michael Mann, owner of a security consulting firm; Carl Chinn, who was a hostage at Focus on the Family in 1996 and whose church came under attack 11 years later. Those incidents would lead to him starting a leading security network for churches; former Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, who is now the Vice President of Security Operations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; and Mike Everett, the Director of Security Services for Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee.
Also on the list of presenters is Jack Wilson, a church volunteer security director who intervened and stopped an active shooter as he attacked Wilson’s congregation during Sunday morning service in December 2019.
“A gunman came into their sanctuary, really disguised himself as a congregant, and began to take out a weapon and shoot someone,” Anderson said. “Jack Wilson really embodies what this is all about and understands the importance of being prepared, trained, and being able to eliminate the threat without causing additional harm.”
It was Wilson who shot a gunman who entered West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, located west of Fort Worth, and shot two parishioners on that Sunday morning in 2019.
Anderson believes conference attendees will start to learn why it is important that churches have a security plan in place to protect those who enter seeking to worship in a safe setting.
“It’s still one of those gray areas for a lot of people,” Anderson said. “Why do you still need security? That’s a question still in the minds of people, even with what is going on. How do we educate and understand the urgency but also teach them and give the guidance to be able to create it.”
When you think about church security, a gunman seeking to harm with a bullet initially comes to mind. But Anderson pointed out there are other ways churches come under attack.
“Churches are being attacked with social media financially,” Anderson said. “So, how do you make it a safe environment from the outside all the way through the sanctuary? Churches should have a safe environment for people to come, that they’re protected with their identity and trust in their financial information and their records all of the way through being prepared for those moments when they have an active shooter coming in.”
Anderson believes all churches, regardless of size, need to have a security plan in place.
“I don’t think any church, where they have 20 people or 15,000 people, should be without a security plan,” said Anderson. “They need to know what to do in a crisis or any kind of critical incident and to know what the response is going to be after that. Without that, you are setting yourself up for loss of life, loss of trust in the entity, and liability, the ability to be sued for not having things prepared and safe for your parishioners.”
For more information about Protecting the Flock: Church Safety and Security Seminar, click the link here for details and registration. Hours on Friday, June 9 are from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Saturday, June 10 from 8 a.m.-12 noon.