FRANKFORT—Judging from the huge crowd that packed into Buck Run Baptist Church’s new sanctuary on March 24, improving church safety is on the minds of many Kentucky Baptists.
More than 1,000 church leaders turned out for training offered at the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Church Security Conference in Frankfort, which featured presentations from security experts with military and law enforcement training.
Key presenters included members of the E:33 Group from Bowling Green, which offers various types of safety training to faith-based organizations; Oasis Safety, a group committed to training churches and parachurch organizations to develop security programs; and Triple Counter Measure, an organization created by military and law enforcement veterans to bring knowledge and training to churches and organizations.
During the plenary session, E:33, which included Brian Coyt, Mark Alderson, and Miki Padgett, shared the story of the recent stabbing at Hillvue Heights and how members of the security team there responded to the situation. Although, “we had a good safety team,” after this incident, the church further fortified their security protocol, the presenters, Coyt shared.
Because emergency situations require, “split second decisions that are life altering, you have to select people who can react under stress,” he urged.
Understanding that the three responses in high-stress situations are “fight, flight or freeze,” “the time to learn how to do something is not when you’re in the middle of it,” Coyt said, stressing the need for preparation.
Other keys to preventing violent situations and being prepared to respond to them include communication and psychological deterrents such as a police car presence and a uniformed officer on the campus
Ron Aguiar with Oasis Safety shared in the plenary session and in his breakout several case studies of church shootings and what can be learned from them. He emphasized the importance of training not only church staff or a security team but also training ushers, greeters and parking lot volunteers.
Frank Benton, pastor of Temple Hill Baptist Church in Glasgow, said that last October, a retired state patrolman in his congregation led his church to set up a security plan. However, information on children’s ministry security will assist Temple Hill in making their children’s area more secure, he said.
“Being at the conference encouraged me and affirmed that what we have in place is in line with what was recommended in the sessions,” Benton added.
“The potential of active shooter on our church property is a sobering thought. The scripture shared in the conference from Matthew 10:16 to be ‘…wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ reminded me of the importance of doing everything we can to make our church as safe as possible,” he continued.
“I am grateful for the KBC’s leadership in planning and providing training for our churches in Kentucky to better equip us to take the gospel to our lost communities,” he said.
“The breakout sessions were informative and practical, with experienced leaders addressing the potential of life threatening situations in the church,” Larry Rowell, pastor of Beech Grove Baptist Church in Campbellsville, said. “This is the world we’re living in, and I’m thankful the Kentucky Baptist Convention saw church safety as a priority issue and addressed it.”
Hershael York, pastor of host church, Buck Run Baptist in Frankfort, added, “Everyone who attended learned helpful strategies to protect their congregations, but without creating a climate of fear. Churches can be safe without being scared. Safety is more about awareness than weapons.”
York continued, “Prevention is always better than reaction. Churches who intentionally think through awareness, prevention, protection, and education are in a much better position to keep their congregations safe from tragedy and terror. Training like this gives churches concrete steps to take to get the process started and create a safe space for worship.”
Buck Run was honored to host the conference due to its central location as well as the capacity of its new facility, York said. “When we were building, we realized how much security and safety has to be included in design and detail. We think about it a lot and have invested heavily in it, so this event was a natural fit for us,” he added.
In addition to the main topics discussed, breakout sessions dealt with active shooter situations, assessing vulnerabilities within the church, legal issues related to church security, safety in children’s ministry, communication, and first steps.
“Every church must think about church security in today’s world! Every church should have a comprehensive church security plan and a church security team in place. But where do we begin and who can help?” Steve Rice, KBC church consulting and revitalization team leaders, told attendees.
Rice said that because of this need, the KBC saw fit to host the security conference.
“While I grieve that a conference like this one is needed, I’m thankful we could offer it,” Paul Chitwood, KBC executive director, told Kentucky Today. “Headlines reveal that school children and churchgoers are the regular victims of deranged mass murders looking for high profile targets that will get the world’s attention. Stopping a shooter from taking innocent life is nearly impossible, but stopping a shooter from taking everyone’s life, especially in the Lord’s house, isn’t that difficult.”
He added that churches’ response to the conference was overwhelming and encouraging.
Recordings from the conference as well as other resources will be made available at www.kybaptist.org/security. (WR)