It seems that each day brings news of another attack on unarmed civilians in a public place. Increasingly, these attacks are met with unexpected (to the killer) and successful armed resistance. Attacks on churches and religious groups have been brought to the forefront once again with the recent Texas shooting and assaults on Jews in New York.

The Church Security Alliance maintains an updated list of Church Security Incidents on their website. The frequency of such occurrences may surprise you. While we can’t eliminate evil, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples can anticipate it and plan for security measures to mitigate risk.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden has called the Governor of Texas “totally irrational” for signing the law which allows churchgoers to legally carry guns and protect themselves. In self-defense deprived New York, Jews have endured a series of attacks and gun control leader California leads the nation in mass slayings with eight tragedies in the last year.

What are we to do?

Church security teams, like the successful team in Texas, are increasingly popular in areas of the country which legally allow self-defense. Properly trained and integrated into a church’s emergency response plan, a small team can avert tragedy. Many people of faith abhor violence and dislike the idea of armed security. While understandable, these attitudes make attacks more likely to be deadlier.

Every public building in the United States is built according to fire codes and has features such as fire alarms and marked emergency exits. While it has been over 100 years since anyone died in a church fire, we still prepare for this dangerous possibility. Likewise, even though violent attacks are highly unlikely at any given place of worship, churches should plan and prepare.

Writing a well thought out plan and forming a church security team can be the difference between life and death. A plan should start with research. There are organizations like Church Security Alliance, Sheepdog Church Security and Magen Am U.S.A. (Hebrew for “Nation’s Shield”) who can help. Many local law enforcement agencies are happy to offer advice and assistance.

I helped my brother start a security team at his church 12 years ago. We devised a layered security structure and trained selected church members for armed response and others for medical response. The team is still going strong and they continue to deter and prevent violent incidents.