Protect Your Congregation


With church shootings on the rise, what can church leaders do to protect their worshipers from an active shooter? Of course, nothing you can do is guaranteed to prevent tragedy, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk and fulfill your charge to protect your congregation. Minister and chief of police Andrew Mills suggests the following steps:

Step 1: Work with your local police

  • Designate one of your leaders to meet with the police and review their strategy for responding to a shooting in your building.
  • Educate your worshippers on church policy for responding to an emergency, perhaps through a brochure or a segment of your new member’s class.

Step 2: Create an information packet about your facility for police

  • Blueprints and photos (digital and hard-copy) of every room in the church, which police at a command center can use to guide officers as they secure the church building
  • Emergency contact information for the church pastor, property manager, medical personnel, and members of the church’s crisis-response team
  • Keys to outside and classroom doors
  • Shut off points for gas, water, and electricity
  • Designated rally points for families and medical triage
  • Any knowledge of existing threats, disgruntled or troubled church members.

Step 3: Create a lockdown policy

A lockdown may be the best way to protect the segment of your congregation that is in the building during a shooting, but outside the immediate vicinity of the shooter. During a lockdown, certain areas of the church are required to shut, lock, and barricade their doors until police arrive. Those inside during a lockdown should stay away from windows and leave room lights on to ease the police team’s search. A lockdown removes the chaos and confusion of an unplanned evacuation.

Step 4: Harden the target

  • Make it difficult for an intruder to enter your church unnoticed and take a seat wherever he wants. For example, closing sanctuary doors once a service begins and training ushers to meet latecomers and guide them to designated seating areas.
  • Increase early identification. Ushers, greeters, or church staff can identify a threat by monitoring entrances via surveillance cameras, well-placed windows, or simply by extending a personal greeting to any person who looks suspicious.
  • Reduce risk. Create visual or lighting obstructions, isolating threats from the body of worshippers.
  • Set guidelines for denying access to people who are unstable, agitated, angry, or intoxicated. Train ushers to identify the warning signs of such a person, and coach them to deny access firmly, but respectfully. If a pastor has a counselee who is particularly troubled, a head usher can be recruited to show extra attention to that person if he arrives at the church.

Step 5: Develop a plan

Every church should be prepared by appointing a crisis response team consisting of several people with police, military, or medical training. Choose people for this group who will avoid sensationalizing or trivializing your church’s potential for attack. Task them with developing plans for dealing with emergency situations, not just for active shooters, but for any type of hazard that may threaten your church family.

Once plans have been developed, the team should regularly train for executing them. We recommend using VTT™, our web-based tool for visualizing your plan during training   To use VTT™, simply pull in a map of your facility, campus, or area of interest. Use the tools to mark avenues of egress, hazards, or other annotations on the map. So easy to use that the team can visualize the participants’ responses in real time as the training scenario unfolds.

Call or email today and we’ll get you set up with everything you need to start using VTT™ in your church, or call 641-856-8052