I am not a professional, but I am married to one. I have picked up a lot of things from sitting next to him while I try to watch a crime drama on TV as he systematically picks it apart. Maybe some of what I have learned will help you too. (And he will add things to this to make it more legitimate.)
1. First, to get this little matter taken care of, we are not talking about people coming to persecute you for your faith. We are talking about law-breakers. I am not going to argue that point. My point is saving lives not arguing theology.
2. Leave it to the professionals, if your church has any. We are blessed to have a couple of troopers, a deputy, and some retired law enforcement officers, including my husband who has actually been in and won a firefight himself. I know many of you are licensed to carry, and I have no problem with that. I have heard too many validated stories of people saving their own lives because they carry, not to mention that where we live there are always poisonous snakes, packs of dogs attacking the livestock, and rabid foxes, possums, and coons. The right to carry is perfectly fine with me, and I wouldn't be surprised if a good 20% of our congregation do so.
3. If you do not have any professionals among you, then do your best with the training you have, BUT—be aware that the training given for the average guy (or gal) to carry is minimal at best, and absolutely nothing like the intense training a professional gets. At the shooting in Texas several who were not pros made errors that could have led to tragedy—like waving their guns around when there were still innocent people between them and the bad guy. They must not understand that handguns are not all that accurate at any distance over a few feet. Even allowing your wrist to veer just a fraction off-center when you pull the trigger can have you hitting something (or someone) a couple feet to the side. And bullets go through bodies, people. If there is someone behind the bad guy, you may get a two-for-one without meaning to. Amateurs also have bad habits like keeping their finger in the trigger guard (as Lenny Briscoe of Law and Order was wont to do) before they have even acquired a target.
And think of this: what if you do accidentally hit a little old lady who just couldn't duck fast enough or a terrified child who dashed across the aisle at just the wrong moment? Modern forensic science will find out which gun fired the fatal bullet and you will know without a doubt that you are the one who killed an innocent. Can you live with that?
4. If the intruders are satisfied with the money—GIVE THEM THE MONEY!!! In our age I have little doubt that each member could give the same amount again just by giving up a month of Starbucks or a couple Sunday dinners out. Far better the criminals leave with the money than someone dies because of ineptitude.
5. Your security patrols need to be paying attention, not talking to one another. They should also be young enough to move quickly, not some eighty year old sitting in an easy chair. They need an eye on the parking lot and one on whichever door is within sight and there should be someone who can see each door in the place. How do they worship, you ask? Our sound system goes all over the building. They can sing and look at the same time. In fact, they are more likely to be worshiping then than when they are sitting there chatting with one another. And alternate the patrol duty every so often so they won't become blasé about it.
But notice—this guy got in the assembly with hidden gun because he was recognized by many as a man who had come begging several times before. Just like Satan, bad guys don't always look the part, so always be on guard.
6. You need to have drills so that each teacher knows what to do if the bad guy comes into the building during class time. We have a signal and a lockdown. Figure out what is best for you, but practice it several times and have the procedure printed out in each classroom.
"But won't that unnecessarily scare the children?" I hear someone asking. Maybe, but anyone who calls himself a parent ought to have figured out by now how to give important information to his child without terrifying him. We had fire drills in our home. We talked about stranger danger and even had passwords we gave out when we sent someone to pick up our children somewhere when plans suddenly changed. I don't recall any of this terrifying my boys. Instead it told them what to do if, which is far more comforting than leaving them imagining the worst and wondering what to do. And who says it won't someday be necessary after all? We can hope and pray, but don't let your children suffer because you didn't do what needed to be done.
7. Keep your eyes open, even while sitting in the pew. The man in Texas knew when those people would be the most vulnerable, when he could kill more of them quickly—during the Communion. Too many of us hang our hats on the vertical Communion we have with the Lord and ignore the horizontal Communion commanded in 1 Cor 10. This is supposed to be a unifying act by the church when it "comes together." We are supposed to be noticing each other. Maybe this is one good side effect of this horrible situation—now we will get it right! Even if you can't make yourself look around at your brothers and sisters, at least keep your head up instead of tucking you nose into your navel and thinking that makes you more spiritual than everyone else. If all those young mothers out there can hold a squirming child, correct another on the seat next to her, and still keep her mind on the services, surely the men out there can keep their heads up and still worship during the Communion.
Please don't even think about being a hero if it isn't necessary. This is not a movie scripted so that all the good guys survive and "live happily ever after" with only a token "flesh wound" to show for it. My husband will tell you, flesh wounds hurt, even 24 years later. There isn't a day goes by that he does not have pain from one or the other of the five he suffered.
Keith has written the policy letter for our congregation regarding carrying in services and the guidelines we expect all to follow. We will be happy to email you a copy if you either leave your email address below or, for privacy's sake, contact Dene on the left sidebar and send her your address via her blog email.
And let's pray together that all this is for nothing.
Dene and Keith Ward