Sadly, the threat of an active shooter incident is now a top-of-mind daily concern for today’s church leaders. Too many still believe it could never happen in their own houses of worship — but in reality, FBI hate crime statistics show that such incidents in religious facilities increased nearly 35% between 2014 and 2018.

As ministry leaders know — and as evidenced by recent tragedies — this threat has only become more pressing since.

But you don’t have to just accept this reality as fact; prepare yourselves instead.

Here, we’ve gathered experts in the field of active shooter prevention and training to share their best guidance.


Chris McConnell, National Sales @ Air Comm

Jason Murphy, Sales Manager @ WS Communications

John Murphy, Managing Director @ GuideStone®

Church Executive: How prepared are churches to mitigate the threat of an active shooter?

Chris McConnell: I don’t think that most churches are prepared to respond to a security emergency. But with the existing and growing threat of violence, churches much start to consider — as part of their mission — protecting their parishioners and visitors while within their doors.  This starts with putting a plan in place that includes comprehensive communication, surveillance, and security. This important first step will put churches on the right path to improving safety.  

 Jason Murphy: Unfortunately, only a small percentage of churches are prepared for an active shooter. Speaking with experts in the field, the percentage of churches that are actually prepared is less than 15 percent.  

John Murphy: My immediate concern is that many churches are not sufficiently prepared. We’ve talked to thousands of churches about this issue, and most of them bring up the fact that they assume their members can take care of any shooter threats — largely because some of their members are licensed, concealed-carrying individuals. But this is not an adequate plan.

Based on my experience, many leaders haven’t sufficiently communicated with their church members about this topic and don’t have comprehensive training or action plans in place should tragedy strike.

Even those churches that have talked to their members and have conducted training in the past might not be prepared for the threat of an active shooter today.

As more time passes from news of a tragedy or since the last time a training session took place, the more relaxed your team becomes and the more they lose focus on mitigating risk.

CE: Do you find that the “it can’t happen here” mentality still prevails in churches as it relates to the threat of an active shooter?

Jason Murphy: Yes, the “it can’t happen here” mentality is very prevalent in churches. The reality is that most churches are “soft targets” and ultimately, the chance of it happening continues to grow.  

 John Murphy: Yes, and it’s so damaging when it does happen. The human costs are so incalculable. Although it’s true that the number of attacks has increased, the likelihood that it will happen to your church is still slim. But it does happen.  And if it happens to your church — the damage is immense.

No matter how unlikely we believe it might be, we can’t afford to have the “it can’t happen here” mentality. None of us can afford to lose a single person because we aren’t prepared. It hurts too much, and the impact to your congregation and larger community is too great to not pay attention to this issue and take it seriously.  

McConnell: While it is difficult to imagine why a place of worship would be the target of a violent act, recently history has shown that nowhere is safe, including churches.    

Critically, many churches don’t have security measures in place. Attackers know that at many churches, they can walk in without having to pass through a metal detector or similar security. In the same way that schools now have emergency plans and locked doors in place, I believe we will see churches starting to adopt these types of strategies.

CE: What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to church leaders who are committed to protecting their own houses of worship?

John Murphy: Don’t stop having worship out of fear. Know the Lord is still there, even when there is danger or a threat.

Do be “as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 (CSB). Take action to protect your people. We believe there are people in every congregation that are called to protect. Offer these people an opportunity to serve in your church safety ministry and equip them with the training and knowledge they need. It’s wise and loving to have a security ministry that takes care of your flock and creates a safe environment for them.  

 McConnell: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being on top of a security situation before or during the fact — not after — is one way to really help prevent tragedy.

The first and most essential piece of a church’s security plan should be communication. Two-way radios provide communication among a large number of people. In the event of a security incident, radios allow a church to have instant communication with staff, visitors and volunteers.  

Another consideration for churches is live monitored security cameras. We have a division that produces security cameras that are 100-percent live-monitored, meaning that a church can respond instantly by contacting law enforcement and implementing its security protocols.

We can even install an intercom system that allows monitors to speak directly to anyone in the church over a loudspeaker. Obviously, this type of system provides clear advantages to simply reviewing videotaped security footage after the fact.  

Jason Murphy: I would encourage church leaders to not become complacent and really put an emphasis on protecting
their congregation.

They need to work with companies [like ours] to educate themselves and their safety and security teams on processes and procedures.  

They should also work with local law enforcement to make sure that they have a joint plan in place should an emergency arise.   


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