Defend your flock: self-defense for the Church

By Kirk Evans

The world isn’t as innocent as it once was, and you can no longer assume you are safe from harm simply because you’re in a church sanctuary.

There have been numerous reported cases of armed attackers targeting churches in the past decade. Such attacks have occurred on Sunday morning, as well as during the week, in church offices, parking lots, etc.

What is supposed to be a safe place — a place of love, kindness, and preaching God’s Word — is now seen by criminals as an easy target. As sad as it is, places of worship provide an easy location to attack.

What makes a church a “soft,” or easy, target? 

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Churches are often places where people gather in large numbers to worship, which means their guards are down and they’re not paying close attention to their surroundings. When you’re at church, you’re in a welcoming and warm place, and you don’t expect to be attacked. And that’s how violent actors see churches: buildings packed with naïve, unassuming people who often won’t fight back.

The actions of these killers who target places of worship have resulted in a wide range of devastation, from a handful of injuries to dozens murdered. There’s no way to predict when or how someone will attack your church. They choose the time. As a leader in your church, it’s your job to be prepared to respond in such a way that these attackers are thwarted.

If you think an attack could never take place at your church — you’re mistaken

It’s normal to feel as though it could never happen to you. However, when you live in that mindset, it can lead to freezing and confusion in the event of a violent attack. “It could never happen to me” becomes a segue to “I cannot believe this is happening to me,” and that can mean lives lost. Whether you’re a deacon, elder or pastor, you have not only a spiritual but also a physical responsibility to lead and guard your parishioners.

“[T]hat’s how violent actors see churches: buildings packed with naïve, unassuming people who often won’t fight back.”

It can be a struggle to understand the Bible’s approach to self-defense. After all, some of us were taught to turn the other cheek. If your church is attacked, are you justified in using deadly force?

There are several Bible verses dealing with this topic. In the New Living Translation of Leviticus 19:16b, we are told, “Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the LORD.” And in the New Testament we are given the greatest motive for protecting others. Paul the Apostle stated that, “love… always protects…” (1 Corinthians 13:7New International Version). We are not meant to stand idly by while our flock is attacked.

It’s our sincerest hope you never face a violent attacker …

But such attacks are no longer rare occurrences, so it’s wise to be prepared. Take time to make sure your stewards and other staff members are properly trained and that you have in place both a plan during and after an attack. It’s a good idea to have Stop the Bleed® kits (which include C-A-T tourniquets and QuikClot® dressing) available in known locations around the church, and to ensure you and your staff are properly educated. 

What if you’re forced to defend yourself and your parishioners? 

What happens then? The uncertainty following a self-defense incident is not the time to seek out solutions. U.S. LawShield has been a resource that more than 700,000 members nationwide have used for more than a decade. Our resources, experts, and Independent Program Attorneys have the insight you need to be prepared should the worst happen. 

Remember, you cannot choose the time. It will be chosen for you, with no warning. Being prepared in every possible way — through education, training, legal defense for self-defense, and properly placed life-saving products — is your best way to ensure an outcome where people survive to worship another day. 

It is sad that we have to address such a matter. Violence in houses of worship was a subject that was rarely, if ever, discussed in days gone by. But times have changed. We would be wise to heed the words from long ago, penned by King Solomon: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 27:12New Living Translation).


Kirk Evans is the president of U.S. LawShield, a national firearms legal defense program with more than 700,000 members. Evans has practiced law in Texas for more than 20 years and has concentrated most of his work on complex civil litigation and constitutional issues. He has represented gun owners, instructors, ranges and law enforcement. Evans has written several firearms legal publications, including Texas Gun Law: Armed and Educated.

U.S. Law Shield, LLC, is a Legal Defense for Self-Defense Program, not a law firm. Membership in the U.S. LawShield Legal Defense for Self-Defense Program is not a guarantee of any particular outcome. All legal services are provided by independent third-party program attorneys who are part of the Program. Visit www.uslawshield.com for terms, conditions, restrictions, and insurance licensing information.

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