GHOLSON, Texas (BP) – James Stevens, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Gholson, recalls the congregation’s reaction when he established a safety ministry team in 2017.
“I had a lot of naysayers. ‘Preacher we don’t need to carry guns in church.’ People had a really tough time swallowing that,” Stevens told Baptist Press. “And then unfortunately Sutherland Springs (church mass shooting) happened in November of that same year. And all those people that were against me starting a safety team came back and apologized. (It’s just) the day and age in which we live.”
First Baptist Gholson is a GuideStone Financial Resources customer, using its risk and casualty insurance with security operations liability, and using its active shooter and emergency response training.
“You cannot go without them,” Stevens said of the training and the insurance. “I always tell our safety ministry team when we have trainings here at the church, it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen. And when it happens we have to be prepared and have things in place.”
GuideStone is working to equip more churches to respond to active shooter situations and other security emergencies, John Murphy, GuideStone’s managing director of insurance sales, told Baptist Press.
Through its alliance with Brotherhood Mutual, GuideStone is encouraging churches to secure insurance to be equipped to handle liability issues before emergencies arise. Murphy described the insurance as affordable to churches.
“Hope doesn’t need to be your strategy, even though we do rejoice in the hope of heaven as Christians,” he said. “You can actually have some way to plan for these things. Be ready before it happens. That’s the whole beauty of insurance. Prepare in case it happens, while hoping it never does.”
Casualties from active shooter emergencies were higher in 2022 than in the previous five years combined, the Federal Bureau of Investigations said in April, counting 100 deaths and 213 injuries, not including the shooters.
“We don’t think that this problem’s going away,” Murphy said. “In two decades, active threat situations, active shooter situations have gone up over 2,000 percent, and they’re certainly hitting houses of worship regularly.”
Murphy encourages churches to prepare themselves for security emergencies, create safety ministries designed to meet their unique character and goals, and create current policies, updating them regularly.
Laypersons should ask themselves, Murphy said, “What would I do if I found myself in that threat situation, and especially at my church, what am I going to do to protect the kids around me, people around me, so that I’m part of the solution and not just a sitting duck?
“We think that even if you will just spend a little bit of time watching a few videos of professionals telling you what to do in these situations, we could save a lot of lives here.”