Arkansas Baptist News
CONWAY – “We live in a fallen world in which people intend to do harm,” said Josh King, lead pastor of Second Baptist Church, Conway. “Churches are soft targets.”
Second Baptist is just one of many Arkansas Baptist churches that have a trained security team.
“We have open doors and large groups of people collected together,” said King. “With that, we must be proactive to protect the people gathered.”
Jeff Hagar, a police officer for 25 years and head of security at First Baptist Church, Cabot, believes having a security team is important for two reasons.
“Reason number one is to protect the congregation, but I think more importantly than that is to give the congregation a sense of ease,” said Hagar. “That they don’t have to worry and someone is watching out.”
Congregations need that “sense of ease” now after the recent church shooting in White Settlement, Texas. Keith Thomas Kinnunen went into West Freeway Church of Christ Sunday, Dec. 29, wearing a wig, fake beard and trench coat that hid a shotgun. Kinnunen killed two church members before he was shot and killed by Jack Wilson, a former reserve deputy and firearms instructor.
“Being a native Texan, I am troubled by it,” King said about the Texas shooting. “I was most of all encouraged by the trained gentleman who prevented further death and human harm by shooting the assailant.
“Pastors are called shepherds,” continued King. “Shepherds protect sheep. The security team is the best way to prevent and deter those who would plan to harm us while we worship.”
First Baptist’s security team is also made up of volunteers, a majority of which have military or law enforcement background.
“The way we do security is not a real overt thing,” said Hagar. “We try to be as low-key about it as possible. I don’t want it to look like bouncers standing at the door.
“I consider us to be an extension of the staff,” continued Hagar. “I think we should be out there to welcome people on campus, to greet people in the buildings and to assist people on where to go.”
Second Baptist’s security team is made up of 11 volunteers. Those who are armed have fulfilled a higher level of training and have been fully vetted. The security team is enhanced with cameras, secure zones and in-ear communication.
“To be a part of the Second Conway Security Team people must be active members for several years, prove themselves, interview and train,” said King.
According to King, enlisting and training a team to provide security is the best way to keep congregations safe.
“Many organizations and large churches provide free training and will consult with smaller congregations,” said King.
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has sponsored training events for churches for the past three years and has articles on their website to help churches become more secure.
“Members ought to be encouraged to ‘see something, say something.’ It takes the whole church to inform those in leadership,” said King. “I also feel pastors should take a moment in service to instruct the congregation in a non-alarmist way of what to do should a situation arise.”
Contact Sarah Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.