Nebraska churches invited to join security coalition

When it comes to protecting a church property, having a gun in the equation isn’t necessarily the first priority, according to Jimmy Meeks of Sheepdog Safety Training based out of Hurst, Texas. According to Meeks, a church’s first priority is having a plan. 

Meeks was part of a meeting in December where the idea of a grass roots organization called Midwest Church Security Coalition was presented. The coalition provides expertise about church security to Nebraska and other Midwest churches. The statistics are clear: church violence is on the rise, overseas and here in the U.S. According to the Faith Based Security Network, 2017 was the deadliest year for U.S. religious institutions, with 114 deaths recorded out of 233 total incidences.

This is the highest number of deaths since the Faith Based Security Network started keeping records in 1999. 

Founder and President of the Midwest Church Security Coalition Mike Martin of Omaha said he began to pursue forming a coalition five years ago, spurred on by the increasing number of violent incidences at faith-based properties and wanting to help stop churches from being soft targets. 

Martin met up with Meeks, owner of Sheepdog Safety Training and a current minister and retired police officer, a year ago to set up a church training seminar in Omaha. The training occurred in December 2017 with several Midwest churches attending.  

The idea of the Midwest Church Security Coalition was presented to those attending the meeting and support for the coalition was high, Martin said. 

“We have approximately 75 churches in Nebraska who are interested in joining the coalition,” Martin said. “We are now in the process of formally creating a non-profit.”

Martin said the goal of the coalition is to serve and reach churches in Nebraska and in the Midwest to help them establish a security plan. 

Martin said a yearly $100 membership fee will be asked of those who join, but is not mandatory if the church can not afford the fee.

Membership benefits will include the following: 

• Regular coalition meetings; 

• Basic outlines for churches to build and launch security teams; 

• Access to recognized experts and speakers in specific areas applicable to church security; 

• Links to online training;

• Training on how to identify, observe, and react to any possible threat at a church;

• Training on how to respond to situations, such as medical emergencies, irate or irrational church attendees, profiling techniques, and tactical positioning both inside and outside of a church; 

• Presentations from legal experts on liability, operating in the scope of authority as a church security team member and what to do if involved in a church shooting;

• Access to a list of certified concealed carry instructors for teams to interview and choose from; 

• Sharing of experiences and best practices from coalition team members. 

Creating a Plan is a Church’s First Line of

 Defense

Both Meeks and Martin remind church leadership that just because a church is a place of worship doesn’t mean that evil can not happen there. 

“People need to wake up,” Meeks said, referencing Matthew 10:17 in the Bible that sates to “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues.”

 “Having faith doesn’t stop people from killing other people. As long as church members keep thinking that they are safe because they are in a place of worship and don’t do anything to train and prepare for an incident, they are in danger,” Meeks said.

Meeks said even the smallest churches can do something to prepare for an incident.  

“Even if you don’t have enough in your budget to hire a security team, you can train yourselves,” Meeks said.

Although Meeks and Martin agree that situational awareness and having a plan is the first line of defense, they also agree that the church may decide to arm one of its members with a firearm. 

In Nebraska, there is a state statute that makes it illegal for anyone to conceal carry in a place of worship. However, there is a provision that allows churches to authorize a security person or persons to carry a concealed handgun on their property so long as that person has a permit and is in compliance with the law, according to Title 272 of the Nebraska Administrative Code, Chapter 21. 

Creating a safety team and developing policies to minimize the lability and likelihood of being accused of negligence would be part of the membership benefits of those in the coalition. 

For more information on the coalition, contact Martin at 402-880-5034 or email him at mavschap@gmail.com.