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Don’t let your church be the next site of a violent act

Many shootings and other violent acts over the years have occurred in small churches and in small towns. It seems appropriate then that a national one-day seminar on church safety will take place in the town of Sabetha in northeastern Kansas.

The Bulletproof Mind, put on by the national organization Sheepdog Seminars, is scheduled for Friday, June 8 at Northridge Church, 316 Lincoln, St. in Sabetha, Kansas and expects to host attendees from across the region–from churches large and small.

But be it in small town or big city churches, the possibility of shootings and other acts of violence in churches, non-profits and other faith-based organizations continues to grow as these locations are seen by criminals as soft targets.

“These acts of violence are not going to stop and many have already taken place this year,” says Jimmy Meeks, founder of Sheepdog. “If your church has no plan to resist these killers, you need to reconsider.”

While many hear of the violence in mass shootings, other incidents get little coverage. One such story is that of Carol Daniels who was the pastor of a small church in Anadarko, Okla. While inside her church one Sunday, an intruder (suspect never found) entered the church and brutally murdered her. She was mutilated with a knife, stripped of her clothing, laid in a crucified position – and her hair set on fire.

In another incident, a pastor in Indiana was working on his sermon on a Saturday when a homeless woman walked into his office. Before he could even offer assistance, she pulled out a gun and shot him dead. Later, as they cleaned the pastor’s office, church members found on the desk his notes for that Sunday’s sermon on his desk. He was going to preach on the topic of pastors being killed around the world.

Then of course, there was the tragic Church shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last November. It took the lives of 26 worshipers, including the pastor’s daughter, while wounding 20 others.

So whether it is protecting a congregation or personal safety of staff working alone at the church, training can assist churches and ministries be prepared when the unthinkable happens.

Meeks has a unique view on the subject. He’s a retired police officer having served 35 years in law-enforcement. But what makes him different in speaking and training on the subject is that he has also been a minister for over 44 years. As an officer, he served as a hostage negotiator, field training officer, school resource officer, detective, supervisor, and crime prevention officer. He has accumulated over 4500 hours of TCOLE training. He has also been a certified crime prevention specialist.

Meeks says the mission of the organization is to address the issue of violence taking place on church and faith-based properties. It begins with Meeks giving on a presentation on the Three Pieces of Evidence that justify church safety practices. It has been said of his presentation that, “there has never been a stronger call to action.” 

“I sat with pastor Frank Pomeroy from Sutherland Springs First Baptist recently,” Meeks shares. “He’s an amazing man and filled with faith but yet lives with tremendous pain from the events that day.”

Meeks wants to help other churches avoid that pain but it’s a learning process, he says.

“Most churches do not know where to begin to organize a church safety program. Small churches cannot afford to hire contracted security or pay for police protection like many large churches do.” He says.

But churches can take a proactive role when it comes to security. One is to have a well-coordinated volunteer team that communicates with security during worship services.

“That’s the first step to securing your congregation, or other group,” says Meeks who will be joined at the seminar by Texas police officer Greg Stevens.

In 2015 Stevens thwarted the first ISIS attack on American soil after two ISIS terrorists from Phoenix arrived at a convention center with 1500 rounds of ammunition and 6 rifles. When they arrived, they began to search for an easy point of entry. They thought they had found such when they saw Officer Stevens and an unarmed security guard. They exited their car, rifle in hand – but Stevens was ready. He shot both terrorists, saving many lives. For his heroics, President Obama awarded him the Medal of Valor.

Another speaker, Colonel Dave Grossman (ret.) is a former Army Ranger, West Point Psychology Professor, and PTSD expert. He is also an expert on violence and its root causes. Just a few weeks ago, President Trump brought him to the White House to discuss the violence taking place in schools and churches.

The last of the four speakers is Carl Chinn. He’s an Author and nationally recognized expert on church violence and was a First Responder at the New Life Church shooting in Colorado. In addition, Chinn was a responder at the 1996 standoff with an angry gunman who took hostages at the Focus on the Family ministry. Following the attacker’s trial, Chinn began researching and writing on the subject of criminal and other incidents in North American ministries. In 2005, he and others began to develop an intentional security program for New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO. He was one of the team of responders directly involved with the active shooter in December of that year.

Meeks says he hopes pastors across Topeka, northeastern Kansas and the Kansas City metro will make the trip to join other pastors, staff, teachers and first-responders for this seminar. Sabetha, Kan. is just one hour and forty minutes from Kansas City and only an hour north of Topeka. The seminar is Friday, June 8 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes lunch. The cost is just $49 through May 30. Price will then increase to 59. Click HERE for more info.

–By Dwight Widaman