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Study Confirms More U.S. Pastors Rely on Armed Congregates as Church Security

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A new Lifeway Research study confirms that most pastors are making their congregant's safety one of their top priorities.

According to "Planning and Armed Congregants Top Church Security Measures", 81 percent of U.S. Protestant pastors say their church has some type of security measure in place.

Although churches are meant to be safe places, recent mass shootings make it hard for churches to ignore that they must be prepared for the unthinkable.

"Churches are not immune to violence, disputes, domestic disagreements, vandalism, and burglary," said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. "While loving one another is a core Christian teaching, churchgoers still sin, and non-churchgoers are invited and welcomed. So real security risks exist whether a congregation wants to acknowledge them or not."

Fifty-seven percent of pastors are most likely to say their congregation has an intentional plan for an active shooter situation. While 54 percent say armed church members are part of the measures they have in place.

More than a quarter use radio communication among security personnel, while 1 in 5 say they have a no firearms policy in the building where they meet or have armed private security personnel on-site.

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Fewer have uniformed police officers on church grounds (5%) or metal detectors at entrances to screen for weapons (1%).

As CBN News reported, American churches have seen a steady rise in acts of hostility in recent years.

The FRC's "Hostility Against Churches" report documents 420 acts between January 2018 and September 2022. They include vandalism, arson, bomb threats, gun-related incidents, and more.

"Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property are symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion – in this case, churches and Christianity," the report states.

"Americans appear increasingly comfortable lashing out against church buildings, pointing to a larger societal problem of marginalizing core Christian beliefs, including those that touch on hot-button political issues related to human dignity and sexuality," the FRC explains.

Andy Willis, who heads up security at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, told CBN News he has the monumental task of keeping their almost 30,000-member congregation safe.

"Today, churches that speak the truth, that teach and preach true biblical principles, they draw a lot of attention because there are a lot of components of society today that don't want to hear that," Willis said.

"As a church security team, we have to be prepared for those kinds of situations, to intervene and to protect the flock," he added.

The Lifeway Research shows that churches are not just relying on security teams but are softening to the idea of allowing congregants to carry firearms.

Last year, only 45 percent of the pastors polled said part of their security measures include having armed church members. That number has jumped up to 54 percent this year.

In 2019, 27% said they enforced a no firearms policy at their building, but that number has dropped to 21% now.

"Most churches are small, so security plans often don't need to be elaborate or expensive," McConnell said.

Meanwhile, those polled say they are less likely to rely on intentional planning to address potential security threats. In 2019, 62 percent said they had such a plan in place for an active shooting situation. Since then, that number has fallen to 57 percent.

"While churches may have different convictions on how to maintain security, it is surprising that fewer churches have an intentional plan for an active shooter than did in 2019," said McConnell. "As churches cut back on activities during COVID, this may have been one of the initiatives that did not resume for some churches."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.