Your Tactical Training Scenario…Violence at Church

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Tactical Training Scenarios

  • SumoMe

 Yesterday I reposted an article from Ron Borsch about preventing church shootings.  That article primarily dealt with what churches as organizations could do to prevent violence.  Here is another article that takes a more individual approach.  These are the questions church attendees should be asking themselves to evaluate their relative safety.


– Greg



Written by Greg Ellifritz


Ohio Church Shooting


Are you prepared to deal with an armed threat in your place of worship? Maybe you should pay more attention to the nature of the potential threat. When we look at all Rapid Mass Murders that have occurred in this country, we find that the second most common place for them to occur is in a church or place of worship. Only schools have a higher rate of killings.



Many mentally ill criminals display symptoms of religious ideation. Some are obsessed with religious ideals. Many believe that they are holy figures. I can’t tell you how many mentally ill patients named “Jesus” I’ve met on patrol…and no, they weren’t of Latin descent.



Churches attract these crazy people like moths to a flame. It’s extremely important to have a plan in place to deal with a crazed killer in your place of worship.



Don’t believe me? Check out the story linked below. Imagine those events happened at your church. Would you be prepared to deal with them?



No Motive in Easter Shooting in Ohio


The suspect

The suspect



Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you are prepared:



– Do you carry a gun at church? Why or why not? If you have a gun can you access it quickly?


– Take a look at your church. Many have very large rooms where the congregation gathers for worship. Could you make a shot with your carry handgun at the farthest distance a threat can appear from you in such a large room? When is the last time you practiced shooting that far? If you can’t make the shot what is your plan to move closer?


– Often during worship, lights are dim. Do you carry a bright enough flashlight to fully identify the threat from any range?


– What events would cause you to draw your gun and shoot?  Take a look at the scenario above.  Would you shoot the guy who is ranting at the pulpit with a gun in his hand or would you wait until after he has shot someone?  There isn’t any right answer, but you must know where your personal boundaries lie and what your “go” signal will be.


– Do you have a church security team? These are gaining in popularity and many churches now have them. If you don’t have a team, do you know who else is armed in your church? Do you have a plan to work together to stop the threat?


– If you plan on stopping the threat, who will take care of your family? Do they have a plan to get to safety?


– What can be used as cover or as an improvised weapon in your church?


– If your church has pew seating, do you sit near an aisle so that you can easily get out of the pew to address the threat?


– Who is the most likely target of a killer in your church? Do you have a high profile religious leader or engage in controversial political actions that might anger someone? How do you plan on protecting the people in your congregation who are at the greatest risk?


– What about less serious threats? Do you have a plan to deal with thieves or aggressive beggars?


– In many churches, children have “bible study” or separate worship sessions from adults. There may also be a “cry room”. Who is protecting the children in these locations?



If you can’t answer these simple questions, you are not prepared for a violent incident in your place of worship. It’s time to start doing some homework!



If you have any questions or comments, please post them below. I’ve attended a few classes about church security over the years. I may not be the world’s leading expert in the field, but I can steer you in the right direction and will be glad to help any way I can.



11 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Rob says:

    Greg, the church I’m leaving has a very organized, yet discrete security team. Two tiers of members (armed and unarmed), monthly training, written operating guidelines, radios with earbuds for all members in the facility, posted and roving assignments, medical training… We have had a number of incidents over the years with abusive spouses, children who’ve attempted to walk-away, crazies… All handled very swiftly and discretely, without attracting much attention. Thankfully, to date, nothing has risen to the level of a weapon either being brandished or discharged. I’d like to think we’d have our $@&% together if it did.
    Unfortunately, I’m leaving with my new job, and am hoping to find a church that either had similar team in place, or is receptive to my desire to put one in place. Great article, as always, Greg!

  2. generalhh says:

    Our house of worship uses a combination of methods that work.

    The first is limited and secured access. Entrance and exit to the church is allowed via a limited set of doors and other exit doors are alarmed.

    The entire church property including all hallways entrances to the building and large meeting rooms is under video surveillance that is manned during all services. The Nursery has cameras that also allow parents ability to check in via smartphone n whats going on. The exterior paring lots are also under video surveillance.

    We use a professional security and parking control group to handle parking lot crowd control and some of these carry concealed.

    Inside the sacrosanct their is at lease one concealed armed security. at all services we have a doctor or NP/PA present and on call (church demographics permit this as we have lots of African American medical professionals in our predominantly African American church). The ushers have licensed radio.

    The church has made the decision as a body to prohibit the Concealed Carry in church from non church approved personnel. This is voted on annually and as of now it has not changed to allow all with valid CCW to carry. The church also has decided that guns will remain concealed.

    the plans aren’t perfect but we believe with the benefit of the video monitoring from the secured room along with armed security on property we are better off than without it. Our situation is unique with over 3000 active members and strong finical stability (no mortgage or debt on any church property, low overhead, good business practices).

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      It sounds like you have a great system! Your congregation should be grateful for such exceptional leadership!

  3. Greg Ellifritz says:

    That is an important consideration. I’m glad you are thinking about it.

  4. Trevor Shepherd says:

    In my state, PA, there is no law prohibiting conceal carry in a religious establishment. I would not go to a large capacity crowd event (including a religious service) without a concealed gun. For a church or other religious congregation to prohibit CONCEALED carry is ridiculous. If my congregation “prohibited” it, I would try to determine on my own if that falls into the category of “concealed means concealed and what we don’t know about, we don’t worry about” or “we are going to throw your butt out of this congregation and prosecute you for trespassing (defiant trespass is a summary offense in PA) if we catch you conceal carrying”. If it is the former situation, I’d conceal carry and not worry about the rule. If it is the latter situation, I would not want to be a member of your church anyway.

  5. Wayne DeCloux says:

    This is in response to Trevor Shepherd’s post. “Untrained” people carrying fire arms in a crowded facility is not a good idea. In most states CCW is not sufficient to prepare a person to respond with good judgment and the skills required for such a situation. It is one thing to respond to a threat within your house but quite another when panicked people are running everywhere trying to make egress and you are trying to respond from a place of cover that has open shooting lanes. The training course I saw using paint guns in real life scenarios to both make the point and to train one how to properly respond in such a situation. I applaud your desire to protect, and I encourage you to take a qualified training course that will give you simulated real life experience. The course I will be taking requires the firing of 2000 rounds in simulated real life scenarios. Nobody wants to hurt a bystander while attempting to stop an aggressor.

  6. Greyson says:

    Another question: what are the legal implications of carrying at your church?

    Another poster touched on this from the perspective of the church’s policy, but what if your church meets at a school? My understanding is that, at least in my state, it doesn’t matter when or why you are on school grounds, it is illegal to carry there, period. Fortunately, my church has services at two locations and only one of them is in a school. As a result, I just don’t go to services at the school. Unfortunately, that may not always be an option depending on how particular you are about church denomination, etc.

  7. Dave Yatczak says:

    Great article and a lot food for thought. The church my family and I attend probably has more fire power then most small police departments and a security ministry that is mostly retired and current LEO’s. But I still carry.

  8. JD says:

    Everyone talks about how to address the threat. What about the ordinary worshipers? What should they do in case of an attack? Seems to me that everyone ought to have a plan. Staying down and out of the way should be of benefit to those trying to address the problem.

  9. Quentin Robinson says:

    It is unfortunate that we have come to this place in society where we must proactively protect our places of worship from those bent on destruction. I have read the commentaries and it seems that most on board with the organizing of security teams have well thought out procedures. I would like to add that in the procedural plan (as JD mentions)people who are not part of the security need to know what to do as well, to assist and or minimize chaos. Safety zones need to be established for every area of the building where persons are gathered. Ex. Clear the main areas and divert to smaller rooms with locks on the interior. Remain quiet, close windows drapes. etc.