WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Churches are increasingly becoming targets of mass violence. That’s why a recent security training session in Wichita attracted dozens of volunteers and staff from many places of worship.
“Since 1999, church violence has increased 2,380%” said Barry Young, lead instructor for Strategos International, a private company that held the two-day seminar.
Young says churches are seen as easy targets.
“Everyone’s back is to the door. There’s a cash offering taken, and in most cases, most American churches have no security ministry.”
Strategos International trains church greeters, ushers and other volunteers how to spot a potential gunman by looking for suspicious clothing or an unusual gait that may indicate a person is hiding a weapon.
First, Young advises church staff to watch the parking lot before services begin. Then, people inside the lobby and worship spaces should be on alert to head off any menacing behavior.
“If pastor’s preaching and a man is walking forward, we’re not letting him come forward,” Young told the crowd.
It’s a scenario that a Wichita church actually faced before this training
“We had a guy walk in off the street one day dressed in combat boots and pants and walked all the way down to the front of the sanctuary and sat right behind the pastor,” said Galen Womack of First Church of the Nazarene in Wichita. “He was sitting there talking to himself the whole time.”
Turns out, the man was not violent, but another Wichita church suffered one of the most notorious attacks. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was fatally shot while serving as usher at Reformation Lutheran.
Sadly, it’s proof that in a world where nothing is sacred, being prepared is everything.
“The most common mistake people make in active shooter situations is they don’t believe it could happen to them,” said Young.