top of page

A Call to Arms: Empowering Churchgoers to Defend Their Sanctuary

steeple of a church

The world is uncertain, and even environments traditionally seen as peaceful, such as places of worship, have the need for security and personal safety measures. A recent event in North Braddock, Pa., where a church service was upended when a man pulled a gun on the pastor in the middle of his sermon, is just one example of this. Thankfully, no one was hurt after the gun jammed and the assailant was tackled to the ground. However, this incident serves as another example highlighting the vulnerability of churches to acts of violence. It's imperative that parishioners and church leaders take proactive measures to protect themselves and their congregations. One of those measures includes arming parishioners and churchgoers—a sometimes controversial but potentially lifesaving decision.

First and foremost, it's essential to acknowledge the unfortunate reality that many churches lack adequate security measures. There are some cities where there's nearly a church on every corner, and unlike other public spaces, such as airports or government buildings, most churches do not have metal detectors, security personnel, or stringent access controls. This lack of security makes churches an easy target, making them vulnerable to various threats, including violent attacks.

The open and welcoming nature of churches means that anyone off the street can enter routinely without much scrutiny. Unlike other institutions that have restricted access points or security checkpoints, churches typically have multiple entrances and rely on the trust and goodwill of the people to maintain a welcoming atmosphere. While this openness is a fundamental aspect of religious practice, it also presents a security challenge, allowing individuals with malicious intent to enter undetected and take advantage of their goodwill.

The perception of the environment as safe and peaceful makes churches an attractive target for criminals seeking easy prey. Additionally, churches often have a higher proportion of women in attendance, which contributes to the bias that churchgoers will be more docile and less likely to resist. This misconception puts believers at greater risk, as criminals view them as easy targets for robbery, assault, or worse.

One of the most notable incidents that reinforced the importance of church security occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Dylann Roof, a brazen racist, entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a prayer service and opened fire, killing nine parishioners. The tragedy shocked the nation and raised urgent questions about the security of places of worship.

In contrast to the Charleston tragedy is the heroic intervention of Jack Wilson, a parishioner at the West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas. In December 2019, during a Sunday service, a gunman entered the church and fatally shot two parishioners before being confronted by Wilson, who was armed. Wilson swiftly responded to the threat, neutralizing the gunman with a single shot and preventing further loss of life. His actions demonstrated the effectiveness of armed parishioners in deterring and responding to violent attacks.

The case of Jack Wilson emphasizes the importance of having trained and responsible individuals armed and prepared to respond to threats in places of worship. While the idea of parishioners carrying firearms may be controversial, it serves as a deterrent to potential attackers and provides a last line of defense in the event of an active shooter situation.


Churchgoers deserve to be safe and protected in their places of worship. They do not deserve to have their goodwill taken advantage of or to be viewed as easy targets. I implore parishioners who haven't yet done so to reconsider how they intend to keep their members safe. In situations where police officers may take several minutes to respond to a violent threat, there is a significant window of opportunity for more carnage. Proper training and safety protocols are crucial aspects of implementing armed security measures in churches. Additionally, open dialogue and consensus-building within congregations are necessary to address concerns and ensure that all members feel safe.

In conclusion, the safety and security in places of worship should be a top priority for church leaders and congregants alike. While the idea of attending church armed may be controversial to some, recent events have highlighted the need for proactive security measures in churches. By considering the realities of today's world and taking appropriate precautions, parishioners can help ensure that their places of worship remain sanctuaries of peace and safety for all who enter.


Join our upcoming Imminent Threat Class to learn more about assessing and neutralizing a potential threat:




bottom of page