More than half of Protestant churches in the U.S. are relying on armed congregants as part of their security plan, according to a recent survey of pastors.
Approximately 81% of churches — or four in five pastors — said they have at least one security measure to prevent potential attacks, and 54% said they have armed members in their congregation, according to a survey of 1,000 pastors released last week by Lifeway Research.
More than one in six pastors — or 17% — said they had not implemented seven of the potential security measures noted by the study, and 2% said they were unsure, according to Lifeway.
Fifty-seven percent of pastors claimed to have “an intentional plan for an active shooter situation,” which was the most popular option. The second most-cited option had armed church members.
Radio communications among security personnel and a no-firearms policy in church facilities were the next most popular security options, at 26% and 21%, respectively.
Twelve percent of pastors in primarily Black churches said they have uniformed police present during their church services, compared to only 4% of White pastors. Thirty-four percent of Black congregations maintained a no-firearms policy, while 21% of White churches did.
Scott McConnell, who serves as Lifeway Research’s executive director, emphasized the crucial need for a security plan at churches.
“Churches are not immune to violence, disputes, domestic disagreements, vandalism and burglary,” McConnell said. “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.”
Lifeway’s survey took place from Sept. 6 to Sept. 30 and involved one pastor per interview, according to the research group. The sampling margin of error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2% at the 95% confidence level, according to Lifeway.