With mass shooting incidents continuing to plague our society, businesses, community groups, and churches are all being forced to examine ways they can protect their staff and visitors from violence. On first glance these events seem senseless and incomprehensible. But church leaders should take the time to develop a better understanding of what might cause violent events so steps can be taken to prevent them.
Violence—especially gun violence—is rarely a spontaneous act
The perpetrators of serious violent acts may be struggling with mental health challenges, substance abuse, or other personal difficulties that can make their behavior unpredictable or erratic. However, mental health rarely provides a complete explanation for violent behavior. Instead, the final violent act tends to arrive only after a long chain of unusual behaviors and incidents.
One way an organization of any kind can protect itself from violence is to help its staff develop an awareness of the warning signs that might indicate violent tendencies. Some of the more obvious signs include physical or verbally threatening behavior, expressed desires to hurt someone, or an obsession with mass shootings or other violent events in the news. Signs of depression, social isolation, or serious personal problems like the loss of a job or marital problems, may also be red flags.
Address problems as they arise
Online training courses are available to help organizations get their staff up to speed on these issues. Once trained, staff members—which for a church probably should include regular volunteers—need to have resources available to report their concerns in a safe, anonymous way. Anonymity can be especially important if the concerns are being raised about another staff member or a member of the church congregation.
Of course, places of worship also need to be mindful of threats from outside their communities. In addition to building a good relationship with local law enforcement and the community at large, churches may need to take additional steps to ensure that their facilities are secure.
Preventing violence is a risk management concern
A violent incident at a church can be devastating for a number of reasons. In addition to the potentially tragic impacts on individual lives, it can also affect the church’s financial situation as questions of insurance and legal liability come into play. Giving due consideration to violence prevention is therefore not just a good safety practice, it also has a practical side for the church as an organization. The Church Law Center of California is here to help churches and other organizations explore options to keep their communities safe. Call us at (949) 689-0437 or reach out through our contact page.