Seminar Focuses on Church Safety and Security

KIMBERLING CITY, Mo -- A security expert leads a safety seminar for hundreds of church members in Kimberling City.

Members of various churches across the Ozarks gathered for information on how to handle emergency situations, with the goal of taking that knowledge back to their own congregations.

Many remember the deadly Texas church shooting back in November that claimed 26 lives. Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader says it was that event that was a catalyst for a safety seminar at First Baptist Church in Kimberling City. 

"I had numerous phone calls from churches all over Stone County, requesting us to do some kind of training," Rader says. "A lot of churches were wanting to set some kind of safety and security teams in their churches for a safe sanctuary and I am 100% behind it. Whatever we can do to help that, Stone County Sheriff's office is behind it."

That is where Steve Ijames security experience comes in to play. Ijames is a retired Major for the Springfield Police Department, has experience as a Chief, and does counter-terrorism training domestically and overseas. He says many churches wrestle with questions regarding faith and security. 

"If you have faith, would you really put a gun-toting security guard in your church?" Ijames asks.  

For many, the dynamic of that question has changed based on how often mass shootings occur in this day and age. Ijames says this meeting is about providing information in case a church wants to take action for security. 

"We kind of walk through the process if you are going to consider something security wise, what are the key concepts?" Ijames explains. "We just give them some options and let them struggle with their own decisions in that area." 

Ijames says many have a misconception that carrying guns in the church will solve security issues, but he says that couldn't be further from the truth. 

"One of the greatest concerns for professional security people in a church environment is unprofessional people who might pull out a gun to help," Ijames says. "The idea that you can just arm people who sit in your church and think now you are secure, when in fact if the proper foundation is not laid, that could actually be far more dangerous." 

This meeting was about awareness in case churches felt the need to take security precautions. Sheriff Rader says the crowd was about double the size they were expecting, which suggests many churches have security issues on their minds.

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