LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Securing churches on the South Plains continues to be an issue following a deadly shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention made Lubbock a stop for a Church Security Regional Conference.
The Convention held the free, day-long conference at Redbud Baptist Church in Lubbock to provide an overview of church security and discuss how to get security measures or a plan in place.
"I think it's important that churches look into how they can improve their security measures for their parishioners and their guests that come," Pastor Carlos Hinojos of Redbud Baptist Church said. "We have a lot of churches that may not be able to host something like this and we've got the facility to do it and we'd like to do that for our local churches around here."
The Convention funds the conferences through its Cooperative Program and is in partnership with the Prestonwood Baptist Church out of Plano. That's where security consultant and retired Dallas Police Department Sergeant Mike Gurley brings his expertise for these security conferences.
"A lot of people just need a little bit of direction," Gurley said. "They don't know what the first step is or they don't know what they can and can't do. We kind of go through the legality of different aspects of it. We go through what is customary in a church. Does everybody need a gun? There are churches now where they are carrying a long gun or rifles and stuff. We don't want to become the distraction. We want to have a common sense, practical approach."
For several years before the Sutherland Springs shooting, Gurley has worked with the Convention to offer security assessments at churches. Since November, the requests have increased to around 80. He said a main focus is smaller, rural churches, many of which are on the South Plains.
"Eighty percent of churches that will meet this Sunday are going to have 200 or less," Gurley said. "If they can afford it, our number one recommendation is to hire a police officer, a uniformed police officer. That person gives you a deterrent factor, immediate response if anything happens, and then the ability to bring other resources if they can't handle it. The other thing is to get some security volunteers together that are just eyes and ears. They are observant when everyone else is praying. They are observing when everyone else paying attention to the pastor. They're watching the parking lot or the foyer. We just want a group of people that are observant that know what to do, how to respond and report when that occurs."
Gurley wants any measures to be low-profile and for any sort of emergency, whether it be medical or a protest-like disturbance.
Hinojos attended this conference elsewhere, which prompted his desire to host it locally. He says his church is in the planning stages of increasing security measures.
"I just want churches to really and seriously think about what they need to do around their church," Hinojos said. "We all want to think that it can't happen here but we hear that phrase over and over after it happens, 'We never thought it would happen here.' I think we need to take preventative measures to make sure that to the best of our ability, it doesn't happen. I think having conferences like this will raise the level of awareness of what is occurring and getting people to think about what they need to do to plan."
For more information on the SBT church safety, click here. The next conference will be in El Paso.