FUNDED – The Body Armor of Christ: Constructing Safety and Security in Communities of Faith

Earlier this year, I put out a call for resources on protecting houses of worship for a possible research project on church/congregational security.

I received so many suggestions that I was able to create two lists:

  1. Training Organizations, Groups and Individuals
  2. Other Resources (conferences, books, DVDs, articles, etc.)

I am happy to report that the research project proposal I submitted back in May with my colleague Katie Day and two pastors — “The Body Armor of Christ: Constructing Safety and Security in Communities of Faith” — has been funded by the Louisville Institute.

Our “Collaborative Inquiry Team” of two sociologists and two pastors will gather on several occasions to learn more about and reflect with each other on the challenges of constructing safety and security today and how communities of faith are defining and meeting those challenges.

We will begin our work by attending the National Organization of Church Security & Safety Management’s 14th annual National Church Security Conference next month in Frisco, Texas.

Here is the project summary:

Given the increase in gun violence within the sacred spaces of congregations, including the shocking high-profile massacres in Charleston, SC and Sutherland Springs, TX, churches are wrestling with issues of safety and security in new ways. These are at once practical questions of how to stay safe in worship as well as sources of theological inquiry into the meaning of security in the context of faith. Clearly, churches are responding in a variety of ways to these challenges. Private organizations and governmental agencies are offering training on church safety, which oftentimes involves forming armed security teams or encouraging concealed carrying of guns by church members. Other congregations seek security without resorting to armed defense.

This project will explore how different congregations are processing these questions of security, questions that engage the very core of their faith commitments. Our team of two academic sociologists and two local clergy from very different contexts (Philadelphia and rural Texas) will engage in a series of conversations intended to identify what key concerns and commitments are shaping the responses of different Christian congregations to the increasing threat of gun violence in churches. These conversations will take place while the team attends a national conference on church security and site visits to clusters of churches in rural Texas and in urban Philadelphia. This collaborative inquiry will help church leaders appreciate their congregations’ vulnerability and to formulate safety strategies that are consistent with their beliefs and traditions.


  1. Wow. Congrats, David!

    Is there a focus not only on security, but on encouraging the faithful to engage in a discussion on nonviolent conflict resolution and recognizing when one of the flock is going into crisis? As always, I think we need to spend more time removing “fire hazards” rather than focussing on where we put “fire extinguishers”

    Liked by 1 person

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