Missouri Church Leans on Volunteer Team for Security

Missouri Church Leans on Volunteer Team for Security

The men who serve as armed guards work in teams of three every Sunday morning, according to a schedule emailed out every six weeks. Two men are placed near the main entrances to the church and double as greeters for the service. A third man stands near the pastor at the front of the church.

Ava Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church in Ava, Missouri, relies on a volunteer team of 18 armed church members to keep their congregation safe. The church is part of a recent wave of houses of worship adding or increasing their armed security discussed in the NBC News report “Guns and God: Growing number of churches want armed security”.

Ava Assembly of God’s security team consists of 18 unpaid men who carry handguns to worship to protect their fellow congregants. The team was launched 18 months ago after the church’s pastor, Buddy Boyd, received threats related to a domestic dispute involving members of the church community. Someone suggested forming a security team as a response to the threats and amid generally increased fears of mass shootings, and Boyd agreed.

“Times have changed,” Boyd said. “The No. 1 concern is to protect our parishioners.”

The men who serve as armed guards work in teams of three every Sunday morning, according to a schedule emailed out every six weeks. Two men are placed near the main entrances to the church and double as greeters for the service. A third man stands near the pastor at the front of the church.

An armed volunteer is also on site Wednesdays for teen and adult prayer group meetings.

Most of the men don’t have backgrounds in law enforcement, according to Chris Crews, who decided to join the team after reading so many headlines about mass shootings. “Most of us are average Joe guys who hunt and fish and want to look out for others,” he said.

“Fifty years ago, you could say no guns should be allowed in church, but times have changed,” said Trampus Taylor, the police chief in Sparta, Missouri, who started the Ava Assembly of God security team. “Shootings happen everywhere.”

Boyd said volunteer security teams are an economic solution for churches like Ava Assembly of God, which can’t afford to hire professional security guards or off-duty police officers to serve as security.

“Without volunteers, it would be difficult in our setting to be able to afford the type of security we have every week,” Boyd said. “We are very well covered, and it brings us great peace.”

The Ava Assembly of God security team regularly undergoes drills, including tactical gun training sessions, which Taylor oversees. Taylor is a certified law enforcement instructor in Missouri.

The team will take part next month in simulation training overseen by Ozark Shoot, a security group that specializes in training church security teams. The simulation sessions include demonstrations on how to confront an active shooter and aim accurately in a high-pressure situation.

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