John Wolfe has been a member of the CrossRidge Church in Little Elm since 1968. It’s where he met his wife, and now it is where he serves as a pastor and as the minister of assimilation and facilities.
When people ask him about how secure the church is, his response reminds them of his role.
“People say ‘why do you do this, why do you that? How do you prepare?’” Wolfe said. “I say, ‘Hey, first of all, I'm a minister. That's what I am.’ And that God has just put me in a position to help keep the people here secure when they're on our campus. And so that's just another part of the role.”
With the most recent church shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, it has become the norm for churches to think about security measures. Wolfe said his community started talking about church safety about 10 years ago.
There has always been a need for someone to be aware, he said.
“Someone can wake up grumpy any morning,” he said, “and it doesn't have to be at a church. It can be at a McDonalds or anywhere. So you just try to be proactive. So we choose to be proactive.”
Churches like the CrossRidge Church have worked with the Gatekeepers Security Service, based in Aubrey. The service, connected with the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management, trains volunteers to state standards for private security so that they can provide security to their churches, said Chuck Chadwick Jr.
Chadwick heads both the service and the organization and said he saw how it was difficult for churches to afford private security or off-duty law enforcement. He said training volunteers helps churches reduce the cost of getting security.
“The churches get fully trained individuals,” he said. “You know, it's not just an afternoon or an LTC [license to carry]. Now these guys and gals are professionally trained to state standards for private security. And then they're fulfilling the ministry of being a gatekeeper and giving their volunteer time.”
Trainees go through The Christian Security Institute, a state licensed school of which Chadwick is president, according to the organization website. The institute “trains, certifies and licenses church security operators,” according to the organization website. Chadwick said service clients include churches in Frisco, McKinney and around Denton County
The service also provides liability protection, according to the service webpage. Chadwick said he sees an influx of interest after events like the shooting in White Settlement.
“Basically almost anywhere you go, you've got security,” he said. “So churches are just another place where a lot of people are gathered.”
For him, the difference lies in the fact that churches welcome anyone who is “sick” or “hurting.”
“So be prepared for that,” he said. “That's the Christian way is to help everybody. Sometimes there's people that are sick and they're mentally ill, and they're difficult to deal with, but that's part of our mission. And then we just have to make sure that nothing turns violent in the meantime.”
That means identifying anyone who is a “DLR,” he said, which stands for “don’t look right.” At that point, Chadwick said he would send in a gatekeeper to talk to the person and understand the situation.
“You're going to have to use what we call the old ‘aggressive friendliness,’” he said.
The organization’s founding scripture, based out of the book of I Chronicles in the Bible, talks about the gatekeepers who would guard the tabernacle in the Old Testament.
“So good and evil has always existed, and there's always been a need for someone to, I guess, be aware,” Wolfe said.