Over Easter weekend there were multiple bombings that took hundreds of lives in Sri Lanka and there have been attacks on and in churches in the U.S. over the past several years.

Strategos International, a security consulting firm has been invited to Missoula to teach local churches how to prepare for and deal with any security situation, up to and including an active shooter scenario.

John Neilson, a board member of Missoula’s Christian Life Center, one of the city’s largest churches sent a message to other bodies of worship to attend the two day session on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4. Neilson said people just naturally feel safe while in church, but that feeling can be deceiving.

“We go to church feeling very comfortable and protected, when in fact we’re not,” said Neilson. “We sit in the sanctuary with our backs to the door, but we really don’t have any idea what’s coming through the door. We believe that God will protect us, and we still believe that, but He also asks us to be prepared, so I feel it’s time for the local church to take the time to be prepared.”

Neilson described the training on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4 to be held at the Christian Life Center on South Russell Street.

“Friday’s topics will include intruder response, lock down of your facility, protection of the offering, nursery security, children’s church security, medical response, armed and unarmed and protection of the pastor and greeters,” he said. “Day two is intruder awareness response and conflict management, recognizing suspicious behavior, approaching suspicious and armed individuals, verbal conflict management and de-escalation and the role of other front line team members.”

Neilson said church security involves walking a tightrope of making all feel welcome, while simultaneously watching out for those who just seem out of place at the church.

“You look for people who are carrying, who won’t look you in the eye, they’re sweating, there’s just a lot that people will learn at the seminar to hopefully catch them before they come into the building,” he said. “Larger churches like Christian Life Center have a pretty good sized campus with a large parking lot, and we may have to go to a camera system someday, but right now, we have individuals who are out there keeping watch in the parking lots.”

Neilson believes in the axiom that ‘when seconds count, the police are still minutes away.’

“Of course, we’ll always call 9-1-1, but we will have an armed response team in case there may be someone armed on the church campus,” he said. “You will be taught first to deescalate the situation, but if that doesn’t happen then the armed response person who has been specially trained will stop them outside. If they enter the building then the seminar will teach church leaders what they can do to move people out and lock down the building.”

Anyone who wishes to take the training can contact Neilson by calling 406-304-6506, or by visiting the Strategos International website.