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The December shootings at two Colorado megachurches have raised security concerns for congregations that want to strike a balance between creating a sacred space and creating a safe place.

Four people were killed when Matthew Murray, 24, opened fire at a Youth With a Mission training center on the campus of Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, and in the parking lot of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. An armed, plainclothes security guard at New Life eventually shot and wounded Murray, ending the attacks and prompting Murray to shoot and kill himself.

Bob Klamser of Crisis Consulting International said he is working with three faith-based organizations that are re-examining their security in light of the shootings.

"Churches and faith-based organizations, especially the larger ones, can be a lightning rod for people who are unbalanced or have other issues," Klamser told Christianity Today. "Churches should be a holy place, a set aside place. But on the other hand, those who come to worship, it's reasonable for them to expect to be safe."

Megachurches have been developing security plans for a long time, said megachurch scholar Scott Thumma of Hartford Seminary, not because of terrorists or crazed shooters, but because of their cash flow.

"If the average megachurch has $6 million in income, there's a good chance that $50,000 to $100,000 could be coming in each week in terms of cash," said Thumma, author of Beyond Megachurch Myths. "If you have that much money, you definitely want armed guards transporting that to the counting room or to the banks."

Some churches outsource security to a professional agency, while others set up in-house security. Joel Hunter's Northland, A Church Distributed, located outside Orlando, has a ministry run ...

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February 2008

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