He attends preparation and planning meeting

Last year a lone gunman killed several people in an African-American church, and just recently an ISIS supporter was arrested in Buffalo. These events showed that violence can happen anywhere — in a church or in Dallas County.

In response to the potential for violent acts in the county, Dallas County Sheriff Mike Rackley has started a church Security and Safety Ministry initiative.

“We know we are not totally safe from bad things happening as evidenced by the ISIS supporter just arrested in Buffalo,” he said. “She was recruiting others for violence against us as a county, a country and especially as Christians.”

Rackley emphasized that as sheriff he tries to think ahead for better planning and preparation of churches in all denominations for better security and safety. He attended a special presentation two weeks ago by Lt. Daniel Becker of the Missouri State Highway Patrol who, with others involved in law enforcement and clergy, put together a great framework for all churches to begin a review of their readiness.

Then, churches can take actions that start with a review and simple no-cost changes, minor cost items or full security expense considerations such as cameras and slide key doors, the sheriff explained.

Rackley said an expanding church in Nixa has begun implementing portions of the plan.

“The church location alone is a security challenge being next to a major highway and bordering a super Walmart parking lot,” he said. “The new plan is improving their safety and security by a large measure.”

Items presented at the security meeting included forming security and safety teams; clergy and membership safety; access and egress review; disaster planning; special considerations for children (and their parents); lockdown criteria; and security and safety in the sanctuary, lobby and parking lots.

Representatives of many churches in southwest Missouri attended the seminar.

“We now want to offer that same seminar and planning structure to all our churches in Dallas County churches that want it, through the Sheriff’s Office, our staff, and the posse to all who would like to have it,” Rackley said. “We will supply the outline and things to consider for each church to form its own safety and security ministry.”

This will be integrated with the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies, which will help churches plan and prepare.

“We do have one church’s actual security and safety plan titled their ‘Shield Operations Manual’ we can share,” he said.

“I wish to thank Pastor Ken Johnson of Grace Community United Methodist Church for helping get this initiative moving by inviting me to the regional meeting,” Rackley said. “I think this is a critically important issue for all churches, and our office will take a positive lead and work hand in hand to assist the citizens, worshippers and clergy of our county.”

Interested churches can contact the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mike Rackley, at (417) 345-2441 to schedule a presentation and consultation on the Safety and Security Ministry.