This is an opening article that will give a general overview of what a Sheepdog program is, why your place of gathering needs one, and how to get started. Each area discussed will have follow on articles covering each subject in more depth. This is an area where gun owners can truly give back to their community in a meaningful and important way.
What is a sheepdog? The definition from the urban dictionary is:
“ Certain special people, who watch over the rest of the people. The rest are called sheep. Sheepdogs prevent the ‘wolves’ or bad people/things from hurting the sheep. Sheepdogs understand violence is sometimes necessary in order to protect the sheep. The sheep may not like the sheepdog. Sheep prefer to go along their merry way, oblivious to the perils of life. Sheep tolerate sheepdogs’ existence in order to keep the wolves away.”
75% of all churches of all faiths have no security in place according to most expert estimates. The number of attendees at a Christian based church in America is estimated at 56 million. At Jewish synagogue’s is close to 2 million. At Islamic Mosque’s the estimate is 4 million. This is per week and does not take into account other religions! Mark this number down, 75 percent of 62 million people is 46,500,000 folks practicing their faith and the only protection they have is a 911 phone call and wait! Again this does not take into account multiple other faiths not in with this “mainstream” group (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Anglican, Orthodoxy,) and so on. Hit Wikipedia and the list is almost endless.
We live in a country with declining morals, sadly, and multiple issues with mental health, domestic violence, and a general angst (which is derived from the word anxiety). I work in Portland Oregon and I can tell you I do not allow my family to do any business there. It breaks my heart because it (used to be) a great city. Many of the bad actors you see around the country only need one excuse in their mind and you have a breaking news story at your place of worship. This can include a disgruntled member, a spouse who just got served papers (more on that in a bit), or any other person who is not thinking rationally and without a moral compass. So what can be done … one word: SHEEPDOG.
You have many issues to consider when starting and operating a Sheepdog program at your place of gathering. Training, Leadership approval and buy in, Legal issues for your municipality, insurance, member profiles, team dynamics, your flocks approval and buy in, cost and equipment, and a myriad of other issues. It sounds daunting but I assure it is not as hard as it may sound and it is a very rewarding way to serve your flock. We will do an overview of subjects to be covered in-depth in follow on articles. So let’s begin.
Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?
William J. Bennett, in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy, November 24, 1997
A great primer to entering into a Sheepdog program is Jimmy Meeks and his Sheepdog seminars. It will give your team a great overview and beginning resource. They are held nationwide and it you have enough folks from multiple groups in your area you can schedule your own seminar. They will cover many subjects that you probably have not thought of and it can be an eye opener of some unseen weaknesses in your security.
First things first: GET APPROVAL. Your leadership will come first and then the members of your flock. When you approach your leadership it is best to already have done your homework on the issues we discus in this article as it will make the question and answer session go much smoother. If you come prepared with solid knowledge of the subject matter you will find it is an easy sell. Make sure the folks that pitch this idea are folks that are good with group discussions and good at working with leadership and people.
What should be the makeup of your team? One person you do NOT want on your team is the “Rambo” of your group. This person will get you and your organization in the most trouble the fastest. Members need to have a servant’s heart, be team players, are good with people and have empathy. Look for skill sets such as police, EMT, fire fighter, nurse, doctor, ex or active military, homeland Security, and leaders in the church. Deescalation is the key for a good program. (Thusly no Rambo). Your armed members need to have great discernment, calm measured attitude, and be properly trained and certified based upon the rules and laws of your area. Many of your team members will not be armed. They will be your eyes and ears and in many cases will stop trouble before it starts. Have your team watch Road House. Yes it is a bit cheesy but it has many good teaching points. The biggest one is “Be Nice…” ALL MEMBERS ARE TO HAVE BACKGROUND CHECKS!! At our church you cannot serve in ANY capacity in any ministry without one. Does it cost, Yup, and it is worth every penny.
Find out what you municipality has in place for Laws (State, county, and local). Study them and follow them!! Get with your flocks attorney and insurance to find out all of the ramifications and best practices for your area. Get the facts and get them in writing on letterhead or email and file this away for when needed. Never, never, never assume. Do not trust the “sea lawyer” expert in your group. Talk to the experts and get it in writing.
Training….. We could do many articles on this. First and foremost get training from experts. The person in your group that was a police officer for five years…. Thirty years ago and now sells insurance….. probably not a good source. Many will want to help and in the interest of team dynamics have them write some material and information that, if good, can be incorporated in your training package. At the end of the day get professional training. Many municipalities will do this for free or for a low cost and if you include other teams from other flocks it will spread the cost and builds good relationships with other groups. Networking is key here. Include first aid, verbal judo (very important and part of a follow on article), de-escalation training, sexual predator identification and training. Sexual predators are one of a churches biggest problems, thusly the background check. These are some of the first things to teach before we get to the Firearms training. For the firearms training seek professional training (more on this in a follow on article). Start with the basics and then move to active shooter training scenarios. Do not forget first aid, CPR, and AED training.
Now what about equipment. Before you issue the Bendix-King radios, Tac-com headsets, MP5’s, body armor, and Kimber’s, let’s talk about needs. Does your meeting place have up to date and working fire extinguishers? Yup… this is your responsibility. Have you made up an emergency phone list to include all local, state, and relevant national (CDC poison control) numbers? Is the address to your meeting place on this list? First aid kits…. Do they include compression bandages, tourniquets, CPR mask, EPPI pens, splints, and so on? Do you have radios? Baofeng UV-5R radios are on sale on Amazon for 50 bucks for 2. They are very effective, programmable, and have good range. Does your sound engineer have one in his/her hand? They should be on your team (more in a follow on article). Do you have a cheap digital camera? Do you have a way to contact the children’s church area to warn them and lock them down? In an emergency time is the enemy and notifications need to be fast and accurate. Is the door to the area fire rated with a dead bolt? Is your fire alarm and security alarm working? Exterior lighting is very important as are security cameras. As you can see there is much to address here. This is to get you thinking.
There are many other areas and subjects to talk about. What happens when the Mom/Dad (with a restraining order) of a child shows up to pick up (kidnap) little Johnny. What system do you have in place. At our church all children are checked in by a parent and given a bar code. Very inexpensive and easy to use software and hardware is out there. No one AND I MEAN NO ONE, Picks up the child except the parent that dropped off little Johnny. Any deviation from this requires the senior church leadership and security team presence at our church. As you can see there is much to consider and we will do an entire series on this. Thoughtfully and prayerfully consider forming a team to protect your flock. It is service to your people, your community, and your creator.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust, or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip, and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door. (Lt. Co. Dave Grossman, “On Combat”, page 184–185)
Psalm 82:3-4 “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Bilko USN Retired