SHARECOMMENTMORE

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. - As Twin Cities churches prepare for Easter services on Sunday, many are making sure their congregations are as safe as possible.

"It is a necessity for churches, even smaller churches to consider all the things that could happen," says Kris Moloney. "My eyes have opened to the issue."

Moloney directs security teams at Friendship Church in Prior Lake and Shakopee, but also consults other local churches on how to keep their buildings and people safe. His organization,Sheepdog Church Security assists places of worship on their protocol, plans, and helps train volunteers.

"In light of Newtown and other events, awareness among churches is skyrocketing," he says. "Churches are desperate for information on starting up teams."

Churches that draw thousands each Sunday, like Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville, hire armed police officers for Sunday morning services. Smaller churches use trained volunteers or off-duty officers.

"It's good to identify police officers within the church and ask them to carry a sidearm," says Moloney. "When a deadly-force encounter does occur, that officer ceases to be private citizen and becomes a police officer."

Within the last decade, there have been more than 600 documented violent encounters in American churches.