ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The Randolph County Sheriff's Office is reaching out to churches to help protect local congregations.

The sheriff's office has introduced the "Place of Worship Security and Safety Training Program." The goal is to help churches increase safety and security during services and after hours.

Sheriff Robert A. Graves says the program is important because the county's 400 churches are the backbone of the community.

"Our churches in our community play such a vital role in our county, because they are our community," he said.

Upon request, the sheriff's office will send a deputy to observe a church service and assess the church's security measures and train members to protect themselves from danger.

At Poplar Ridge Friends Meeting, the congregation is already taking steps to improve safety.

"We formed a safety team here due to the circumstances happening in the world, just to be a little proactive instead of reactive," said David Quay, a member of the church's safety committee.

Quay's church will soon go through the sheriff's office's program.

"It’s a God send," he said. "A different perspective for us, a different awareness from [deputies]. They have so much information and knowledge that we don’t have."

Sheriff Graves said, "[Church] is a sacred place, and I believe very strongly in that. We need to make sure our people feel safe, especially where they shouldn't have to worry about things."

If you want to sign up your Randolph County church for the program, call Sgt. Jim Sparks at 336-362-1869 or send him an email at The program also includes rest and rehabilitation centers in Randolph County.

If you don't live in Randolph County, Sparks says you can still take measures to make your church safer. He says you can increase lighting around the property, make sure doors and windows are secure, and always be aware of your surroundings.