Safety and security continues to be a very important trend in children’s ministry today. This is true for both small and large churches. Keeping our kids safe and secure needs to be a priority in every church. Safety and security is important to parents and it certainly needs to be important to us! As our churches think about the implications of safety and security in their ministry, use the following assessment questions to begin the conversation with your church leaders:
Does church leadership (not just children’s ministry team) think this an important issue to address?
Do we have updated information regarding intruder, fire, tornado, disaster and other procedures for our team to follow?
Is this information posted in an easy-to-access place?
Do our volunteers know where this information is posted?
Are our procedures simple?
Are our procedures legal?
Are our procedures in line with our insurance agency/policies?
Are we networked in our community?
Do we train and drill for emergencies?
Do we constantly reassess our policies and procedures?
The conversation needs to start somewhere! Let these questions help you fuel the discussion and begin to move into some very basic actions that should include:
All volunteers working with kids and youth should be screened and interviewed by church leaders. Criminal background checks are another added layer of safety that should be considered. Background checks can be done on-line quickly and very affordably.
Two volunteer rule should be in place. No child or group of children should be left alone with only one adult or youth. Two volunteers should be present at all times. Even in small churches this needs to be a priority because it sends a statement to parents that their child’s safety is important. It also drastically reduces the risk of abuse.
Establish a simple check-in/check-out process to ensure that kids are reunited with parents/guardians after every program. A system not only enables you to keep track of children that are present but also gives you information so that you can follow up with children who don’t come.
Communicate and practice emergencies procedures with parents and with the congregation. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to meet if an emergency happens. This is critical as it helps to alleviate any chaos and confusion when an event does happen. It also makes a statement that you are concerned and ready for any incidents.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s commit to making small steps to make our churches more safe and secure for everyone! How will you begin to get this process started in your church?
Sandy Coelho serves as lay leadership development coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England and heads up Kids Ministry New England.