Over the last nine years of church consulting with The Lawless Group and having a background as a police officer and in church security operations, I regularly find that one area of the church that often lacks is the area of security and safety. Not only should the members and guests feel safe, but often, even more importantly, they should feel that their kids are safe.
Many times, people don’t always notice the measures of safety that a church may have. However, the biggest difference between churches who are doing things right and those who are lacking is that people “feel” the measures of safety that are in place even if they don’t consciously “see” them. Yet, it is not an arbitrary feeling of safety; they feel it because there are actually measures in place to illicit such a feeling.
It is pertinent that there be safety measures in place for children’s ministries. Here are a sampling of questions to ask about your church’s safety as it relates specifically to your children’s ministry.
1. Is there someone monitoring the flow of kids?
You should have someone monitoring your children’s area. This monitor not only helps answer questions, greets and welcomes families, and directs guests to the right room, but also acts as a safeguard for the children’s area. They actually become the first layer of security for this area.
2. Are there a sufficient number of workers?
We’ve all been to churches that seem to have 150 screaming kids in a room with 2 volunteer workers. As long as you have a leader or point person, you nearly can’t have too many workers giving attention to children.
3. Is there a check-in process?
You must have a way to check-in the children of your members and guests. There are many ways both electronic and paper that can help facilitate who the child is, who the parents are, any special information that is needed about the child, and how to get in contact with the parent if there is a problem during the child’s time with you.
4. Is there a check-out process?
Without a consistent check-out process, you risk not only an angry parent, but liability if the child is not released to the proper person. Only the person with the proper credentials (often a numbered tag or similar) can pick up the child, whether the worker knows the person or not. You must be consistent even if the person picking up the child is the other parent.
5. What if there is a problem with a child?
Do you know how to reach the parents? Do you have a policy or system in place for getting in contact with the parent? Are there policies about discipline or health issues?
6. Does the children’s area have limited access?
Your children’s area should not have many ways to enter and exit the area. There should be limited access to the children’s area.
7. Do we screen and background check EVERY worker?
Whether you know the friendly face as a long time member or not, screen EVERY worker that will be in contact with kids.
8. Is there a lock-down process in place?
While we pray, literally, that it is never needed, you should have a process for how you will lock-down your facility and parking lots in case a child is taken or there is another security incident in the church.
9. Is there emergency equipment available?
Some of the obvious necessities are often missing like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, covers for outlets, first aid kits, and clearly marked exits. Other equipment like a phone accessible with the church’s address should also be nearby.
10. Are all workers trained and well-equipped?
All your workers should be trained and know emergency procedures. They must also know best practices and your policies related to working with kids, from discipline, taking kids to the restroom, processes, contacting parents, and everything in between. Utilize the experience and knowledge of a law enforcement officer who is a member of your church.
11. Are you concerned about children’s health?
There should be clearly defined policies for cleaning toys, signs and symptoms of sickness for kids who shouldn’t be left for childcare, and sanitizing wipes for kids before they enter the classroom during increased virus seasons.
12. Are workers clearly distinguished?
Members and guests should be able to know who the workers are in the children’s area. I really like a specified t-shirt for workers, but even a nametag or sticker can set them apart.
Please don’t stop at evaluation or with just this sampling of questions. Make the necessary changes, write the necessary policies, and pay for the necessary trainings to further establish a safe place for kids to learn about God and grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ.