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Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?

Meredith Mahon Morris March 8, 2012

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With Easter coming, we know churches are preparing for one of the biggest-attendance days of the entire year. There is so much to consider – from music to décor to parking! But one key element that simply can’t be overlooked is security.

We recently updated a ministry guide about child security, and below I’ve used the ministry guide to outline great information in a few key areas, along with best practices on security for children’s ministries.

  • Emergency Evacuation

Best practices: Keep maps with the fire evacuation route to the nearest emergency exit in every room. The route should be in plain view and be located near the exit point of each room. Include evacuation routes in main hallways that indicate the locations of exits, fire extinguishers, and medical kits, as well as designated locations outside of the buildings where people should gather during an evacuation.

Questions to ask: For your children’s programs, do you have the ability to see a complete, accurate roster for each class with all of the children in attendance at the time of the evacuation? If not, how will you ensure that all are present at the designated evacuation area outside?

  • Volunteers

Best practices: Screen carefully. A screening process that checks the background of volunteers provides an essential level of integrity for your church. Any blemished records will show up during this process, ensuring ministry leaders and parents alike the best possible experience for their children. Leaving parents with any doubt is an invite to trouble.

One other area to keep in mind is re-certification of volunteers and staff over a period of time. Most churches that have a screening process in place not only screen volunteers and staff when they first begin to work with minors, but they re-screen the volunteers and staff over a two to three year period to ensure the integrity of the individuals that care for children.

Questions to ask: Do you have a central database to help keep up with screening certifications? How are you notified when staff and volunteers should be re-certified?

  • Lost/Missing Child

Best practices: A secure check-in and check-out system ensures that children are returned to the proper adult. The most effective check-in system will be fast and convenient for families to use and provide locating tools for children and adults. Because so many families are non-traditional, be sure to track who is authorized to pick up a child in the case of emergencies. Both parents may not be authorized, or you may have custodial grandparents in your church.

  • Shelter-in-Place or Church Lock-Down

Best practices: Train volunteers to know where they should be with their classes during a lock-down and who is responsible for securing entryways.

Questions to ask: In case of severe weather, are there locations within your facility adequate for shelter against storm damage? How do you know if all the children in your care are accounted for during the lock-down?

  • Medical Emergencies

Best practices: Keep records on children’s allergies and medical conditions that could impact activities while the child is on campus. Knowing a child is allergic to peanuts ahead of time can help keep any food items with peanuts from being present while that child attends scheduled activities. A central database is an excellent way to maintain and store this type of information, allowing volunteers and staff access to the information without having to track down a particular staff person or gain access to a locked filing cabinet in some office.

Questions to ask: How do you track allergy information and medical conditions, and how do you communicate that information to staff and volunteers? What about emergency contact information — can volunteers easily figure out who to call in case something happens to a child that requires medical attention?

Is Your Children's Security at RiskRemember, in an emergency, knowledge is power. Having a plan, communicating with your team, and knowing exactly who is in your care is the key to success.

You can get more great information, including a three-page infographic on laying out a check-in system, by downloading the ministry guide “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?”

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