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Steps to Increase Safety in Children’s Ministries

child drawing with crayons

The greatest assets a church has are its people; they are the body of Christ. In order for the church to grow, all ministries must be encouraged to prosper. All of the church’s ministries work together to strengthen the body of Christ and are important, but I believe the children’s ministry is the lifeblood of the church. The children’s ministry should be the church’s perpetual source of discipleship and growth. Simply stated, this is the cycle:

1) Make disciples of young members through the teachings of Jesus.
2) Get parents involved in a regular and active church life.
3) Stimulate ongoing spiritual growth of children and parents through service and the fulfillment of other ministry needs.
4) The next generation of children is raised in the church, and the cycle continues…

Knowing this, all churches should have solid systems in place to protect their children.

Child Protection Policies, Procedures & Implementation

The church has to consider and make accommodations to safeguard children against potential threats – in theory and in practice. The management of volunteers, nurseries and children’s church rooms has become considerably more sophisticated in the last decade. To step up and meet the needs for today’s children’s ministries, there are a number of things that can be done to help parents feel secure and heighten the security of their children. The first step is to write out what your church’s policies and procedures are for volunteers working with children, and how they will be implemented and enforced. If you are tasked with writing guidelines for your church, the internet is a wealth of information. Some churches, such as LifeSpring Christian Church, have thoughtfully written out and posted their Children’s Volunteer Guidelines in detail, while other churches have complete handbooks on the subject.

Background Checks: Volunteers and Staff

Dropping your child off in the care of people you don’t know can be unnerving. Parents want to be reassured that their children are safe. In an ideal world, each classroom has the same caregivers every week and everyone knows each other well. More often than not though, various people may rotate in at changing intervals. In order to work with children, every church should have mandatory background checks for volunteers and staff members and train them for their job. While some may be uncomfortable with a church requiring this, not establishing these policies and procedures may open the church up to unwanted legal risks. There are many background check services available at various price points.

Preparation Makes a Difference

No matter what type of class you are volunteering for, you may feel overwhelmed if the adult to child ratio is unbalanced. By implementing a calm, structured check-in system, you can avoid (or at least reduce) certain chaos. Depending on the size of your church and the kinds of activities offered on a regular basis, you can choose to automate with technology or have a manual system in place. Either way, these tasks should be incorporated:

Checking-In Responsibilities
Volunteers Parents / Adults
  • Arrive 15 to 20 minutes before class begins to talk to parents and start the check-in process for the children.
  • Wear a name tag that clearly identifies volunteers for that class.
  • Relay information about your child’s needs: allergies to food, health conditions, or special needs.
  • Custody battles or other personal situations may also need to be explained in order to protect your child.
  • Electronically or manually check the child in.
  • Give an identity tag to each child and the adult accompanying them at check-in. The adult checking the child in should be the one checking the child out.
  • If another person is picking up the child, this should be communicated at check-in to make alternate identification plans.
Checking-Out Responsibilities
Volunteers Parents / Adults
  • Ensure that each child’s tag matches the adult’s tag before releasing them to their care.
  • Mark the child’s name as having been checked out.
  • If either the child or the adult loses the tag, have a back-up plan in place to identify the child to the adult. This is an example of what one church does.
  • Have identity tag ready for child check-out.

Automating these processes with software and technology is extremely helpful, but it isn’t imperative to mitigate these risks. Smart modifications in structure and communication can make a huge difference in this endeavor. Please consider these things if you are a volunteer with your church’s children’s ministries. Each child is a blessing and is vitally important to the longevity of our churches.

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.16 But Jesus called the children to him and said,“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18: 15-17

Allison McGinnis is a Technical Writer with ACS Technologies. 

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