by Patrick Bradley: Children’s ministry safety in your church plant is serious business. But it doesn’t have to be mysterious. Here are 20 practical steps to stellar children’s ministry safety:
No question, Jesus holds children in high regard. I’d say that churches in the US do, too, though we haven’t historically done the best collective job at protecting kids in our churches.
I pray that never happens in your church. To that end, here are some things you can do that aren’t terribly expensive (many are free) that can significantly reduce the chance that abuse will occur. It’s our job as church leaders to do everything we can to create safe environments for kids in our churches.
Children’s Ministry Safety for Your Workers
Staff and ministry workers are the first line of defense in keeping our kids safe. Make sure to get trusted people into those roles and get them trained:
Create a volunteer application form that includes a consent to run a background check – make sure every applicant fills it out & signs it
Run background checks for every adult that will be with the kids, and rerun background checks annually
Train volunteers in abuse awareness (your insurance company and/or background check provider can help with this)
Know whether your volunteers are mandatory reporters and train leaders in reporting procedures
Train volunteers in all of these security procedures
Do something to identify your children’s workers (ID badges, T-Shirts, etc.)
Get at least one person trained in first aid and have a basic first aid kit in the children’s area
Have a children’s ministry floater (or several) that can bounce between classrooms and generally be available to help
Children’s Ministry Safety for the Parents and Guardians
Parents should be in the loop and feel good about their child’s safety:
Create a brief handout that explains your children’s ministry practices & policies to parents – make this available at your check-in table especially for parents who bring their kids for the first time
Create a plan for giving new parents an escorted tour of the classroom their kid(s) will be in
Create a check-in and check-out process to make sure kids leave with the right adult(s) – also coach your classroom workers with a polite but firm script for when the process needs to be enforced
Work out a system to notify parents during the service – considering texting them since pretty much everyone has a mobile phone these days
Children’s Ministry Safety and Your Facility
Work out how to keep kids corralled in their “rooms”, especially if that’s a hallway or the flat area in front of the movie theater screen
Figure out how to secure any exits or potential hiding places from both unauthorized entry and from kids sneaking out – while not blocking fire escapes
Make a plan for keeping unauthorized adults out of the rooms (including parents) – again, coach your people with a polite but firm script
Decide ahead how you’re going to accommodate a kid needing to go potty – the classroom teacher shouldn’t be alone with the rest of the kids and the kid going potty shouldn’t be alone with an adult
Determine how to manage teacher-to-student ratios for different age levels – when is each classroom too full to take more kids and when is a classroom shut down for lack of supervision
Create an emergency/fire escape plan and train your teachers and workers in what to do
Children’s Ministry Safety for the Church
Should an incident occur, you need to have a plan in place for what to do:
Wow, that’s a whole lotta stuff to get in place for your church plant child security procedures! But when it saves one kid from being abused or helps one kid escape an abusive situation, it will be worth it. Don’t you think?
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