Evaluating Security in Your Children’s Ministries
A primary concern in any children’s ministry is ensuring the children in our care are safe. Whether you are a Children’s Pastor or a parent, evaluating your church’s security procedures needs to be a consideration. Here are five things every church can do to ensure your church is a safe place to learn about God.
In this day of child sexual abuse cases against churches and even denominations, a church needs to screen those with access to the children in their care. It’s more common to have difficulty persuading parents to work in the nursery than to have an adult volunteer to work there. While that’s not a bad thing, it can raise suspicions. To reduce the risk that a sex offender is working in your nursery, make background checks mandatory. These are usually offered free or at a reduced rate to churches.
Established national children’s programs like the BSA have been enforcing two-deep leadership for decades. Don’t allow any adult or youth to have one-on-one access to the children. You must have two leaders in each room, and visibility into the rooms, either through an open door or a window. This accountability protects the children from first-time offenders not caught in the background checks. For bathroom ventures, ensure the adults stand at the door rather than inside unless a child needs assistance.
The time when parents drop off and pick up their kids can be nothing less than chaotic, and in those moments it is easy to have children run in or out, or have parents walk their children in or out. This allows kids in your room that you don’t know about, and can allow an unauthorized adult to pull a child out of your care without your knowledge or permission. You can limit access by setting up a check-in table, or placing a leader at the door and preventing children from entering or leaving without some form of check-in and check-out.
Registering kids with a number and a check-in sheet is smart on multiple levels. If parents have a number for their kids, the church can flash a number on a digital panel, alerting parents they are needed in the nursery because their child is sick or has a need, etc. Also, this allows the church staff to issue a pair of stickers or card to the parents that must be present to check out the child. Stickers have their issues. Kids can peel them off, they get stuck in hair, etc. They can be expensive, as the church might need an expensive label printer and the software to print to it. But they are a working solution for the preschool. Cards are another solution – the church keeps a card with the child’s name and number on it. The card goes to the parent, and must be present to check the child back out. Blank cards need to be available for visitors. There are software solutions that can record attendance, but Word and Excel are good tools to whip up check-in sheets that work well..
None of these procedures and tools do a church any good if their workers don’t use them. A short thirty-minute training meeting periodically can bring all the potential workers up to speed on what measures are in place and why they are necessary. This not only trains the parents but gives them a better comfort level that you are doing all you can to keep their little ones safe.