When my little cousin was younger, he had a toy tool set with lights and construction sounds. It was probably a gift from someone in the family. I’ll never forget staying at their house and him waking me up one morning by pressing the buttons and activating all those lights and sounds. The message from the drill in his toy set was “remember, safety first!” I heard it over and over: “Remember, Safety First! Remember, Safety First! Remember, Safety First!”
When I’m working with kids at a school or church or in sports, I can still hear that voice in the back of my head telling me to “Remember, Safety First!” In fact, at CentriKid Camps we’ve made safety one of the top pillars of our program. Year after year, we hear from group leaders and adult sponsors that safety is their number one concern at camp.
Attention to safety is demonstrated in many areas like check-in policies, working to prevent of injuries, and also creating an emotionally safe place. As I’ve visited churches and met with children’s ministers, it becomes very evident that safety and security of the children at church is a high priority.
Some security procedures are visible:
- check-in/Check-out desks
- folks helping in the halls wearing vests or nametag badges
- security cameras
- teachers checking rolls
Other security procedures are not readily visible, but are vitally important:
- Training for staff & volunteers. Everybody needs to know the check-in/check-out procedures and follow them. Everybody needs to learn kids names, get to know their families, and be familiar with special needs (dietary, mobility, emotional). Where to go in case of a fire, enough said. Training doesn’t have to be a complicated or time-consuming thing, but it must be a part of the preparation for working with kids.
- Background checks for everybody working with kids. Unfortunately in this day and age there are too many unknowns in the world around us. One thing that can protect the kids and the ministry you are a part of is background checking. On Twitter, @lifewaykids recommends a service for background checking. There are other good services too, but the important thing is that you do it!
- A written-out emergency plan. You gotta have a plan, and it needs to be written out and available for staff to know it. If nobody knows it, then the effort of writing it out is wasted. I’ll admit that some situations the plan may include will seem far-fetched and unlikely so that can break up the monotony of training on all the situations.
- Spiritual preparation. “Pray as if it all depends on God. Work as if it all depends on you.” I came across this quote years ago and have always held on to it as a way to put into perspective the spiritual nature of ministry and the work that goes into doing good ministry.
What other safety suggestions or procedures have you implemented as you work in children’s ministry?