Setting up, improving, and running a children’s ministry program is no small task. From curriculum to volunteer coordination to classroom setup to safety and security, there are many facets to the equation that add up to a successful program. Whether your ministry is brand new or centuries old, it is vital to evaluate from year to year to improve upon the well-being—both physical and spiritual—of the children your church serves.
When parents bring their children to church, they are entrusting a part of their spiritual development to the teachers and staff. They’re also putting their child’s physical safety in the hands of the ministry leaders. Ministry leaders, in turn, want to serve kids and provide a fun, enriching, and safe environment.
However, many children’s ministry classrooms have no security system at all, or one that is casual and inconsistent. Many churches, eager to recruit volunteers for kids’ ministry, don’t require a background check of any kind for volunteers or staff in children’s ministry—this puts the children they desire to serve at risk.
Church for Modern Families
One in fourteen children in America lives in a household headed by a grandparent, according to the 2010 Census data. About 4.9 million are being raised solely by their grandparents, up from 2.4 million in 2000. By some estimates, 35 percent of children in America live in single-parent households. Do the math and you’ll see that children in your ministry are impacted by these trends.
In these days of blended families and complicated custody arrangements, it is essential to have a clear, consistent, computerized child check-in system to protect children and their families.
Any child in your classroom might be being raised by a grandparent, or might spend every other weekend with a different parent, or might be protected by a court order. An electronic children’s check-in system stores all documents about the child’s situation so that staff is aware of special situations. It allows parents to update information when it changes, and can accommodate different family members dropping off and picking up kids, as long as they are both authorized in the system.
Having this information readily available keeps kids safe and helps parents feel reassured—which is important in these complex situations.
Children’s Ministry Foundation
A strong foundation for children’s ministry strives for excellent safety and security by having a system in place that includes:
- Clearly defined emergency procedures
- A clear process for screening and recruiting volunteers that includes criminal background checks
- Policies that protect children, including student-to-teacher ratios, incident reporting, procedures for allergies or medical issues
- A secure area for classrooms that is both self-contained yet visible from the outside
- A check-in system that will allow only authorized guardians to drop off and pick up children
In addition to protecting the church from liability, utilizing an electronic check-in software system provides an easy way to protect children and let parents know that you care about their kids and make safety a priority.
A check-in software system immediately reassures parents, especially newcomers, that you care about what is most precious to them—their children. It protects children from specific risks, including food allergies, abuse, and even abduction. It helps you to grow your ministry, and supports your efforts to serve children. It also helps you track attendance patterns and growth in your ministry.
The best system in the world, however, only works if the staff is trained to use it, and then actually uses it consistently. A secure check-in system needs to offer the following:
- Accurate records of all children who check in and check-out
- Assurance that the volunteers working with children are qualified and safe
- Specific and easily viewable information about food allergies and medical issues
- A way to verify the identity of people picking up and dropping off children
According to one survey from K! Report, only 37 percent of churches use a children’s check-in software system. While some use a written ledger or attendance list, those systems can easily fail and do not adequately provide enough ways to track and secure children with allergy and medical needs, as well as custody details. Additionally, checking attendance patterns or trends on handwritten systems is cumbersome.
Big or Small, Safety Matters
Even small churches can make their children’s ministry more welcoming and safer by using an electronic children’s check-in system, in addition to having clear policies about check-in and check-out.
While your ministry volunteers may know all the parents personally, what happens when a new child comes? Or ten new children show up one Sunday morning? What happens if a child’s parents divorce and only one has custody? What if a child has severe allergies your ministry wasn’t aware of?
If ministry growth is a goal, a check-in system is essential. It not only helps keep track of children who may not yet be familiar to the staff, it also makes newcomers feel cared for and secure in leaving their precious kids in your care. It also provides a clear way to track attendance and growth.
Whether your organization is a tiny church, a mega church, or a church plant, having a plan in place (and making sure everyone follows it) that includes secure check-in procedures will help your ministry to be a safe place for all involved.
[This article is taken from the first chapter of our free ebook on Children’s Check-In technology.]