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8 Ways to Keep your Children's Ministry Healthy During Flu Season

Brad Hennessy

With all the recent news of influenza, schools, daycares, and pre-schools have been giving unprecedented attention to keeping classrooms clean and germ free. While much of the attention is directed at schools, churches should also be thinking about how to maintain a clean and safe environment through what could be a notable season of sneezing, coughing, and runny noses.

Keeping a healthy environment in your children's ministry is obviously important for children and their families, but there are other not so obvious benefits to minimizing germs in your children's ministry area.

Here's just a few of the not so obvious reasons:

Sick children make sick volunteers.
Want to minimize sick calls from volunteers on Sunday morning? Hold the line and say no to those parents who want to check-in their sniffling toddler.

Protect a great guest experience.
You've worked hard to create it. Protect that experience by making sure children don't go home carrying a disease. As a parent, I remember the times I visited another church and three days later had sick kids at home. And if my kids got sick, I usually told a friend or two.

Minimize distractions and maximize learning.
Let's face it, sick children need tissues, extra hand washings, and generally need extra attention simply because they don't feel well. All these factors impact the dynamic of a classroom and in turn will have a subtle influence on the ability of healthy children to learn.

Maintain healthy giving.
Most churches never look at the economic impact of having sick kids. Like most churches in the USA, you're already in a financial pinch. Sick children translate into parents staying home on Sunday to take care of them, and the reality is that some parents won't give when they are not there... or if they have to pay an unexpected medical deductable.

8 ways to help keep your Children's Ministry healthy this season:

  1. Follow healthy basic hygiene practices, and then some...
    Have children wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when coming into the classroom. Encourage them to avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth, where germs can easily enter the body. Remind children to cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it away and then wash their hands. Teach them that they can cough into their sleeve or elbow if a tissue is not available.
  2. Keep surfaces clean
    Supply your teachers and volunteers with a disinfectant to clean commonly shared surfaces regularly even if its not visibly soiled. Have them clean common points of contact like counters, tables, and toys between church services, and don't forget the small stuff... light switches, door knobs, phones, keyboards, and computer mice are all frequent virus hang outs. Some viruses like influenza can survive on objects such as books, desks, and doorknobs and can infect others for two to eight hours after settling on these surfaces.
  3. Keep sick children at a distance
    Designate your children's ministry area as a "Well child area". Communicate with your parents to let them know that they should not bring sick children into the children's ministry area.
  4. Send sick children and volunteers home
    Don't be afraid to uphold your "well child" policy even when it's tough. Sick children need to stay with their parents and teachers should go home or stay home if they could potentially get others sick.
  5. Provide home-based learning
    Be proactive and put together a plan and a program to help parents and sick children feel connected even when they miss a service. Let them know in advance that there are resources available so they won't feel like they're missing out if they happen to stay home with an illness.
  6. Play down perfect attendance
    Some kids (and parents) try so hard for perfect attendance that it can be tempting to go to church simply to avoid being counted as "absent." Be thoughtful if and how you reward attendance, especially during the cold and flu season, and consider making an exception for sick days.
  7. Follow the latest health recommendations
    Place yourself on the mailing or email list for your local health department and be proactive to inform yourself by finding and visiting informational websites.
  8. Communicate with your parents
    Let parents know in a letter or take home what steps you go through to ensure that their kids stay healthy and ask for their help in keeping your children's ministry a great place for kids by complying with a "well child" policy. Last but not least...have a plan in place to effectively deal with and communicate with parents in the event of an incident or outbreak.

Brad Hennessy is the Operating Officer for KidCheck, Inc.

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