Did you know that less than half of all churches screen their paid children’s ministry workers? The church I worked at screened their new workers, but my first week there, I found out they had another way of weeding out the troublemakers. I was asked to hop in the car with two of the moms to help hand out flyers for our upcoming VBS. That’s when they took me down a road in the middle of nowhere and pulled over to the side.
The mom in the passenger seat said in a sweet voice, “You know, we’re glad you are here and look forward to seeing what you can do…” She then turned slowly around to look me square in the eye. “But if you hurt any of our kids, I will kill you.” She turned back around, the car started rolling again, and off we went.
Six years later, we still joke about that day. They remember how long I sat in silence looking for the right words to say.
I’m glad our church is into safety, and I hope your church is as well. Today, I want to share with you a blog post from Group’s Church Volunteer Central. Sue Brage is the editor for the Church Volunteer Daily blog. She posted a great piece on the Do’s and Don’ts for Safety Awareness, and I’d like to share it with you.
“I’m going to tell my daughter! She thinks I’m too overprotective!”
This was a friend’s response when I told her about an e-mail I had just gotten about an attempted kidnapping just a few miles from where we live. A 14-year-old girl was walking home from the pool and was approached by a strange man she did not recognize. When the man tried to grab her arm, she punched him in the stomach and ran home. Thankfully, she was only frightened, and suffered no serious harm.
It gives you pause, though! Here she was in her own neighborhood, a few blocks from home where she should feel safe and protected. Instead, an intruder threatened her sense of security-and her actual well-being! I can only imagine what her mother must have thought when she received that phone call from her frantic daughter…
As parents, volunteers, church and ministry leaders, we cannot afford to ignore the times in which we live. I’m not talking about living in fear, or an out-of-balance distrust of people. I am talking about being aware of certain realities and the responsibility we have to protect those who need protecting.
I think there are some basic DO’s and DON’Ts to be sure we are doing our “due diligence” and protecting those on our watch.
1. Communicate with others about any real or perceived threats.
Talk to parents, teens, children, and volunteers. Ask on a regular basis if anyone has seen or heard anything out of the ordinary that could become a potential risk. Open the lines of communication so that everyone knows this is important to you and the church and that their input is valuable. Like my neighborhood e-mail system, have a way to share information with the parties who need to know.
2. Implement a secure check-in/check-out system.
While this may seem like it only matters in large churches, I can assure you, the risk of a child being picked up by a non-custodial parent or estranged relative is the same in every church.
3. Train ALL volunteers on safety measures.
It happens to all of us. At the last minute a volunteer doesn’t show up, and we grab any “body” to run the check-in table or supervise the toddlers. Unfortunately, this is a prime area where mistakes happen and safety policies can get overlooked.
4. Share articles and updates with parents.
Take the time to share helpful articles and tips on safety, not just as they relate to church participation, but in other areas, too. This will remind parents to be extra diligent and also let them know that you take the safety of their kids seriously.
1. Don’t overlook other vulnerable ministries in your church.
I read an article recently about a pastor who threw a special needs adult in the dumpster for doing a poor job cleaning the church bathroom. Anyone who works with special needs or the elderly must have proper training and supervision.
2. Don’t think church background checks are for other churches.
Develop a background check program that screens volunteers who will be working directly with these vulnerable people, specially children, youth, the elderly, and special needs. It may be a delicate issue in the beginning; remind people that you are mainly concerned with protecting those who need it.
3. Don’t ignore common sense, intuition, or the Holy Spirit.
These are ways God warns us and helps us avoid danger. Stop and listen, and train your volunteers to do the same!
4. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.
Make a point of praying for protection before every service or activity involving these vulnerable groups. This will help raise awareness in your volunteers and bring the wisdom necessary to protect those in your church.
Just like my friend, we may be accused of being overprotective or even of having a lack of faith, but that should not deter us from following the Lord’s leading and making safety a priority.
As always, we want to hear from you. Do you have a check-in system for kids? How do you keep your kids safe? Do you screen your volunteers? Do you re-screen them at all? Share with us your tips and tricks! Leave a comment in the box below!