With the spate of recent national tragedies in the last few months, all parents are asking, “Is this a safe place for our kids?” That includes churches. As children’s ministry leaders, we’re charged to take our role as both physical and spiritual guardians very seriously, and we should do everything we reasonably can to make our ministry environments a safe place for kids to come. It’s too important to “wing it” or think that the chances of something happening are slim.
Ask yourself and your team: Where are the weak spots in our ministry? Where are the places that need to be shored up to keep kids, families and volunteers secure and safe?
Here’s the challenge. Take action on at least one thing this week. It’s worth the effort and if it’s a visible change, it tells parents, “We care about your child’s safety.”
Recently, we made a slight change. We posted signs on all our doors letting parents know that our ministry areas lock down 15 minutes after the service begins. The doors actually lock and anyone coming in after that time has to be escorted. We also amped up our security check to make sure that every adult walking into our ministry areas had claim tags. Several parents expressed appreciation. Everyone is thinking about security right now.
The challenge for you, however, is to continue to hold the banner of security high. Although everyone is especially raw right now, it will pass. Security won’t be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, unfortunately—but it must be for you. Here are some simple reminders of easy steps to take:
Update or create a ministry policy manual. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Borrow, copy and tweak what you see and put one together. Check out childrensministryonline.com for online examples of policy manuals.
Make it a policy that workers are never alone with a child.Always have at least two adults with any child. This has been my cardinal rule for more than a decade. It protects the church, child and worker. If you have to speak to a child alone, pull him or her aside where you are in eyeshot of at least one other adult. If you need to help a child in the bathroom, be sure there is a set of eyes on you, watching you. Make it a policy that if only one adult shows up to help, the room is closed. This is why we always have three volunteers/staff in a room. If someone needs to leave to get help or supplies, two are left. And if someone doesn’t show up, we still have two and can open the room.
Train your volunteers. Yes, volunteers don’t flock to training meetings. So get creative. Put a quick five-minute training on Vimeo or YouTube. Go over training points in your pre-service meetings. Make sure every volunteer knows the essential policies and safety procedures.
Perform background checks and screen all staff and every volunteer. Regardless of how often someone works, if they have access to kids, they should be screened. If you don’t run background checks, do it—no excuses. If your leadership says no, give them multiple reasons why background checks are a non-negotiable. Several companies offer legitimate checks that take a day to complete for about $7-$12 per person. Make sure the company performs an identity check (be sure to look at the photo identification to ensure they are who they say they are), a criminal background check and a national sex-offenders check. Screen volunteers as well. Ask them to complete an application and call their references. This process will weed out most people who would bring harm.
Update your evacuation, emergency and intruder policies/procedures. Do your volunteers know what to do if something happens? Make sure they do (this is an area we’re working on right now).
Think safety now and always.
Kenny Conley is the Next Generation Pastor at Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. A children’s pastor for more than 11 years, Conley has a passion for equipping and encouraging those who pastor and work with kids by sharing ideas, training and giving away “things that have worked for him.”
“Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV)
A church family will help keep you from backsliding.
None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track.
The Bible says, “Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV).
We are called and commanded to be involved in each other’s lives. If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it is your responsibility to go after that person and bring him or her back into the fellowship.
It is tragic when the vast potential of an individual or entity is limited or eliminated because there is no room for their gifts. In the case of a lion, when captured and encaged, it loses its aggressive roar because it is forced to be localized into the confines of a cage.
It may be a lion, but it is no different from a house cat because, like a house cat, it no longer has to claim its territory and hunt to satisfy its hunger, and is content to stay confined within a building.
To me, all of this is related to the condition of the local church after it ceases to recognize the ministry and function of apostles. This results in cutting off the pioneering spirit and apostolic call to conquer and expand kingdom influence.
I don’t necessarily think people have to use the title of apostle; the function is what is most important.
You’ve surely heard the growing body of prophecies declaring the impending judgment of God on America. Indeed, The Harbinger—a book that many believe holds the secret to America’s not so pleasant future—has remained on the New York Times’ best-seller list for more than a year. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s prophetic message is resonating with believers and unbelievers alike—and for good reason.
So when Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke stood on the grounds of the Vero Beach Airport proclaiming “All America Shall Be Saved” in early February 2013, the declaration demanded my attention. After all, this is the same German evangelist who declared “All Africa Shall Be Saved” and witnessed more than 55 million African souls make a decision to renounce Islam, witchcraft and other strange gods—and commit to follow Jesus Christ—in just a nine-year period. 55 million souls.
Despite the judgment prophecies, despite the rising gay agenda, despite the increasing persecution against Christianity in the United States, Bonnke made a bold declaration for the devils in Vero Beach and beyond to hear that night: “All America Shall Be Saved.”
But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. — Luke 22:26
This verse states a view that is so different than what the world practices. According to the world, a leader is to have special privileges and to be treated better than everyone else. A former employee of mine thought that she didn't need to do as much work because she had "paid her dues." It only caused dissent with the rest of the employees. Wouldn't you love to arrive at work someday and find your boss cleaning? Or how about the husband who doesn't feel like he needs to help around the house because he is the "king of his castle?" Wouldn't you love to have your husband cook you dinner after you've spent a long day with the kids? And what if he did that often? Now that's serving up love!
Why are these scenarios so unusual? I think that it's because we have a messed up idea of leadership--and a messed up idea about service. The world seems to see service as a form of weakness. Jesus tells us and shows us that service is a sign of strength--it takes inner strength to serve those around us. It's a very humbling experience. Leaders who think they are above serving are simply afraid of their weaknesses.
Christ tells us that our leadership should be different than what the world expects. We shouldn't gloat over being above anyone else but use our place in life to help others. The best leaders or teachers are the ones who can admit when they are wrong or they don't know the answer. Then, because they are leaders, they work to find the correct answers and lead people down the right path.
Look at the leadership examples around you. Do they tend to be humble or haughty? Take a look at your own leadership style. If you're a parent, how do you lead your children? As a wife, how do you serve your husband? Husbands, how do you serve your wives? Service isn't just a sign of humility but of love as well. Good leadership requires love. It's a love outside of us--God's love. Ask God for his love to empower and guide your leadership and relationships with people. Follow him, for he is our ultimate servant-leader.
In the book, Zombies, Football and the Gospel, Reggie Joiner talks of how Sundays are now a day to watch football, be with family, and do just about anything else but church. I know that this varies from one city to another, but the reality is that most just don’t feel the need to be at church every week.
Have you imagined all that happens before someone even arrives at your church for the first time?