These congregations are the national winners of the "America's Safest Churches" award program, which is supported by the National Safety Council and sponsored by GuideOne Insurance. The churches profiled here have achieved excellence in building security, fire prevention, transportation, employee and volunteer screening, education and enforcement.
St. John's Lutheran Church, Orange, Calif. Through the "Shepherd's Program" at St. John's, older students in the church's private school are matched with younger students, and keep watch over them. Older students meet their younger counterparts curbside at the parent's car and escort these students to the appropriate location.
Other ministries launched within the past three years include a comprehensive child protection program, an in-depth transportation policy and a proactive security program for the large campus. In addition, St. John's implemented an injury and illness prevention program for all staff and a procedure for identifying and correcting hazards.
Calvary Baptist Church, Muscatine, Iowa. Calvary's reputation is so strong that other churches want to model their programs on what the church has implemented. A safety team monitors and manages all of the many safety and security issues facing the church. The church maintains relationships with local law enforcement, fire and medical personnel, and the church administrator is a certified professional with more than 15 years of experience. Safety programs at Calvary maintain strict transportation policies and monitor church attendance for known sex offenders. Children's ministry security measures include check-in procedures, security cameras and training for volunteers.
Florence Baptist Temple, Florence, S.C. With thousands of members, Florence Baptist must take an inclusive approach to safety and security. A safety and security committee oversees all pertinent policies, procedures and programs. All areas of the church have written procedures, and staff members are trained to contact the business administrator before committing to any type of activity that could place adults or children at risk.
Unique efforts have included the design of a new pre-school ministry building in order to properly monitor and protect children, as well as the removal of unsafe playground equipment. Criminal background checks are required for all employees and staff who work with children.
As your congregation grows, so too does the potential for risk. It might seem easier to take tighter personal reins on safety measures, but an even more effective approach would be to engage other members of the congregation and community in the effort. How can you empower others to help?
There are many needs to attend to in your congregation. Safety and security should be among the first and foremost. Taking a few proactive measures now will save hassle and heartache down the road.
Eric Spacek is a former minister and senior church risk manager at GuideOne Insurance. More information is available at guideone.com.
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