You’ve got to be ready for growth before it comes.
In his book, Stretch: Structuring Your Ministry For Growth, Jim Wideman advises readers to prepare for growth before it gets to you. If you want to double the size of your ministry, do you have what it takes to accommodate the new size?
Do you have enough chairs?
Do you have enough teachers?
Do you have the classroom space?
Do you have the security system you need?
As we worked through our “Getting Ready for Growth” checklist, it was clear we needed to something about the safety and security at our church. We are still a fairly small church (Sunday attendance averages 250), but I wanted to get a system in place before we needed it. I wanted to implement it with our core parents and make sure everything was in good working order before we tried to use it with a sudden influx of kids. We’re in the midst of a building project (oh boy!) and we’re hoping to double the size of our sanctuary in a year. Doubling the space will hopefully mean doubling the families and I want to be sure we are keeping all those families safe from the first time they enter our doors.
I was first introduced to KidCheck at the CMLeaders Conference and love love loved the system (If you caught my Easy Riser post a few weeks back, you’ll notice a trend. Conferences are destroying my budget. In a good way.)
I loved the text alerts, the label printer, the inverted coloring if a kid has allergies. In general, I was impressed with every aspect of the system. It didn’t make the budget for a year or so, but we recently got the green light and signed up for our own KidCheck account.
In a good way.
Not only did it instantly make check-in so much easier (and faster) for parents, it also gave us an amazing way to track attendance, send out mass emails, and chart out periods of growth and decline.
Previously, we were using stickers from Nursery Labels, which were a terrific starting point, but parents had to fill out a sticker for every kid and if they brought a friend, it took twice as long. Now it’s one scan with the KidCheck key tag and away they go!
We rolled out the system with our Wednesday night group first (average 40 kids) and then moved to the Sunday morning nursery.
I’ll keep you posted on how things are going, but here’s what I think so far:
- The system is a breeze for parents to use. They put in their phone number and kids names one time and then simply scan a keycard or input their phone number after that.
- Parents can set up an account from home to avoid that “first day” bottle neck situation
- If a parent/guardian loses their pick up tag, you can scan the barcode on the child’s tag and bring up a list of authorized people for pick-up.
- Customer service is AMAZING!!! Seriously, you can email any question and get a reply back quick quick quick.
- It’s easy to track attendance trends and even print off a spiffy looking chart for your next board meeting.
- It feels super cool to print out a tag.
- New guests always comment on how much they love the system.
- At first, the cost seems a little prohibitive, but when you compare the cost of buying numbered stickers and setting up the KidCheck system, there is only about a $200 difference per year. That’s worth it to me.
- The system is only as good as the people who implement it. Be prepared to really train your volunteer team and emphasize the importance of always checking tags. Some people are intimated about asking for tags and just let kids slip out without checking. Yikes! Make sure you have key people at the door who aren’t afraid to lay down the law, especially for the first few weeks.
- I have never experienced so much backlash from anything I’ve done in Children’s Ministry. I was working the nursery during the first week we implemented KidCheck on Sunday. A man came to the nursery door and a little girl ran to hug him. He did not have a tag. Clearly there was a relationship there, but honestly, I did not know who the man was. I let him know kindly but firmly he had to have a matching tag to pick up anyone from the nursery and he was not happy. However, when the parents came to pick up their daughter two minutes later (with a matching tag), I was able to hand their daughter over and not have to say, “Um, she just went with a guy. I think maybe it was her grandpa?”. Some people do not like being told they can’t pick up their grandchildren without a tag. Some people do not like being told they have to exit the gym once the kids program starts in order to provide a secure zone. Be prepared for that.
- This system is internet based. If your wifi crashes, so does the system. Have a back up plan.
- Some of the buttons are WAY too tiny. Like the “Save” button. It’s a tiny little type in the right hand corner. It should be big and surrounded by a green box. It always throws parents off the first time because they don’t know where to click next. In the words of Seth Godin, make the banana easy to spot.
I love the system and have been so pleased with our experience thus far. I have to admit, I haven’t explored all the bells and whistles, but I’ll let you know when I do!