What Do We Need?
Security is a huge issue for churches and parents alike. Parents want to know that their kids will be safe when they leave them for a service. Many churches are now requiring volunteers to have criminal and child abuse clearances before working with kids (a smart move). What other security systems are needed? What about check in systems? If you are a small church (one of those “everyone knows everyone”), is a check-in system really essential? Is it insulting to the members who are there every week? At what point do you institute a check in system? From the beginning (or from this point forward), every ministry should have some way to keep track of the kids that are coming through the doors each day (or night). So what’s first?
1) Keep attendance.
If you’re not already doing this, start. It’s easy to type all your kids’ names into a Word document table and leave four columns for the four weeks in the month. This way, you can simply print off a new copy for each month (after adding in any newbies).
2) Keep records.
It’s a good idea to keep track of addresses, phone numbers, etc so you can contact kids (and their parents) during the week (or during Kid’s Club if an emergeny arises). Also, keep track of birthdays (so you can send cards and group kids by ages). I’ve recently started a “Kid Notebook” that contains info sheets for all the kids that have come through our ministry. I try to attach a picture to each info sheet so I will recognize the kid by name when they return (a very powerful statement to kids and their parents). The info sheet can contain whatever you want from friends, favorite activities, spiritual history, events the kids have attended, etc. Also, make note of any allergies and who the child lives with.
3) Keep communication open.
Make sure you touch base with parents when they drop kids off (especially guests) about who can pick up the child. Having a “Guest Registration” form is a great idea. Parents can leave their contact information and any other important information including who is authorized to pick up.
4) Keep watch of the door.
Consider a daily (or nightly) Check in and Check out chart. Have columns for child’s name, who dropped off and who picked up. You could attach this to a clipboard along with a list of people who are authorized to pick kids up. Make sure the kids are only using one exit so you don’t miss anyone. Also, begin to make it part of the night’s routine for kids to check in and check out every week. After a few months, it will be second nature for both kids and their parents and everyone will have a stronger sense of security about your ministry.
This is a great place for small churches to start with the check-in process. Certainly when you only have ten or fifteen kids you don’t want to utilize a sterile computerized system with codes and passwords (not to mention the cost of such a system!) However, this system has the potential to grow with the ministry and when you do need a more extensive system, parents and kids will already be in the habit of checking in and out, making the transition much easier!
Other Security/Safety Posts:
Trying Out the Check In System
Podcast about Check In Systems
Parents Respond to Check In System
Nursery Labels: Security for Little Ones