Safety. This is one word that is paramount to everyone. Safety at home, safety at school, safety on the road. However, how often do you think about safety while at church?
If you don’t, you should.
Today, we hear news reports of missing children, public shootings, fires claiming the lives of families or severe weather damaging an entire town.
We take the necessary preparation to protect our homes, we go to meetings to ensure our schools have safety programs in place, but do we invest the time to make sure our churches are safe and secure, especially when it comes to our children? Churches are subject to these occurrences just like any other place. Church leaders and members should ask this question: Is our church at risk and do we have the procedures in place to handle an incident if it occurs?
According to the authors of the ministry guide “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?,” the church is meant to be a place of love and security – a place of safety in the time of need. Many of unfortunate incidents could have been prevented.
“We can say that we’re adults and we can handle a situation when it presents itself, but what about the children who we care for? With a few precautions, changes in operations and training of staff and volunteers, most incidents can be averted. It’s time for the church to perform a risk assessment and put in place policies that will create a safe haven for worship and ministry,” said the authors of “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?”.
A recent Barna Group study1 of pastors highlighted some areas of concern, outlined in this excerpt of its report:
“The study shows that many churches struggle with screening children and youth workers, partly because they do not have the appropriate practices and procedures in place to anticipate and deal with diverse types of risk. For instance, one-third of pastors said their church has no formal risk management process in place, and just 38 percent of all churches gave their organization high marks on this factor. About three out of 10 pastors indicated their church has a risk management process in place, but the pastor is less than fully satisfied with that process. Fewer than half of pastors said their church ‘specifically and regularly evaluates safety and security issues affecting the church’ (39 percent) and only one-quarter said their church ‘thoroughly communicates with attendees about safety and security issues’ (28 percent).”
1 – Many Churches Neglect to Screen Those Working with Children and Youth: The Barna Group, www.barna.org.
“The Barna Group study also outlines some troubling gaps in the area of fire preparedness. Their study found only two percent of Protestant churches having conducted a fire drill in the last month. That number would never be accepted in schools, and most schools don’t use fire in their day-to-day activities. But, nearly 25 percent of churches use some form of fire, most often candles, in services every month, with nearly 75 percent using open flames every year,” said the authors of “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?”. “And the risk from fire is real; in the last several years, hundreds of churches have been damaged by fires, whether they were caused by neglect or set deliberately. Your church should be prepared.”
Facts You Need to Know:
- According to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART), more than 350,000 family abductions occur in the U.S. each year. This amounts to approximately 1,000 family abductions per day.
- According to The Christian Post, there were at least 1,237 crimes committed against Christian churches and ministries in the U.S. in 2009 (most recent data). These incidents ranged in severity from vandalism to violent crimes.
- According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments attend more than 1.3 million fires each year. Of these, thousands occur at worship centers, causing millions of dollars in damage.
Know Your Risk Level
“As families enter your ministry, they expect to find a sanctuary that provides a haven of protection, both spiritually and physically, from the rest of the world. All week they hear about terrorism, natural disasters, fires and crime. They don’t need to come to church worrying over their safety while attending services,” said the authors of “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?”. “Moms and Dads should not have to worry about whether their child is safe and secure while they’re trying to worship. The more you can assure families that your church is a safe place, the better off each of your ministry areas, from children’s programs to adult classes, will be.”
It is recommended by security experts that you perform a risk assessment of your church facility first, then assess your ministry areas, starting with your children.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord,” (Psalm 127:3) and we should ensure they have the safest environment your church can provide. Once you have a policy in place for children’s safety and security, you can adapt the policies to other ministries of your church.
To get started with this process, there are four key areas you should review for your church.
- Emergency evacuation
- Shelter-in-Place or Church lockdown
- Medical emergencies
- Lost/Missing children
You can’t afford to leave any doubt in parents’ minds when it comes to the safety of their children in the event of an emergency. Make sure all workers are aware of their responsibilities so they can spring into action if the need arises. Remember, information is power. Know how to get your hands on that vital information and distribute it to the right people in a timely manner.
Technology Can Help You Succeed
Using relatively inexpensive technology, churches have the opportunity to provide an added degree of security and safety to their ministries. These ministries can benefit from placing old, paper-based processes vulnerable to human error with electronic solutions that can drastically minimize judgment calls.
“Imagine being able to generate actual attendance rosters for each class meeting during a service – and imagine the comfort of knowing you can use these same rosters for emergency lists if an evacuation is needed. What if you knew you had a quick look-up feature for finding the location of a child or parent in case an incident occurs?,” said the authors of “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?”. “These are just a couple of the benefits that a software security check-in system can provide for your staff and volunteers.”
Everyone knows we live in a dangerous world. But, the church of all places, should be a sanctuary from the day-to-day worries we find ourselves thinking about very often. That’s why it’s so essential to protect the entire church, but especially, the children’s ministry, from danger. That’s why you need to download “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?” today to learn more about how to keep your children, and entire congregation, safe.
Let Us Help Your Congregation Stay Safe
ACS Technologies can help you assess issues and better safeguard your ministry.
Whether you’ve already implemented a safety strategy or need help getting your efforts up and running, we can help.
To learn more about ministry safety, download “Is Your Children’s Ministry at Risk?” today.
You can also learn more by visiting www.acstechnologies.com.