Casting a Vision for the Importance of Safety Procedures

Pat wrote a great blog earlier this month on the reasons why church security is so important. Policies and procedures are great only if your volunteers are following the procedures. Today we will discuss some examples of why it is important for you to regularly cast vision to your volunteers about the importance of procedures.

I have to admit, check-in and checkout procedures are inconvenient and annoying. The truth is that regardless of the inconvenience and annoyance, these procedures are key to keeping kids safe. This is why it is good to train volunteers to know how kids check-in and how parents pick them up. It is also important to continue to remind volunteers the importance of why we have the procedures. 

When casting vision I like to use stories. I use stories of my past experiences or from stories I have heard. I hope this story helps to show the importance of using security tags for kids. 

Early in my ministry I was at church that needed to implement a number of security improvements. At the time there weren't many churches who utilized background checks or check-in and check-out procedures, so these were new to many people in our church and I had a prolonged roll out schedule for the changes. Before we implemented check-in tags, we had a potential kidnapping.  

We had a couple who had been going through a really rough time, and the wife had gotten a restraining order against her husband. But she didn't let anyone at our church know. One Sunday, her husband came to pick up the kids. We didn't know anything about the difficulties the family was experiencing. We also did not have a check-in system. So, although there was a restraining order against the father, we would have given his kids to him. Thankfully, the kids did not come to church that day. God provided protection in that the mom didn't feel like she should bring the kids to church that Sunday. Who knows what would have happened if the kids would have been there and went home with their dad?  It was a scary situation that turned out well. But it could have had a horrible ending. 

The next week I created some name tags for the kids who normally came to church and then had some extra tags for any guests. They were super simple but they were effective. Only the person who had the tag could pick up that child. So, if the previous scenario had happened, they couldn't have picked up the kids. 

As you train your volunteers, you also want to  sometimes test them to see if they are practicing the safety procedures. We have had a near 100% success when we send a parent to try and pick up their kids without a tag. In fact, once we had a parent try to pick up their kids when their check-in tag only had two of their three kids on the pick up tag. Even though all three kids were in the same classroom the volunteer sent the parent to the children's ministries front desk for assistance. 

When we have parents who lose their tags we have a procedure where we take a copy of their drivers license and some information to contact them if needed. Then the children's ministry leader will accompany the parent to the classroom to release the child. 

How do you inspire volunteers to believe in the importance of safety and security procedures? What do you do to test and ensure procedures are being followed?

Why I Don't Like Having So Much Security at Church

For the remainder of this month, we're going to be focusing on safety and security at church. Honestly, I really don't like having so much security in place at church... especially when it comes to children's ministry.

It's weird to me to HAVE to have a check in/out process. It doesn't make sense in my mind to HAVE to do background checks on every member who volunteers to serve. Has society gone down that rapidly recently? Yes and no. Let me explain.

The problems that check in/out procedures and background checks are trying to prevent are nothing new. We read about them in Jeremiah 17:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?

 And Ecclesiastes 1:9 -

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun.

My problem with having to do these things is the sin behind them. I don't like the fact that, as the pastor, I have to recognize the possibility that a member of my church, someone who I know and have regular contact with, may be attempting to hide serious sin from me and everyone else at church; that they would abuse our friendship and risk fellowship to do the unthinkable.

I want to trust people. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that their motivations are pure. Unfortunately there are some people who would abuse and misuse that trust for their own sinful desires. I know, because I've been burned this ... personally (but that will be shared in a later post). Ultimately what it comes down to for me is that I don't want to admit that the world is as sinful as it is.

But it is, and part of my job is to provide protection. This protection comes in a variety of forms. It can easily be broken down into 2 basic categories: (1) external protection and (2) internal protection.

Kids (as well as their parents) need to know that that they are being protected from threats from outside the church. This may be from a person who shouldn't be in the building or doesn't have the right to pick up a child. But children in our care must also be protected from people within the church that don't have any business having contact with them.

But here's what I know. Even though I may personally struggle with need for policies and procedures like this, God is still in control. Even though terrible things have happened in the past, God is still in control. Even if something happens again with all the right policies in place, God is still sovereign. He still has plan. His plan and control aren't de-railed because of sin. He's bigger and more powerful than that. But that doesn't mean we can be lazy. He calls us to be faithful in shepherding. Having policies and procedures isn't wrong. It doesn't demonstrate a lack of faith. It's be prudent in the execution of our ministry.

So, yes these things are necessary; because sin is still in the world and in the church. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. It does mean that I'd be stupid and foolish not to utilize them.