Today when a church builds children’s ministry space, safety and security are top priorities. Hallways have very limited access, rooms are designed with good sight lines, and emergency lockdowns are possible. For established spaces, children’s ministry safety guidelines are just as important but a bit more challenging.
In older buildings (which most of us probably inhabit), spaces were designed way before the days when we needed to have conversations about active shooters, abuse risks or any of the unfortunate realities of children’s ministry today.
My church, West Bradenton Baptist, has existed since 1957. Much of the children’s hallway is part of an original building. In fact, it was previously a stand-alone structure, unattached to everything else. There are literally five outside doors connected to classrooms.
Aside from that, there are four ways to access our hallway from either outside or another part of the church. Many of our classrooms are L-shaped, with lots of corners in which a child can hide. This wonderful building that has served generations of children is also a modern-day security nightmare.
To boost our children’s ministry safety guidelines in this environment, we’ve taken these simple and fairly inexpensive steps:
1. Limited access
We began by asking our congregation to use the children’s hallway only if they’re volunteering or picking up and dropping off kids. Honestly, this change took a lot of time for church members to fully understand and follow. The children’s hall had been a main thoroughfare for decades. We had to communicate over and over the why behind the switch, as well as the what. Additionally, we must periodically remind the congregation as new people join. We also purchased stanchions to place at each end of the hallway as visual reminders.
We purchased inexpensive intercom systems on Amazon. They’re not perfect, but the goal is to have an easy way for us to communicate to classrooms. Because we plan to renovate this building during the next few years, we chose not to spend high dollars at this time. But having a way for team members to communicate is essential.
3. Security Team
Following the church shooting in Texas, one of our church members who’s a police officer set up a team of volunteers who take turns hanging out in the children’s hall. The vision is to expand this to the rest of the church campus, but we began with the most vulnerable area. The volunteers’ entire job is to be a presence. These people wear volunteer shirts, just a different color from the rest of the team.
4. Monitor and cameras
We already have cameras in our children’s hallway and outside the building. We’re working on adding a monitor to our check-in area that shows all the camera angles. This addition will help us monitor, of course, but it also conveys to parents that we take security seriously.
Our security team leader suggested that we give a walkie-talkie to greeters at each entrance. Hopefully they won’t ever use them, but they can immediately contact our security team if they see something concerning.
What children’s ministry safety guidelines are you using in older buildings? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.
This article originally appeared here.