There is no denying the weekly experience with children’s ministry has changed over the last few years. Some children’s ministries have experienced lower than expected attendance, fewer volunteers, reduced budgets, and less overall interest from new families. However, organizations are working hard to get back to where they need to be, and while some factors have shifted, one element remains constant, prioritizing child safety.
As my family returned to in-person attendance, I became keenly aware of how the change in experience affected my perception of child safety. As a parent, I expect more of a focus on child protection, not less. When organizations let their guard down, bad things can happen, like individuals getting access to kids when they shouldn’t.
If there’s not an integrated approach, meaning all areas of ministry believe child protection and safety are everyone’s responsibility, the potential rate of an incident increases. When bad things happen, or there’s the concern something might, it discourages new families from visiting and alienates those who regularly attend. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By refocusing on safety, you can make a big difference in helping families feel their children are in good hands.
Whether you are a small church plant or a large, established program, child safety is the key to attracting new families and giving peace-of-mind to the families you already serve.
Here are some concerns from a parent’s perspective on what happens when a church neglects to prioritize the safety of the children in their care.
Often, gone are the days of walking up to the entry of children’s ministry and seeing a security team member or two opening the doors and welcoming families. Pre-pandemic, they were a familiar sight each week, and one many kids came to look forward to and appreciate.
As a parent, I knew from the moment my children set foot in the door someone was overseeing the building’s physical safety, creating peace-of-mind, and making it easier to be apart. Once in the door, volunteers and staff greeted and helped families register, check-in, or find a room location. There was an emphasis on assisting families in moving through the drop-off process quickly, answering questions, and providing information.
Unfortunately, today, I see an absence of a dedicated security presence, greeters, and in some cases, no structured children’s check-in and check-out process. Are these likely the outcomes of resource scarcity? Sometimes, due to less children attending and fewer volunteers available to help, there might not be assigned room locations and instead all kids are gathered in one spot, regardless of their age or grade.
Does it matter if security resources are dedicated to kids’ ministry if attendance levels are low? Is a check-in/out process at some level necessary? Is a dedicated location for kids in specific age groups a deal-breaker for families to return? Are families noticing the differences and possibly concerned about safety? Yes! Every organization faces unique challenges to establishing a new normal. However, when safety in children’s ministry is no longer prioritized there’s a ripple effect across the entire organization.