I care about safety.
And… anyone who knows me knows that that’s an understatement. I live a life that’s built on rules, strategies, formulas and procedures. So, for better or for worse, I bring my crazy-love for safety to the kidmin world that I work and live in.
While visiting a nearby VBS recently, I was once again reminded that not everyone in kidmin shares my same passion for keeping kids safe (it’s not that they want kids to be “unsafe” – I’m just pretty sure that they are living in a world where nothing bad ever happens, so they don’t plan for worst-case scenarios).
I had tried to contact the church for weeks to set up a time to observe one of their programs, but never received a reply. So, I decided I’d swing by and try to meet someone during the program who could walk me around and give me a behind the scenes look at things (annually, we offer campus tours during VBS for parents and church leaders who want to hear what goes into putting together our camp… I was hoping for something similar from them).
During my hour-long visit, without any identification or uniform, I was able to walk freely across a church campus while programs were running. I was next to children during their opening worship time, I spoke with children and gave high-fives, I walked to and through small group rooms where pictures and names of children in those rooms were plastered on the windows, I took pictures and even walked past check in teams that were supposed to stop random guys like me who are walking onto the church campus. I know, that’s a long sentence and I’m pretty sure the grammar is pretty weak – but, you get the point. I did all of that – and I was never once stopped. Nobody said a word to me.
Now, I don’t bring that up to say that our church and our programs are perfect. I bring it up because many people in kidmin don’t think through safety procedures unless you make them… and, many don’t know where to start. So, today, I want to share with you 3 things that you can do to begin taking safety seriously during large programs that you run. You can plug these into your next camp, VBS, whatever – with little effort and HUGE reward (in my world, keeping kids safe is a big deal – in fact, I’d say it’s priceless).
The Lowdown on the Lockdown
During our large events, we have Lockdown procedures for a variety of incidents that might happen while kids are at church. Because we go out of our way to train our team on the methods and reasons behind lockdowns, we’ve been able to successfully lock down our church campus on multiple occasions over the course of the last few years.
We teach our lockdown procedures through story and examples and spend about half an hour of our VBS training talking through our expectations of our leaders and staff during an emergency. We cover examples of what to do in the event that a camper is separated from their group (Level 1), what to do if an unescorted adult comes on campus (level 2) or if wildlife or another dangerous threat is within the immediate surroundings (level 3).
Putting a lockdown procedure into place isn’t something that takes a lot of effort or money, but it saves you time and energy when everyone is on the same page during an emergency.
We need a Medic!
One of the major upgrades we made to our VBS program last year was the addition of a volunteer medical team and a medic station. I actually stole the idea from another church who had done something similar – and… now you can steal it from me!
As a church, we have a pretty good sense of who our medical, fire and law enforcement personnel are in our congregation. We have an idea of where they sit in church and what service they attend. We know which officers are required to carry firearms while off duty and which ones have kids in our program. So, building a medical team to be present during our large programs became as easy as phone calls. In fact, that’s all it took! We had nurses, doctors and firemen spend their days off with us in the church office tending to injuries that a bandaid and a hug couldn’t quite fix.
Parents LOVED the fact that we had trained professionals looking after kids with bumps and bruises and I loved the fact that I didn’t have to be the only qualified first responder on campus. A week before VBS, we asked for a shopping list from one of the nurses so that we could have any supplies our team would need during the week. We made one more trip on Monday to get some last minute items – and, from there, the process worked without a lot of intervention from me. Kids were safe and their parents knew it – there aren’t many bigger “wins” in my book.
The Mom Squad. It’s like an Easy Button.
Do you have moms who just kind of “hang around” during an event? Give them a role! A few of my favorite moms have figured out that, by the time they drop off their kids and get settled in back at their house, they’ll need to start getting ready to come pick them up again. So – they became our Mom Squad.
Our Mom Squad patrols our campus during an event and serves as extra hands, feet and voices for the staff running the event. Random guy walking on campus? The Mom Squad knows to intercept him and walk him to the front office to check in. Child wandering away from his group? The Mom Squad can call in a lockdown until we reunite him with his team. Parents trying to force their way in to see our closing ceremonies? The Mom Squad has that covered and might even recruit a couple volunteers in the process.
I joke around that having a Mom Squad is like having an Easy Button. Our programs flow better when I don’t have to be everything and everywhere at once. Having a group of moms who are patrolling our campus to watch for and care about the safety of our kids frees me up to give guided tours to other kidmin leaders in the area while we have 1400 minors on campus. They require very little training, cost nothing and make our program 100 x’s better.
Some might say that 1200 words about safety is a little much. I could write a short novel – there’s so much more to say. However, I’ll end with this – all 3 of these ideas were things I’ve picked up along the way because I visited other churches, met with other church leaders and constantly take the brilliant ideas of others and make the best ones fit our setting. If you have questions or ideas you’d like to share, please use the comments section below. Without your voice in the conversation, we are all at a disadvantage.
I think safety matters – what do you think?