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Lockdowns, Medical Teams & The Mom Squad

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).

You can download the PDF of our emergency procedures (Lockdowns are on page 2) by clicking HERE.

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.
But Better.

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.

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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?

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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Calling All Youth Pastors

(Here’s a picture from our morning session on the first day of Middle School VBS Leader training)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, keeping the Kingdom in mind (and not just your own castle) is essential to lasting, effective and sustainable ministry.

As I wrote earlier this week, we spend a week each summer training hundreds of middle school and high school students in preparation for their work at our annual Vacation Bible School.  By opening the invitation to serve at VBS to all students in and around our community (we even have a couple that fly in from out of state to serve on our student leadership team), we find ourselves with an interesting mix of students.  The majority of students serving at VBS do not call our church their “home church”.  In fact, many have no church affiliation at all – they’re serving because they like kids and a friend invited them.  For many, it’s that simple.

During our training, we give our students a chance to commit or recommit their lives to following Jesus.  It’s been a conviction of mine that we give students a chance to own their faith in a new and fresh way before 1,000 little kids come onto our church campus to hear about God and the call that has been placed on their lives.

However, our staff has struggled with the follow up aspect of these decisions.  For years, we’ve followed up with parents and children’s pastors who have campers making decision to follow Jesus during VBS.  I spend the week after VBS calling local churches who were listed at the “home church” for campers who make commitments at our camp. Yet, we’ve never done that with our students – until this year.

For the last week, our Jr High guy, Scott Boss, has been contacting the nearly 40 churches who have students serving at our VBS this year.  He’s inviting the youth staff and ministry teams from those churches to come alongside us at our Saturday training event in order to connect with and pray for the students serving on our campus next week.

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while for a couple reasons.

Jesus is bigger than OUR building

By making these calls, and inviting other youth pastors onto our campus to help own what’s taking place here, we’re sending a message to our community – following Jesus and being a part of the Church has nothing to do with what building you meet in.  Jesus’ Church is bigger than any one building, denomination or church staff.  Our facilities might be hosting this event, but we don’t own it.  Jesus does.

Maybe other churches might try it

I know that kids from families who attend our church attend other church programs in town.  Odds are, some of the kids from our congregation have made important faith-commitments at the programs of other churches.  Yet, I’ve never received a call or email about it from another church in town.

I do know that “evangelism teams” from other churches have shown up at the houses of some of our kids and invited them to their church the following Sunday.  My guess is, if other churches are coordinating a follow-up process that includes door-to-door visitation, they could probably find the time to send me an email.

Because a lot of church’s senior pastors grade their kids and youth programs on attendance numbers, I can totally understand why return attendance would be something that children’s ministry teams would want to invest in.  However, I’m not convinced that partnering with other churches would hurt attendance – I’ve only experienced it fostering a community and posture that encourages the growth of a ministry.  With that said, maybe we’ll see other churches try it out.

We’ll let you know how our little experiment goes.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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Recharging the Family

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(This sign was created at http://www.addletters.com/disneyland-sign-generator.htm)

I had the joy of speaking at our church’s Homebuilders* group this weekend… and it got me thinking.  I shared a story of our adorable 3 year old son and how he loves going to church because he and his sister play in different rooms (baby Kate just turned 1 a few months ago… so she’s still down in our church’s nursery).  You see, Carter loves building towers with blocks and Kate LOVES knocking them down… but, at church, Carter can build towers and play with toys without “the Destroyer” coming by and wrecking his masterpiece.

After sharing that story, I wrestled with what we’ve done with church.  Church, in many ways, has become a place where a family goes to spend time away from each other.  Parents head off to classes or worship services, youth attend their own programming, while children spend time in a completely separate part of the church.  It comes to mind that a family who is struggling to find balance in their lives might decide to skip church altogether to spend family time at the beach or Disneyland (which, for us, is a 30 minute drive down the freeway) rather than “waste” a morning apart at church.

But, here’s where I think the church has an edge on those other family outings – a trip to Disneyland or the beach ends when everyone piles back into the car at the end of the day.  The time a family spends at church has the potential to change the way that family spends the next week together.

So the question to us and our ministry teams is this – is the time that a family spends with us on a Sunday (or a Wednesday night… or during large events that we run)  impacting the way they live out their lives together that week?  If we can point to tangible ways that the time they spend at church is shaping the way their family time looks in their living room that week, then we’re on the right track.  If we treat out ministries and programs as an end to themselves, then we have to compete with Disneyland – and we will always lose that battle.

*Homebuilders is a weekly gathering of parents at our church.  We discuss parenting, marriage and family life topics.  Homebuilders, for Glenkirk, is a community that’s smaller than a church service, but bigger than a small group – allowing parents a next-step into community with other believers who seek to raise up Christ-following kids.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2010 in Orange

 

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The Bus Test

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We have a slightly morbid checks and balances litmus test that we ask in our family ministry team meetings.  It’s called the Bus Test.

Initially, the Bus Test started out as a joke between friends.  It’s now a question that we ask before every event, large or small, to make sure that no one person is placing the full responsibility of an event on their shoulders.  But, to understand the Bus Test, you have to understand our team dynamic.

As a family staff, we all have primary and secondary responsibilities.

We have a fairly traditional org chart.  Our family ministry director (myself) has multiple part-time assistant directors who’s primary responsibilities are defined by the age group that they minister best to.  Our team has an assistant director for Early Childhood (Delfa Matic), Elementary (Staci Travisano), Jr. High (Scott Boss) and a ministry intern coordinating High School (Johnny Lambert).

Our secondary responsibilities help define our rolls in the day to day planning and execution of events and programs.  Our EC director is amazing when it comes to volunteer recruitment and support – so, she’s my go-to when it comes to all things volunteer related.  Our Elem director throws an amazing party – so she coordinates and executes our large events and parties.  Our Jr. High guy is an amazing idea guy – when I need to dream, he’s the guy I go to if I want to think out of the box.  In fact, I love our secondary rolls so much that I’d almost rather have “Director of Volunteers”, “Director of Special Events” and “Idea Specialist” on their job titles than what they currently have.

Because we have multiple tiers of responsibilities, our staff cross-pollinates when it comes to events and programs.  We share the burden of event planning because we all have a say in the lead up and execution of our events and programs.  Nobody has their own program or event – our church’s name is on the line every time a team member steps into ministry… so, we all make sure to care deeply about areas outside of our job title.

So… back to the Bus Test.

The Bus Test is simple: A month before an event or program launches, and each week during the lead up, we ask each other this question, “If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, would you know what to do?”  The answer isn’t “call 911″… well, it IS that… but it’s also a way for us to consider the fact that an event or program will fail if only one person holds all of the information leading up to that event in their head.  Asking this question FORCES us to share information and delegate.  It also has forced us to watch out for buses when we’re out and about… but the paranoia is a reasonable side effect from constantly reminding each other of our mortality.

We might not get hit by actual buses while we’re out and about, but life does hit us at some pretty crazy times.  Recently, the Bus Test has proven priceless for our team.  Last week, as we were gearing up for our church’s annual Halloween Festival, one of our team members was summoned for jury duty (we were able to pull strings and get her dates changed… but it was a close one!).  This week, one of our team members (currently working on graduate work at Fuller Seminary) is in the midst of midterms… as if the seminary didn’t even care that one of our largest Student Ministry’s outreach events, Glenkirk’s Great Gorilla Hunt, is this Saturday.
I suffer from frequent migraines (they rarely call ahead and ask if I’m busy before they decide to come around) and our teams, paid and volunteer, have learned to share the load in case I’m not able to see an event through from beginning to end.  But, because the Bus Test is part of the culture of our team, we’re able to cover for each other and carry on in the midst of momentary crisis.

I’d encourage you, even if you don’t want to use something as frightening as the Bus Test in your ministry area, to consider asking the team around you if they know enough to execute the programs and ministries you’re a part of in your absence.  It’s a good habit to get into… even if it’s a hard one to start.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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my favorite things: #31 Good News Clubs

One of my favorite things that we do as a ministry is a little thing we like to call Good News Clubs.

My assistant, Staci Travisano (@Stacitrav) and I put together a little video that we’ve been sending out to potential volunteers for this booming ministry.  Could we have done a better quality video for this?  Absolutely!  But, after multiple takes, and taking into account that we both hate being on camera, we felt like the people watching this already like us – so, it was more about giving them a head’s up for what Good News Clubs are like in our community.

Currently, we provide support for 4 clubs in Glendora (3 directly and 1 in partnership with another amazing church down the road from us) and I’m starting conversations today to launch a 5th club at the only public school left in our city that doesn’t have a GNC on campus.

Want to know more about running gospel-centered programs on public school campuses in your neck of the woods?  Drop me a line in the comment section and I’d love to follow up with you!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2010 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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Interviewing the Mirror: First and Last Impressions

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I want to you to consider all of the options a family has on a Sunday morning.

If, by the time a family in your community has weighed all of their weekend options, they arrive at your church to drop their kids off – you need to recognize that they’ve made a pretty big decision.  And, what happens in their first 5 minutes and last 5 minutes will shape their memory of your program.

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A few years ago, I was interviewing a handful of applicants for an internship position at our church.  A young man had submitted his resume and had reached the point in our application process where he came in for a face-to-face interview.  Let me share a couple memories from the first and last moments of this interview:

FIRST IMPRESSION

Me: “Welcome [applicant], make yourself comfortable.”

Applicant: *trips* *falls* *gets up and takes a seat*

Me: “Are you alright?”

Applicant: *sneezes* *wipes large amounts of snot onto his shorts* “… can I start over?”

FINAL IMPRESSION

Me: “Thanks, [applicant] for your time.  As we wrap things up, do you have any questions for us – or is there anything about you that you haven’t shared and you’d like us to know?”

Applicant: “Well… I failed a couple courses in college.  Do you need to know that?  It’s not because I didn’t do the projects – I just never finished them.  I have a hard time finishing things.  I get kind of bored easily.  That’s why I’m taking some time off of school.  I want to do something a little easier…”

*silence*

Applicant: “…can I start over?”

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I came across some paperwork from this interview a few days ago and, to be quite honest, I was surprised at all of the notes I had taken.  In my memory, this interview only lasted a few minutes… though, in reality, it was much longer.  This guy will always be the clumsy/lazy/sneezer in my mind because of the first and last impressions he gave our team.  The reality is, he never got to start over.  There was no RESET button on his interview.

This weekend, you have a chance to make first and last impressions on families in your community.  They will see, in their first 5 minutes, how much you care about cleanliness and hygiene.  Flu season is around the corner… do you have hand sanitizer readily available in your ministry environments?  Parents will know, at first glance, if you have a process in place to keep their children safe and secure in your ministry.  But, if you have a check-in system, you need to evaluate how quick it is.  If your check in process takes longer than 180 seconds, Gina McClain would says that you’re making one of the biggest mistakes possible in children’s ministry.
When parents return, are you being strategic about your last impressions?  Parents are going to ask kids two basic questions during pick-up: 1) Did you have fun? and 2) What did you learn?  If children in your program cannot answer those questions, that is the thing most parents will remember.  If you hope for a family to return, you need to make sure you’re being intentional about the last impressions they have as they leave campus.

At the end of the day, your ministry has one shot to make a first impression.  Many parents decide whether or not they will return to a church long before they make it to your worship center or sanctuary.  Help them make the decision to return by evaluating the first impressions they have on your church’s campus.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2009 in Kidmin

 

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What to do with a Brett Favre

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So, Brett Favre is on your children’s ministry team… what should you do?

First, and foremost, don’t panic!
Your Brett Favre wants to succeed… it’s now your goal to get this leader to a place where they are helping your team and not distracting it.

Now, you may not be able to get your Brett Favre to a place where he can ever beat the Dallas Cowboys (Jonathan Cliff… I’m not sure what the ministry parallel is to this. We await your wisdom in the comments section),  but you can get to a place where having Brett Favre on your team makes your ministry better and more effective.

Brett Can’t Be the Best Player on Your Team

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As long as your Brett Favre feels as though they are carrying your team, they won’t be able to take direction from you and they’ll maintain a diva-esque personality.  If you are committed to keeping this leader on your team, you need to invest heavily into another team member and give them the keys to an area of your ministry.  In the same way that the Minnesota Vikings’ offense will continue to showcase Adrian Peterson… you need to be able to showcase someone on your team that you trust can carry the load.  This will help define your Brett’s role in your ministry area – it’s not about them… it’s about the team that they are a part of (and, ultimately, it’s about serving Christ).  Surround Brett Favre with talent, and he’ll be more likely to conform to the team.

Brett Favre Needs to Win

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Brett Favre has always been the happiest and most effective when he’s on a winning team.  Your Brett Favre is no different.  If your Brett isn’t following your directions, try redefining what a “win” looks like for your ministry team.  When defining a “win” for your team, make sure that the results are things that your leaders can observe.  Maybe a “win” for your team is when a child can answer the two questions parents often ask when they pick children up: “Did you have fun?” and “What did you learn?”  Whatever your criteria becomes, make sure that you point out these victories to your team in large settings.  Brett Favre wants to be a winner.  He wants to be contributing to a winning team – you need to show him what a “win” looks like.

Brett Favre Needs Your Encouragement

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At the end of the day, Brett Favre is just like any of us.  When Brett feels like he’s the only one playing the game the way it should be played, the world becomes a lonely place.  You need to find out if your Brett Favre is in a Small Group, a Bible Study, an Accountability Group… whatever it is that your church has to keep its members engaged in the church community – your Brett needs to know that he’s not alone.  By building strong friendships in the church, your Brett will be less likely to leave your ministry for the one down the road.  With a commitment to the church community, your Brett will be more willing to put his ego aside for the sake of the team.  However, if your Brett feels as though he is on an island, expect him to operate outside of your leadership.

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Your ministry team is made up of an assortment of characters and you have been called to work alongside them.  At times, that means we need to invest more heavily into team members.  Other times, we need to set high expectations and hold our team accountable.  There are even times when we need to have a leader over for dinner to let them know that we care about them and that they are not serving in a bubble.  Whatever the next step is for you and your team, hopefully this series has helped you out.

What are your experiences with having a Brett Favre on your ministry team?  Are there other tips that you’d like to share with the community?

Post your thoughts and comments in the comments section!

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2009 in Kidmin

 

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