Proactive Safety Planning: What Kids Need from You

Creating a safe environment must be a priority if we want to lead children to a lifelong relationship with Jesus.
6 min read

I have served on staff in children’s ministry for more than twenty years now. I’m not sure about you, but when I started serving in ministry, my reason was to lead children to a lifelong relationship with Jesus. I had no idea when I started working at a church, that in order to do just that—lead kids to a lifelong relationship with Jesus—I would need to actually focus on other things first . . . Yes, the S word! Safety!

teacher in kids ministry chaos
Image credit: PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

If we don’t have a proactive plan for safety in ministry, we will lose the opportunity to see ministry grow.

What about you? How do you respond when you hear that gluten free Gail just ate the animal crackers? Or fast Finn ran from his classroom? Or bouncy Belinda bumped into the wall with her head? Do you groan? Do you say, “That wouldn’t happen in my ministry!”? Well, whatever your response, I have realized over time, that if we don’t have a proactive plan for safety in ministry, we will lose the opportunity to see ministry grow.

We have got to be more proactive in ministry, rather than reactive as incidents or accidents happen.

In the past twenty years of ministry, I have noticed how the landscape of our country and culture has changed. Churches have become more aware of the fact that safety is something that we have to pay attention to.

I call it the cost of doing business. Even though safety is not my primary goal, creating an environment where families can trust us and feel safe and have an excellent experience has got to be one of the first things we focus on if we want to have the opportunity to lead children to a lifelong relationship with Jesus.

If we want families to keep walking with us, we have got to be more proactive in ministry, rather than reactive as incidents or accidents happen.

5 “Guard Rails” That Keep Kids Safe

Girl running on ferry deck
Image credit: Jekaterina Nikitina/DigitalVision/Getty Images

I want to share with you some common safety procedures ministries I have served in have put in place to create good guard rails in order to do ministry. These systems and procedures are not just to keep the children in your ministry safe—they protect your volunteers, your church, and you too.

By having clear procedures expectations and training, you help keep everyone safe!

1. Application Process and Background Checks

  • An application form should ask some clear screening questions to address experience and give you a background to the person serving. For sample application forms, I recommend Brotherhood Mutual Insurance. They have a pretty extensive resource library for churches. Not all background checks are equal!
  • Background checks should be conducted regularly. Did you know it’s recommended that volunteers be rechecked every year or at least every other year in order to make sure issues haven’t surfaced over time? Background checks aren’t a one-time thing. Do you have a ministry policy about how often you run background checks? If you don’t have a ministry handbook, reach out to your church’s insurance company.
  • Make sure you know what information your background check is covering. You need to be sure that your background check includes a county, state, and federal check. Also make sure that your background check company is executing a sexual offenders registry search as well. Did you know that the median age of their sexual assault victims is 13 years old—13! 93% of these sex offenders consider themselves to be “religious.” That’s troubling!
  • I know firsthand what it is like to be understaffed and desperate for volunteers, and that makes it tempting to skip background checks. But it’s not worth risking your ministry. Safety has got to be our first priority! When we don’t have a plan—or follow our plan—we open up our ministry to vulnerabilities that are not worth it.

Is your ministry team trained on how to respond to accidents and emergencies when kids are in their care?

2. Injury Prevention and Response

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year approximately 2.8 million children visit emergency rooms because of injuries resulting from a fall.

According to the Mayo Clinic, choking is a leading cause of injury and death in children under the age of 5. Do you have a process in place for evaluating if a toy is suitable for children under the age of five? Check out Kaplan Early learning for a choke tube tester.

Is your ministry team trained on how to respond to accidents and emergencies when kids are in their care? Is anyone CPR certified? In ministries that I have served on, we have ensured that all staff are CPR certified and that ministry volunteers know what our safety procedures are. For CPR or first aid training near you, visit the Red Cross.

We realize that accidents happen—kids fall, bump their heads, and the list of injuries goes on. We use accident and incident reports to track when there has been an injury or accident. You can find some sample accident reports forms here.

Even if your church is smaller, you need to implement a check in and check out procedure.

3. Check in and check out procedures

Regardless of the size of your church, you need a check in and check out procedure that not only makes people feel safe, but actually keeps kids safe. This is especially important if you are looking to grow your ministry—try to view it through the lens of what new families experience when they bring children to your ministry for the first time. Here are some things to consider:

  • A check in location: Where is this location? Is it in an area that can handle an upset parent without upsetting kids? Can you limit access to your kids’ area from here to keep kids safe? Is it welcoming to new families?
  • Staff: Do your staff understand the procedure clearly? Do you have adequate staff on hand?
  • Parent check in: Having parents check their kids in not only assures them that their children are safe, but it helps your leaders get to know and build a relationship with parents over time.
  • Name tags and claim tags: Name tags help us to get to know each child personally. You don’t have to have an expensive electronic system to be able to check kids in, but if your church does have a database system in place, chances are that it comes with an electronic check in options.

For electronic check in, you might want to consider these companies:

For non-electronic option nametags, check out this resource.

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The Future of Kidmin: 5 Trends to Watch in 2019

What is happening in kidmin? We’ve interviewed children’s leaders from around the country and found the top trends to watch for this year. Check out these 5 trends and be ready for what’s to come!
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The Future of Kidmin cover

The Future of Kidmin: 5 Trends to Watch in 2019​

What is happening in kidmin? We’ve interviewed children’s leaders from around the country and found the top trends to watch for this year. Check out these 5 trends and be ready for what’s to come!
Free Guide
The Future of Kidmin cover

The Future of Kidmin: 5 Trends to Watch in 2019​

What is happening in kidmin? We’ve interviewed children’s leaders from around the country and found the top trends to watch for this year. Check out these 5 trends and be ready for what’s to come!
Free Guide

4. General ministry policies

  • Two non-related adults rule: Implementing the “two-adult rule” is one way to avoid having kids alone with a single adult. It’s simple—always have at least two non-related adults with kids.
  • Diaper changing policy: It’s also good to think through diaper changing and restroom policies too. These policies can be tricky and a little nuanced, and you might find yourself fielding a lot of specific questions if you don’t have one in place.
  • Child wellness policy: Do you have a posted policy that directs parents not to bring children to your ministry programs if they have had a fever in the last 24 hours, have a rash, or have been sick in any way? Click here for a sample policy.

5. Training

  • There are a lot of resources out there for safety training. One of the most comprehensive I have seen recently  is the Safe and Secure Church Kit available here.

These are just a few suggestions to help keep the children and volunteers at your church safe! It can feel overwhelming at first, but if you gather your team and get them to help you, you can implement a system that will put safety first in order to do ministry!


Want to make a big impact on visitors? Check out safety and cleanliness tips especially for your church nursery, plus ways to make new families feel welcome at this special time.

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  Updated on June 4, 2020

About the Author

  • Gary Lindsay has partnered with parents for over 20 years as a children’s ministry director—long enough to know what works ... and what really doesn’t. Gary is currently serving as an executive pastor at Northshore Community Church in Kirkland, Washington, and continues to be involved with kids. Though he’s traveled the world training, equipping, and presenting children’s ministry workshops, Gary has never lost his South African accent (which makes everything he says sound 15% smarter!).

© 2020 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
© 2019 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
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