Church Recreation Safety
Recreational events can certainly have a positive effect on the growth and health of a church. However, churches that sponsor such events have a responsibility to ensure the safety of congregation members and guests who participate in these activities.
First, what do we mean by sponsorship? The answer, at least for the purposes of this discussion, includes churches that are involved in the advanced planning, coordination, and participation of recreational activities for its church members and staff.
When thinking about recreation safety, many church staff members focus on protecting youth. However, it's important to realize that data shows a significant number of injuries occurring to adults and leaders participating in these events.
The good news is that by developing and implementing an appropriate recreational safety program, your events will be remembered for the fun and fellowship generated instead of a tragic ending.
Be aware that there is a fine line between reaching out for participation and pressuring just to get attendance at an activity. Invitations to participate should be free of anxiety, particularly when an individual may be apprehensive about his or her ability.
If the activity requires rigorous physical effort (such as a basketball league), it's a good idea to encourage each participant to obtain a physical to determine their functional ability, exercise tolerance, and physical limitations. If an individual is not physically up to the activity, you can encourage that they participate as an event coordinator, scorekeeper, coach, judge, umpire, referee, concessions attendant, or even a spectator.
Also, remember that competitive sports are not the only form of recreation. Activities such as hiking, biking, running, walking, and exercise classes can be designed for people of all abilities – and everyone emerges a winner.
Because of prior problems arising from sporting events, many church recreation leaders and event planners now require compliance with "codes of conduct" from participants, parents, and coaches. By establishing the expectation for fair play and sportsmanlike behavior, codes of conduct set the stage for the safety of players, parents, and coaches. Churches are encouraged to identify the expected behaviors and share and reinforce these responsibilities. Many churches require all participants to acknowledge and sign codes of conduct as a means of reinforcing their commitment to provide fun and fellowship in an environment free of confrontation.
Parents also play an important role and should be encouraged to set a good example as spectators by showing respect for the other team, officials, and rules of play.
Coaches should be required to have a minimum amount of training focused on how to help participants develop their skills, gain a good understanding of the rules of the sport, and model and teach sportsmanship by showing respect for the other team, officials, and rules of play.
Pre-Event Planning Checklist
* Obtain permission slips for all children.
This article is courtesy of Zurich Services Corporation and Church First.