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Sunday School Safety and Security
By: Tony Kummer

Safety and security is one of the biggest topics in children's ministry today. This is true for both small and large churches. Keeping kids safe should be a priority in every church. In this article, I will discuss the leading concerns about Sunday School security and offer some ways to improve safety at your church.

Security and Safety Concerns for Sunday School
Many of the articles I've read about children's ministry safety do not clearly state what dangers we need to address. I believe that is a mistake. We need to be responsible when accessing threats, so we can avoid extremes.

Here are the dangers that churches must work to prevent:

Kids can always find some way to get hurt. Accidents are the most common safety danger for children in Sunday School. Often, they are minor, but we should be concerned that every ministry setting is a safe place to learn and play.

Food Allergies
This is an increasing concern, and rightly so. Many food allergies are life-threatening if not treated properly. Kids love snacks, but we should always be aware of the dangers of food allergies.

This is every parent's worst nightmare. While it may be a rare, Sunday school programs should establish safeguards to make it impossible to steal a child from any church program.

Sexual Abuse
Few things are more devastating to a child than sexual abuse, especially when the predator uses religious authority to accomplish their crime. Churches have not done enough to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

Other Children
It doesn't make the news, but the most common threat for sexual abuse is one child abusing another child. This is devastating for everyone involved. Never allow children unattended in the church facility. Even the pastor's kids should not be set free after the church program. We have a designated game room where volunteer's children can play until their parents are free to go.

Sunday School Safety and Security Checklist
One way to think carefully about church safety is to audit your Sunday School program according to the following categories:

* Classrooms should be in high-traffic areas and have windows. We recently installed windows in every classroom door. Since we have a volunteer church handyman, the project cost was very reasonable.

* If your Sunday School classrooms do not have windows, keep them open unless two adults are with the class.

* Children's ministry areas should be up to building and fire code. This would include emergency exits, smoke alarms, and fire extinguishers.

* Is the furniture safe and appropriate for children? Make sure that bookcases are secured to the wall, desks do not have splinters, and chairs are in good repair.

* Use safety plugs in all electrical outlets. This needs to be checked often, since these tend to get lost. Use safety plugs in the hallways and adult areas, too.

* If there is overhead storage, on a shelf or a cabinet, make sure it is secure and items will not fall on children if they bump up against the cabinet.

* Control the access to your building. In larger churches, this becomes a big concern. There should be a limited number of entrance points to your children's ministry area.

Do You Insist On Safety For All Sunday School Activities, Snacks and Crafts?
* Scissors, glues and craft materials should be safe for children.

* Avoid object lessons that could be unsafe. We learned from experience not to burn anything inside the Sunday school classrooms!

* Some games are not safe for small rooms. If you don't have enough floor space for a suggested Sunday School game, go outside or substitute another activity.

* Never serve a snack with nuts unless you have personally cleared it with every parent. With peanut allergies on the rise, it is better to be safe than sorry.

* Do not serve hot liquids; it's okay if the hot chocolate is just warm.

* Supervise children closely during snack time; even older children can choke on their food.

Have You Selected Volunteers And Teachers That Are Safe?
* Every volunteer should be screened and interviewed by the church leadership. Many churches are even purchasing criminal background checks for all church volunteers, especially those that work with children. That is a good step, but don't forget to use common sense and judgment. Many sexual predators abuse many children before they are caught, so the criminal background check is only a limited safeguard.

* No one is every allowed to be alone with a child. Make this a rule with no exceptions.

* Even in counseling situations have another adult volunteer present.

* The best safeguard against abuse is preventing opportunity for abuse. As much as you can, make it impossible for children to be harmed at your church.

Do Your Policies And Guidelines Promote Security and Safety?
* All the best policies won't help unless you train your teachers. So, make training Sunday School teachers about safety and security a priority in your church.

* Make 2-by-2 the rule. No child (or group of children) should even be alone with an adult volunteer.

* Ask your volunteers to get trained on CPR and first aid. We have several retired nurses in our church who are great resources for minor accidents.

* Establish a check-in and check-out procedure that gets every child back to the right parents after your program. This will help to prevent children from being unsupervised in the facility.

* Do not allow children to be unattended before or after Sunday school programs. As one reader stated, "Children stay with parents and remain the parents' responsibility."

* Have a definite drop-off and pick-up time. These should be clearly posted and enforced. The children of volunteers should remain with their parents or be supervised in one location. We do not allow early drop-offs.

* Ask for hall monitors or greeters to patrol the facility during and after your ministry programs.

Tony Kummer is a children's pastor from Indiana and founder of www.Ministry-To-Children.com.

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