13 Dec 2018

Best Practices and Policies for Your Children's Ministry

Reverend Christine Bové

Raising up the next generation to love Jesus is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as ministers of the Gospel. 

So much is involved in the care of children, and their parents as well.

Children’s ministry leaders and volunteers carry many responsibilities. Not only do they teach the Word of God and train up the next generation, but they often also build lasting, personal connections with the youth they serve. The church must put best practices and policies in place to protect both their volunteers and their children.

"As children’s ministry leaders, we carry a responsibility to not only lead the next generation, but to be their guardians."

Here are best practices for protecting your children’s ministry volunteers and the children:

Establish a Volunteer Application Process

There should be great care taken when selecting those involved with the children on a regular basis. Establishing a volunteer application process is  an important step toward creating a safe and vibrant children’s ministry. 

Anyone who volunteers to work with minors needs to go through an application process. Having one in place provides clear communication about expectations. It also sets a timeframe for involvement and is a source of accountability. This application needs to set clear expectations and rules to serve everyone involved best.

We have a “Confidential Volunteer Application—Working with Minors” in our Policies Suite for your convenience. 

The volunteer application process helps the church select the most qualified individuals to serve in the children’s ministry.

It is a common best practice to include a background check as part of the volunteer application process. Background checks ensure not only the safety of the children, but also the other volunteers who work alongside each other. 

Our Policies Suite includes a Background Check form, as well as a list of companies that can process background checks for you. 

Use wisdom when determining who can be involved in various levels of ministry. It also helps to create a policy that outlines what to do if a member does not pass a background check.

Check Out Our Policies Suite!

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Policies 

Setting policies into place can help the church create structure and procedures for its ministries. Below are a few other policies that may be beneficial when developing your children’s ministry:

    • Child Transportation Policy
    • Child Safety Policy
      • Reporting Abuse
      • Facilities Safety
    • Sex Offender Policy
    • Social Media Policy
    • Children’s Ministry General Behaviors Policy
    • Mandatory Reporting Policy

You can find these policies and more in our Documents Suite!

It is crucial for your ministry to be specific in how your volunteers and staff members interact with each other and with children. 

Setting clear expectations helps your staff and volunteers to act on what’s expected of them. It also serves to protect them if something troublesome occurs.  

When volunteers abide by explicit rules and expectations, they are protected.  

Make sure your policies outline how volunteers handle children of all ages; from infants to adolescents. 

For example, it is best practice to have at least two volunteers present at any point in time with the children. This practice provides accountability and protects both the child and the volunteer.

You can communicate clear boundaries with volunteers during a training session at church. 

Training 

Have you ever held a hold an in-person training? 

Training provides time for volunteers to build camaraderie with each other. It also gives them a chance to ask questions and get hands-on training for best practices for children’s ministry. 

During this time, you'll want to cover standard procedures, protocols for the ministry, and safety procedures.

To effectively pass on a lot of information, consider creating booklets for your volunteers so that they can have a reference to the church’s policies, procedures, and expectations. 

Depending on your church’s size and the number of children you have in attendance, you may find it useful to create booklets based on age or ministry divisions, including:

    • Nursery 
    • Preschool
    • K-5
    • Junior High
    • High School

During the training sessions, you can walk volunteers through a typical Sunday schedule as well as what to do in cases of emergency. 

Keep in mind, it is better to have serious conversations or instructions with your volunteers in person rather than through email.

Mandatory Reporters

One of the most important things to walk through in training is Mandatory Reporting.

Mandatory Reporting is a law per state that requires anyone who works with minors to report abuse. This includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect. Abuse in any form needs to be reported to the law enforcement agency or child protective services. 

If a volunteer suspects physical abuse and doesn't report it, the volunteer will be subject to state penalties.

All churches should create a policy that details the process for reporting such instances.

When creating a reporting system, let your volunteers know to whom they should report and when. 

Typically, volunteers are required to report to the pastor or director of the children’s ministry. The church staff will then take over and report the incident to the proper authorities. 

In most states, there is a 24-hour window to report an incident - from the moment someone finds out, to the moment it reaches the authorities. Failure to report within this timeframe can result in various charges against the individual and the organization. 

With this in mind, it's good practice to tell your volunteers to report an incident as soon as possible. 

Parent Involvement

When parents know who is serving their kids, they will be more trusting of the ministry and of the church as a whole. 

Make sure you're keeping parents involved and informed.

Parent involvement can be as simple as providing monthly updates of the children’s ministry via email or bulletin. Or it could also mean scheduling a time when parents can meet their child's small group leader to ask questions and to get to know them. 

Whatever way you decide, parents should always be informed of the happenings of the children’s ministry. 

Guardians of the Next Generation

When you put the right systems in place, you can take comfort knowing your ministry is protecting lives.

You want to protect your ministry and the people who call it home. At StartCHURCH, we love coming alongside pastors and ministry leaders to make sure they have the best systems and policies in place. 

If you have questions about this post or want to get the best policies in place, give us a call at 877-494-4655.  

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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