By Deborah Ike
Recent events, including the abduction of a child on a Sunday morning at a church in Giles County, Virginia, serve as a sober reminder that safety requires vigilance. A key method for both ensuring children are safe and showing parents your commitment to safety is through the check-in process.
But that’s not the only important thing that happens at check-in.
During these interactions, you also have the opportunity to build relationships with kids and their parents. That’s a lot to incorporate into what should be a brief interaction. Here are several tips for making the most of those check-in moments.
1. Serve first-time guests
A family attending your church for the first time may feel overwhelmed. Make their experience easier by posting clear signage to direct them to children’s check-in.
In addition, instruct greeters to ask if parents need assistance, and have enough greeters around so someone can walk the family to check-in.
Designate a separate line for first-time guests.
For registering a new family, only gather the details you need to care for their children properly. Names, ages, parent names and phone numbers, and any allergies or pertinent medical issues are essential details to request. Make this process clear, easy, and painless for the parents. While parents are providing this information, have one team member interact with their children.
Finally, let first-time guest parents know about the church’s safety procedures.
Share the key requirements that are in place, such as clear background checks for all children’s ministry staff and volunteers, a minimum of two unrelated and approved adults in each classroom, monitored and recorded security cameras, and a check-in and check-out system with labels.
Explaining these precautions communicates to parents that your church values their children and works to guarantee their safety. Consider printing this information onto postcards to hand to first-time guest parents.
2. Check-in safety procedures
Beyond anything children learn during this ministry time, the most important thing is to ensure each child goes home with his/her parent or guardian. The way to do this is by having a thorough check-in and check-out process and adhering to it strictly.
Most church management systems offer a check-in feature. These typically enable churches to enter the information of parents and children, check a child into a specific classroom, and print labels with a unique identifier. One label goes on the child’s clothing, and the other goes to the parent authorized to pick up the child. You can print information such as allergies or special needs on these labels as well.
To pick up a child, the parent must present the label with the unique identifier that matches the child’s label. Suppose a parent loses the unique identifier sticker. In that case, the parent must go to check-in and show photo identification so a church staff member can verify that this individual is allowed to check out that child. Once that verification is complete, print a new label so the parent can check out his/her child.
3. Keep lines moving
Parents of young children dread long lines. They know that waiting for more than a minute or two can quickly result in a squirming, upset child. Help parents by setting up several check-in lines with well-trained team members. If possible, offer a few self-check-in stations for families who are regular attendees. Also, have a few roving team members who can help parents juggle children and diaper bags.
4. Train volunteers
Provide detailed training to all check-in volunteers. Teach them the check-in and check-out systems. Make sure they understand both the policies and why enforcing them is vital to keeping children safe.
Also, train them on how to troubleshoot issues with the check-in system. Give them a paper or manual check-in option to deploy if the computers or network go down. A computer glitch can’t prevent you from adhering to safety procedures, so have a manual backup ready at all times. Include cheat sheets at each station so volunteers can refer to them as needed.
5. Position volunteers strategically
Select volunteers for the check-in station who are fun, friendly, efficient, and safety-minded. The demeanor and professionalism of these individuals will set the first impression for a new parent of what your children’s ministry is like.
Ensure the children’s check-in process at your church is efficient, fun, and supportive of each child’s safety. As you serve each family, you can create moments that reassure both parents and children that they are safe and valued at your church.
This article is adapted from the fall 2021 issue of Ministry Team magazine.
Deborah Ike is the founder of The Church Operations Toolkit, a resource for those who serve behind-the-scenes in their churches. In addition to serving in ministry, Deborah worked for an international consulting firm and a Fortune 500 company as a consultant, project manager, and risk management analyst. Deborah is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®.
Child check-in that checks all the boxes
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