Sunday School Safety and Security

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Church Sunday school Safety Security Children KidsSafety 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:

  • Accidents: 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.
  • Kidnapping: This is every parent’s worst nightmare.
  • Sexual Abuse: Few things are more devastating to a child, 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 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. We are also talking about safe kid check policies in our children’s ministry forums.

Are Your Sunday School Facilities Safe and Secure?

  • 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 a 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 Sundays 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 aide. 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.
  • Do you have clear bathroom policies? This more of a concern for younger children, but

Resources For Improving Security and Safety In Your Sunday School

What tips do you have to improve safety for children’s ministry and Sunday school?

5 thoughts on “Sunday School Safety and Security”

  1. What are the guidelines for having doors that can be locked or unlocked on the Sunday School class room side of the door?

  2. I think locked doors are a bad idea in the children’s department – many churches have a window in each door (no hiding possible policy). You should definitely have a written safety policy and put it into practice.

  3. Tony,
    Yes, I agree that that all organizations should have a written safety policy. However, your advice concerning the locking of doors is wrong! If the door is equipped with a window, the doors should be locked at all times to prevent an active shooter or intruder from gaining access. Churches need to ensure that access to children is restricted al all times. The majority of churches have no emergency communications or global communications in which to alert teachers/volunteers that an event is taking place. If an active shooter presents its self, it is imperative that the all children and youth areas are secured. Children and youth areas should always be in a state of lockdown to ensure protection.
    I’m a certified OSHA inspector, Security & Safety Trainer, former Chief of Security for a mega Southern Baptist Church, and Certified Risk Management Expert, and have been responsible for the security of US Embassies world-wide. I would caution giving advice about safety and security to anyone unless you are certified. Could subject you to civil suit in the future.

  4. Thanks for the input. We are our point of view for educational purposes only (certainly each church must make their own decisions).
    I’d say church invader is much more rare than child abuse. So it’s a balance thing. Most larger churches would do well toe emulate the local public school policies on access control etc.
    Thanks again for your input!

  5. I am the security manager for a church in Nevada and I am looking for a device for the Pastor and teachers. Something similar to a panic button which will notify one of the security team members when activated. The medical notification buttons I have seen on line will not work well for my situation. Any Ideas would be appreciated. May God Bless

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