Last week I I wrote a post about close calls in ministry, how they’re more often celebrated as successes rather than serious warnings. My general concern is that far too many churches are playing with fire. Either a lack of knowledge or a lack of organization often leaves far too many opportunities for bad things to happen in the church. More often than not, bad things don’t happen. A policy goes ignored for years because it doesn’t seem really all that critical and nothing has ever really happened anyway. As leaders in ministry to kids, we have to be better than this my friends. It’s far too important not to have guardrails in your ministry. I know that for many of you, I’m preaching to the choir, but I also know that there are many who have not closed these gaps yet. Here are a few reasons why you must have guardrails in your ministry:
Because safety matters:
I’m going to give you another reason or two, but besides this, nothing else matters nearly as much.
When kids come into our environment every weekend, parents trust us to protect their kids and keep them safe. Yes, they want us to teach them the Bible and about God, but even more importantly than that, they want their kids back happy and whole. Remember how it was when you were expecting your first child (for those of you who have kids). Many of us went to great lengths to baby-proof the entire house… or at least certain parts. We bought hand sanitize by the gallon and we sterilized that pacifier every time it hit the ground. Why, because we were compelled to protect our own children. Although we may have backed off a little with our own kids, that same drive to protect must exist in our kidmin environments. We’re not just talking about one kid, but dozens or hundreds of kids who are not our own. When we don’t screen our volunteers, run background checks and put specific policies in place, we potentially put people in close proximity who may not have any business being around kids because of what they have done or the situation they are currently in that you don’t know about. We also put kids in positions where they don’t need to be with no one to help or defend them. Perhaps the chance of something happening is small, but we must be vigilant to do whatever possible to make the chance that something would happen in your church almost impossible.
Because parents trust you:
If we truly want to impact families, we have to get this part right. Even though thorough policies and procedures and be exhausting and difficult, parents will love that you take such good care of their kids. Even though some parents might get frustrated with you when your policy makes things hard for them (like when they lose their pick-up tag), they’ll be grateful that you’re taking such good care of their kids. Many parents shop around when looking for a church and they’ll make their decision based on how fun their kids have and how comfortable they feel their kids are in your environments. When a parent is at ease, they’re more likely to be impacted in a significant way when they worship and serve.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
I’ll admit that I might be taking a little bit of liberty with this verse. It’s talking about causing a child or someone who is young in faith to sin. The context of the verse states that God HIGHLY values these little ones and he has NO patience for someone who wrongs or harms one of them. However, we are one of the gatekeepers of the world of ministry to kids. We may not be personally responsible for bringing harm to a child, but if we’re not diligent in this area, we may allow harm to come their way… making us responsible.
All this being said. Review your policies. If you don’t have policies, make them. If you have them, follow them. Audit the safety and security of your area. You’ll never regret keeping your ministry area safe and secure. However, if something ever happens (and it does every day), you’ll regret your action… or lack of action… for the rest of your life.