I think it’s important to clear up a few things about safety, security and risk management. I’m going to make a couple of stereotypes, but only to illustrate a point. Put your parent hat on and take a look at two ministries that seem to come at safety from two completely different perspectives.
Walk into your typical (see, I’m being stereotypical here) student ministry environment and you might see some things to give you caution. Is that game they’re playing on stage really safe? What if someone gets sick drinking that disgusting concoction? Did anyone even check to see if those kids have allergies? Why isn’t anyone manning those doors? What if a kid just walks out?
Walk into your typical (again with the stereotypes) children’s ministry environment and you’ll see something completely different. The groups are sized perfectly, the snacks are predictable and activities are consistent. Kids know exactly what is coming because there is a structure that kids and parents have come to expect.
Now, let’s change things up. When someone from kidmin walks into a typical student ministry environment, these are the words that come to mind:
However, the student ministry leaders would describe the exact same environment as fun, exciting, compelling and energetic.
Let’s take our turn now. When someone from the student ministry walks into a typical kidmin environment, these are the words that come to mind:
However, the kidmin leaders would describe the exact same environment as safe, secure, consistent and even child-friendly.
Here’s the honest truth: Kidmin has a lot to learn from the student ministry perspective. They have room to lighten up, mix things up a little and have a little more fun. However, Student ministry has a lot to learn from kidmin. They have room for a little more structure, procedure and planning.
Mostly though, I want to focus on the area of safety, security and risk management.
Your role as a ministry leader is to be a risk manager. Safety and security play into risk management and your job as the ministry lead is to assess risk and decide on what should be done.
I see it this way. Safety and Fun tend to exist in an inverse relationship. Typically, the more fun you’re having, the more risk you’re taking on. As fun increases, typically danger does as well. However, the more safe something is, the less fun it becomes. I know this isn’t true of EVERYTHING, but it is of most.
Think about camp. What’s more fun than a pillow fight? It’s perfectly fitting. However, pillow fights usually aren’t allowed because it’s the quickest way for a kid to end up hurt and the facility damaged – so pillow fights are usually off limits.
As a leader, you have manage risk. Safety/Security says no pillow fights. Major let down. But fun says, “It’s camp! We have to have a pillow fight” So as a risk manager, you have to pick between safety or fun. Also, you can manage the risk creatively. How about we bring all the kids to the pavilion with their pillows (no beds to fall off of or rooms to destroy) and do a pillow fight championship with 10 pillow fighters at a time in 15 second periods? Still super fun (especially as you can award one kid that pillow fight champion award), but you eliminated most of the safety concerns. Yes, someone might still get hurt – but it happens. You didn’t eliminate all risk, but you did manage it to an acceptable level.
Take this concept and apply it to every area of ministry.
Don’t make decisions not to do something because it isn’t safe. This leads to boring and stuffy ministry. Consider risk management. How can you better manage the risk. Change things up so that the risk of danger/injury goes down making room for fun to increase in the activities we lead.
Your ministry will never be 100% safe. 100% safe isn’t the goal. 100% safe is 100% boring. Be a smart leader. Assess the risks and make wise decisions. Where can you make room for fun and excitement while still keeping safety and security in check. This is why it’s called risk MANAGEMENT. Be wise. Be smart. But certainly be fun!
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Love this post. Working in both worlds, you see both perspectives. Might be a good idea to have some volunteers switch every now and then to get a taste. We need both. We need the fun, energetic side. But if a tragedy happens, it’s too difficult to recover.
Great insight Kenny.
It’s the beauty of leading a Next Generation team – you can leverage the strengths of both areas. Hope you’re doing well JC!