CHIPPEWA, MI – When parents of young children attend church, they want to know first and foremost that their children will be safe and secure in the church nursery. They also don’t want to miss a lot or even much of the sermon while checking their kids into the nursery. The following tips should serve as guidelines to designing a secure and hassle-free nursery check-in for your church:
1. Design a Secure Nursery Layout
Ideally, the church nursery should be fairly close to the sanctuary, providing a short amount of travel time for the parent to go there and back. A lock/buzzer system should be in place in regards to the doorways with someone monitoring the traffic flow. Once all the children are checked in, these doorways should be locked and secured until someone needs to use them. Security cameras in the hallway and room are always a good idea, as one can never be “too safe.” An attached bathroom only available to nursery use is another idea for those who are in the middle of toilet-training.
2. Create Smooth Transitioning (Drop Off/Pick Up)
A check-in and check-out system needs to be in place so that each child is accounted for. In an effective system, each parent would fill out a sticker to be then placed on the child’s back. The sticker should include the following information: name, allergy information, parent’s name, parent’s cell, assigned i.d. number, and any other information the parent feels necessary to note. To be efficient, these stickers could be handed to the “regulars” to fill out prior to church.
As the children come in, the information that the parents have put on their child’s sticker should also be somehow logged so that each child can remain easily accounted for. The parent or person dropping off the child will get an i.d. number matching what is on their child’s sticker. This number should not be a very easily replicated. It could be on a designed tag only available from the church nursery. That person must then present the number to get the child back. If there is any kind of worry that tags might be replicated or lost, there is always the option too of using a unique stamp on the parent’s hand.
3. Strive For Accountability
A criminal background check should be mandatory for all nursery workers to fill out annually-provided through the church. This ensures that those who are volunteering are indeed trustworthy to be around the children. It should not be assumed that a person is safe based on how long they have gone to the church or their reputation. This mandatory rule should be in place to keep everyone accountable. A second rule in regards to accountability should be that there should always be at least two workers present in church nursery. More eyes means less risk of accidents.
All volunteers should be easily identifiable with some sort of nursery name tag. This name tag or lanyard should be one that is not easily replicated and only available in the nursery. The volunteers should also line up with a nursery schedule or list of approved people to serve. The last thing that is wanted is for unsafe people showing up saying they are the volunteers for the day.
4. Emergency Plan/Communication With Parents
There needs to be a way for the nursery workers to communicate with the parents in case there is an emergency, question, or if the child is crying inconsolable. Here are a couple of options for communicating: a pager system could be instilled using a numbered pager in relation to the number assigned to each child. There could be the option of texting the parent if there is a problem (ideally, then, there should be a church cell phone to text from in the nursery). Another method for communicating is providing a way to put the child’s i.d. number up on a screen where the sermon notes are viewed if the parent is needed.
5. Deterring Unwanted Situations
When I think of a church nursery, I think of a lot of young children who may be crying and attached to their parents. If there is not another place in the church designated for those babies and toddlers who are too anxious to leave their parents, there will be parents trying to stay in the nursery with the child. This can be a real problem if they are not volunteers who have cleared backgrounds. It leaves room for pedophiles to easily take advantage of such a situation.
How can this type of situation be deterred? Create a “cry-room” or “family-room” near the back of the sanctuary where the child and parent can sit and still hear (and hopefully see) the sermon but yet feel comfortable if the child needs to play or make a bit of noise. A part of this room could even have a space sectioned off for the nursing mom to have a bit of privacy and yet not miss the sermon. The parent is then there to monitor any situation regarding their child without putting the nursery children in any kind of possible harm.
It does not matter if your church is located in a small town or a large city – or if it is a small or a mega church, there is always the possibility of predators. When a lot of people think of church, they assume that church people and volunteers are trustworthy. This can create an easy area of attack on the people who attend, especially the children. While it is important to pray for and believe in God’s protection over the church, it is also important to take adequate measures to keep areas in the church, like the nursery, safe and secure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lights UP North writes from deep inside the great Northern Woods in hopes of bringing inspiration, encouragement, and hope to others. Ministering to those who are suffering from eczema and allergies is another strong passion for Lights UP North. www.lightsupnorth.com