My sister is a born leader of women. She loves to study and teach the Bible. She gets excited to share the gospel and pray for others. She actively invites women to join her at women’s ministry events. She hosts small groups and leads discussions.
She’s the kind of young leader women’s ministries are looking for.
But here’s one thing that will keep her away from a ministry opportunity, and it has nothing to do with the topic of the study, speaker, format, date, or time.
As a mom of four, if she doesn’t feel like her kids are safe in the nursery or with the childcare, she won’t participate. Period.
Child safety is something we all agree is very important, and yet keeping up with best practices for safety can sometimes feel intimidating. Unlike children’s ministries, women’s ministries may not interact with kids on a weekly basis, and may not always be up-to-date on the latest safety tips and procedures. This actually makes it even MORE important to take safety steps.
So where do you start? Here’s a plan to makes sure that your ministry is doing what it can to protect kids. Follow this checklist to make sure you’re compliant with basic safety practices:
- Conduct a criminal background check on ALL volunteers who work with kids and teens. Also be sure to rescreen volunteers at least once a year. Once and done isn’t enough.
- Verify volunteer references. Ask for this information on an application and follow-up through phone calls or send out a reference survey. It can be mailed to each person listed as a reference or used as a phone interview tool.
- Conduct personal interviews with each volunteer annually to update any life issues that may impact their service.
- Provide continuing training for your volunteers. Training is the key to a safe ministry environment. Someone once said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” There’s no replacement when it comes to making sure your workers know what to do—and how to do it.
- Regularly review written child-abuse-prevention policies and background check programs. Safety procedures are worthless if they’re not taught and re-taught on a continuing basis. Make sure all new volunteers are aware of the policies and procedures as a part of their orientation. Retrain often as a part of your continuing education efforts.
- Update your background check policies as needed. A policy is only effective when it’s current and applicable. Local and state laws constantly change, so you’ll need to keep up with the practices that reflect what other child-care providers are doing in your community.
Lastly, if all of this seems overwhelming, make a point to connect with your children’s or youth ministry leader or team and ask for help. They may be able to point you to the tools you need for safety and even offer to help manage your volunteer safety training and compliance.
Everyone in ministry has a responsibility to keep kids safe. When women’s ministries take the time to make safety a top priority, moms and grandmas with kids will be able to rest easy and channel their gifts and energy toward serving and growing together with other women each week.