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SafeSundaySchoolDispenser.Rotation.org [1)Safe Sunday Schools

You are welcome to add your thoughtful ideas and experiences.

"Safe" Sunday School means physically and emotionally safe, and also safe for illness.

One of the things visitors, parents, and church members appreciate are signs that the church values the health and well-being of its students and volunteers.

It includes things like clean rooms, the presence of hand sanitizer (especially during cold and flu season), well-lit hallways, and clean bathrooms. It can also mean proper staffing, nametags and secure doors, and having policies in place.

Consider the following content a starting point for your discussion.

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  • SafeSundaySchoolDispenser.Rotation.org (1)
Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Recommendations for Safe Sunday Schools

from your friends at Rotation.org

Anywhere children and adults gather can become a "vector" for the spread of illness, especially during Flu season. And it's not just about the kids and teachers, "Safe Sunday School" is important because of the older folks and those with health issues with whom we share our buildings on Sunday morning.

Some of our members will pay close attention to our safety practices and we will need to reach out to those who choose not to attend for health reasons.

Sadly, there will also be those who resist our efforts to create a safer Sunday School. Where kids are concerned, however, there is no room for ignorance, only wisdom.

Proverbs8.5

Many of the following recommendations are/were lessons learned over the years and should become part of our future "safe church" policies and practices. Heeding the following advice is not only the right thing to do, it will earn respect, spread good practices, keep more people healthy, and allow us to continue our important work.

They have been suggested by healthcare professionals, the CDC, various children's ministry experts, and the members and leaders of Rotation.org, Consider them a starting point for discussion and implementation in your church.

Establish a "sick child" policy and educate parents.

SafeSundaySchoolDispenser.Rotation.org

Have a healthy airflow and exchange where possible.

Encourage the use of hand sanitizers, especially during flu season.

Keep some space between students in the classroom and during activities during flu season. For example, add an extra table, sit in a larger circle, form lines at an arm's length.

Review and improve church cleaning practices and schedules, particularly anything people put their hands on and anything little children might put in their mouths (that is, all the toys in the nursery and toddler rooms should be cleaned weekly).

Place signs in bathrooms and hallways about washing hands and covering coughs.

Review, clean, and make necessary modifications to air handling systems. "Fresh is best." This should also include a "sick building or room" where mold or mildew might be a problem.

Practice safe food handling in the classroom and elsewhere. Train volunteers in safe food handling and distribution.

Train volunteers and nursery workers in safety policies, hygiene, and emergency practices. Make sure they have hand-sanitizing supplies and use them.

Review and update your volunteer background checks and student-contact policies. Include "signs and warnings" in volunteer and staff training.

Review unmonitored or unsafe areas in the building. Lock unused space. Review policies and practices regarding monitoring who is where in the building.

Review or create safe workplace policies and practices that protect and promote the health of pastors and staff.

Be an example to others of hope, care, safety, and patience.

And finally...  Have a plan to deliver at-home Sunday School and worship to those who cannot attend in-person, and reach out to children with illnesses and chronic issues. Compassion is more than a get-well card.

If you have something to add to this list, please post your reply.

Permission granted to share as needed. Copyright Rotation.org

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  • Proverbs8.5
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Opening our eyes and noses to healthier and safer buildings

  • Addressing the well-being of kids and adults who have mold and dust allergies.
  • "Safe" spaces, scary rooms, bad lighting, etc. (yes, some spaces are scary to kids)


Dust, mold, and mildew in classrooms is no joke to those of us who suffer from those allergies.

Many years ago at a church where I had just started serving, I walked into a Sunday School room and my head started throb and my throat start to close. One of the classroom walls was glistening with seeping slimy groundwater. It was my first encounter with a "sick building" and how they can make our children and teachers feel sick. The teachers told me it was like that EVERY summer and fall (and none of them wanted to be in that room). Fortunately, the problem was easily fixed by rerouting the downspouts which were dumping rainwater next to that below-grade classroom but it made me take a much closer look at ALL our teaching spaces, a journey which not so coincidentally led to the creation of the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School.

Here's a picture of that room with the "Temple" mural painted over that once-slimy wall after the room was fixed. This room became known as the Bible Skills and Games Workshop.

At about that same time, I was diagnosed with dust allergies and a modest sensitivity to mildew. I didn't grow up with allergies, rather, they “turned on” years later and it began turning on my awareness of how even mildly 'sick' rooms can make a child or adult feel uneasy and irritated. It's hard to learn when your sinuses start to feel full and eyes start to itch. Worse, I believe people make subconscious decisions about places that makes them physically and psychologically uncomfortable. I know I didn't like going "downstairs" at our church, and when I brought it up to two trustees who ALSO had allergies, they saw to it that things got better because they personally understood the problem. (Installed AC with filters and adjusted the cleaning schedule).

We have become more aware that our facilities and group interactions can be “vectors” for the spread of common and uncommon illnesses that can be dangerous—especially to older members, and those with allergies and other health issues.  For decades, we've coughed and touched and fevered our way through schools, churches, workplaces, and restaurants without thinking about how our "tolerable" illnesses can threaten someone's grandparent or friend who has heart disease. I pray that those days of "blissful" ignorance are over— that healthier practices and facilities become the "new normal," which is a "safer-normal."

"Scary" and "Unsafe" Places

Years ago in a former church, a dad approached me to say his child was "afraid" to walk down to her classroom at the end of a lower level hallway at church. It was "too dark!" she said. And indeed, it was. It was the first time I started looking at our facilities as our KIDS experience them. It was a simple lighting fix, but it started a whole list of "emotional fixes" to our facility to make sure our kids FELT welcome and safe.

A few years back at a church I temporarily served, I was in charge of setting up a new Sunday School in a new "office building" the church had purchased. The number of spare rooms, out of the way closets, and exits was a problem waiting to happen. We asked for the spare spaces to be locked and security cameras to be installed, but were told it would be too expensive.   (More expensive than a lawsuit? No. But the "retired guys" on the Building committee were from a different era and didn't seem too worried. What that committee needed was some moms!)

Don't wait for a crisis to make you re-evaluate what's right, what's no longer helpful, and what's no longer necessary. See things we should have been taking care of, but for whatever reason, didn't. Going back to doing things "the old way" and not worrying about their effect on people is not leadership.

Moving forward, what we in children's ministry and the church need to do is "re-invent" how we think about and manage "safety" in our buildings and the ways we interact with each other. It's more than just smiles and nametags.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Neil

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Teach Compassion and Reach Out to those with Health Problems

As it happens, we were learning the story of Jesus calming the sea. On one Sunday, our pastor changed her already prepared sermon to preach on this text and spoke about love casting out fear.

We shared ways for families to show love that casts out fear to the world by:

  • Purchasing bags of food for an emergency food bank for kids in our area who depend on school breakfasts and lunches
  • Asking children at home to make cards for people who are isolated in assisted living or elsewhere
  • Opening a room of books we have to stock Little Free Libraries to families who want to pick up reading material
  • and by offering to run errands for shut-ins.

I'd love to learn how others are supporting families at home, now and in the future.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

The following "10 Safety and Security Mistakes" are from Dale Hudson a children's pastor at Building Children's Ministry dotcom where he posted this free checklist at KidCheck's secure check-in website. Some of these are spot-on. Some are debatable depending on your circumstances and POV. I've added my comments to each in orange. Your feedback welcome. These opinions are my own.

For smaller churches, one way to cover many of the following "mistakes" is to simply have a designated and trained adult monitoring the hallways and doorways of the children's area, along with a strategically placed camera or two.

10 safety and security mistakes churches make

1. No check-in and out plan or not enforcing the one you have. It is crucial to have a security system that enables you to control who picks up the children.  Everyone should abide by this… that means even if the Pastor came to pick up his child and he didn’t have a matching security tag, he would need to have his ID checked to see if he is on the pick-up list.

I agree with this up to about age 7. In small churches, "tags" are less helpful. There are other measures mentioned below that would be good substitutes for smaller churches, such as having a trained "volunteer at the door."   

2. Allowing children to be alone with an adult. I was consulting at a church a few months ago and I saw a preschool room that only had one adult serving.  Big red flag.  Always, always, always have two adults in your rooms.  No exceptions.

Agreed, though sometimes impossible. This is where background checks, and other protocols can help.  A corollary to this is a kid whose parent LETS them roam the church unsupervised.

3. Not running a background check on volunteers.  Yes, it does cost to do this.  But it is something you can’t afford not to do.

Absolutely.

4. Not having a safety and security team. Every ministry needs a group of people who serve as volunteer safety and security people.  They should be identified by their shirts, lanyards, etc. They should be visible in the children’s area.  And if you can, also have a uniformed police officer present as well.  Parents will appreciate this and feel better about leaving their children with you.

This sounds like a "big church" thing, but I like the idea of having clearly identified leaders in the hallways and classrooms. Could be disguised as an "ask me" nametag.

5. Not having an amber alert plan.  What happens when a child goes missing?  It’s important to have a step-by-step plan on what you will do.

Yes, this is important. We had a large pond at my last church and had an alert plan in place. Unfortunately, in many of the churches where I've served the number of places a child could get into and the number of exit doors was legion. Cameras a must for big buildings and in certain circumstances. We put alarms on certain exit doors which went off when they were used.

6. Making the excuse of being a small church.   I hear about many smaller churches that push back on having a safety and security plan.  You’ll hear “everyone knows everyone” or “we don’t have enough kids to do this” or “we don’t like formal processes like that, we are like a family.” If that is your mindset, I want to remind you of several shootings that have taken place in small churches in small towns.  Every church, no matter the size, needs to have a safety and security plan.

According to Lifeway Research, about 4 in 5 Protestant pastors (80%) say their church has some type of security measure in place when they gather for worship.

I would train the teachers and leaders but would not frighten the kids with drills in the church. The odds are about the same as being struck and killed by lightning.

7. Not locking down the children’s ministry area when church starts. Can people walk into your children’s area unhindered?  If possible, only allow people with a security tag in your children’s area. And have a way to lock down the hallways and rooms once the service starts.  This can help deter an active shooter.

Changing the door hardware is very expensive. Staffing is hard. Cameras seem like a better solution as a deterrent in smaller buildings, as is changing our old habits of letting kids walk the hallways (because their parents bring them at all times or they need to go to the bathroom).

8. Not having a security camera in the rooms.  Having a camera in your rooms can be a lifesaver if something happens.  You’ll have clear evidence of what did or did not happen because we had a security camera in the room. I remember once we had a nursery volunteer that dropped a child while trying to change his diaper.  The baby was okay and it was helpful to be able to see exactly what happened.

Makes sense in the hallways and nursery, but probably overdoing it in 'every' classroom.

9. Not having an evacuation plan.  The fire alarm goes off.  Not having an evacuation plan could be devastating.  The evac plan should be clearly mapped out and volunteers should know what to do and where to go.

An annual fire alarm drill sounds like a better idea than those "evacuation route" signs everyone ignores. Having a central meeting location outside the building is essential.

10. Not having a clear view for parents to be able to see in the room. Every room should have a window that enables parents to see inside the room from the hallway.  This also adds another level of security.  Most abuse happens behind closed doors.  Eliminate that by not having any rooms that are behind closed doors with no viewing access.

Retrofitting old doors with windows is expensive. Better yet, have a "door always open" policy.

Seven "more likely" security and safety issues in churches:

  1. Unsafe and usanitary nurseries with unsecured bookshelves (tip-over hazard) and unsafe cribs.
  2. Unsafe, unlocked storage rooms, janitorial supply closets and church tools.
  3. Unsafe kids who physically or emotionally bully or intimidate others.
  4. Unsafe transportation to and from events. Teens should not be driving each other to events.
  5. Unsafe properties (such as the one I mentioned with the open pond out back).
  6. Unsafe parking lots for both kids and adults, let alone cars.
  7. Kids unattended in classrooms before and after the teacher has left. Some kids double back and play in rooms sometimes with parents' knowledge.

    Contributed by Neil MacQueen. Feel free to add yours.

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  • Church Security Options
Last edited by CreativeCarol

Lots of good suggestions on church safety and security!

I second the suggestion here that building and safety committees need to have at least one mom on them. My church's elders mean well and they do love the kids, but they don't always think of how some decisions would impact a small person; moms seem to be wired to have their children's well-being and needs in mind.

Regarding the Church Safety suggestions: it is sad we have to have these hard conversations, but it is becoming more and more apparent that even small churches in small communities need to be aware and prepared.   Check with your local and state police for workshops and resources  and consultations on good active shooter policies, and keep updating your policies to take into account new standards (our child protection policy said to lock the door and stay in the classroom, but current best practices say it is best to leave the room and get out of the building if at all possible).

In addition to background checks, my church requires all who work with children (including pastors and staff) to take the Ministry Safe course. Sexual Abuse Awareness Training isn't fun, but it is important information about how to watch for signs of abuse and how to help and protect the children who have been trusted to us (and is easy for everyone to do online on their own schedule).

And I would add to Neil's list of "more likely" security and safety issues in churches:

  • "attractive nuisances" such as stacks of chairs that children will want to climb on. Because no matter how hard you try, there will be unsupervised children somewhere in the church after worship....
  • policy for who can use the playground and when - especially if you have equipment designed for small children and big kids trying to climb on it.

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