Safety Tips for Youth Church Ministry

protecting youth in churchVBS, Sunday School, youth group, camps, and festivals are just a handful of activities your church may provide to nurture and grow children in their faith journey.  While all these activities are well intentioned to benefit children and families, there are necessary safeguards that should be in place to protect children and volunteers.

Responsibilities of Church Staff
• Make sure you have a form for each youth that includes allergy info, medical info, and contact numbers for parents or guardians on the premises of any activity.
• Have each volunteer go through a training class, complete an application form that includes a background check and references, and sign a commitment form that lays out expectations clearly.

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• Consider having volunteers trained in first aid and CPR in case of an emergency.
• Is there a need for a safety committee at your church?  A committee can provide proper leadership, guidance, and assess potential risks.
• Have appropriate release forms available for designated activities.
• Have a set rule for the ratio of volunteer to child and stick to it.
• Try to have consistent volunteers working with a particular group of kids.  If a sub is needed, make sure a regular volunteer is present as well.
Provide guidelines to your volunteers when/if a conversation they may have had with a youth needs to be shared with a church staff member.
• Make certain any church vehicles used to transport children receive regular maintenance.
• Establish rules for driver safety when your group hits the road.
• Provide volunteers with what is and is not appropriate verbal and physical behavior around children. 
• If a volunteer does not follow the rules, gracefully let them go.  It would be helpful for someone who knows the volunteer to indicate this person’s areas of giftedness so that a suggestion can be made for another area of service instead of children/youth ministry.
• Have a plan of action on reporting suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities.
• If you plan to discuss controversial topics with your youth, make sure you either provide an outline of your discussion or meet with parents and go over what you intend to discuss beforehand.

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Responsibilities of Volunteers
• When taking a group of youth off church campus, make sure you sit down with the youth and go over rules and procedures for the activity/location.
• Make sure parents of youth are informed and fully understand the nature of all scheduled activities.
• Consider a buddy system and how that works with age appropriateness.
• If there is any sign an offense has been made, either youth to youth or volunteer to youth, act quickly with prompt reporting of suspected bullying/abuse to a church staff member.

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Responsibilities of Parents
• Teach your children about stranger danger.
• If your child speaks of anything that has taken place in a youth gathering that is unsettling, go to the youth pastor or appropriate staff member immediately and discuss it.
Read all communication that comes from staff and volunteers.   This may sound obvious, but it is easy to get into a bad habit of skimming over emails or saving them to read later and then forgetting all about them.
• If you have an issue or concern about a volunteer, go to the volunteer first and meet face to face.  If further action is needed, plan a meeting with the volunteer and a staff member (Matthew 18: 15-17).
• It's important to remember that volunteers are just that… volunteers.  They are making a sacrifice in giving their time and love to your children.

As with any organization, a plan of action to ensure safety while participating in activities and events is vital to protect children, youth, and adults within the church. Everyone will benefit with the assurance that well intended standards are in place.