Kids ministry isn’t something I write about much, but I’ve been chewing on kids check-in processes lately so here goes. Almost every church has a process for checking kids in on weekends, but not every church is making the best use of kids check in processes. Let’s quickly refresh our memories as to why we have kids check-in and think about how our systems really matter. I’ll start with three quick ideas and then I’ll camp out on a fourth one that’s absolutely essential.
1) Attendance – This one’s a no-brainer. Knowing who is there or absent each week is valuable information. It helps us see trends in family church going habits. It helps us know who to call or send cards to when they’ve been gone. It allows us to execute better and more personal ministry.
2) Emergencies – A good check-in system includes the ability to communicate with parents in the auditorium when their child has an emergency. From minor emergencies like a blown-out diaper to major emergencies like allergic reactions or injuries, it’s vital to be able to communicate with parents in a timely manner while minimizing distractions. Churchteams, the church management software our church uses, allows us to text parents when there’s an emergency. I love this option because it really helps keep distractions down!
3) Guest Information – Guests are never more open to giving a church their information than when they are checking in their kids. Good kids’ check in processes capture all of their contact information allowing staff and volunteers to follow-up with guests.
4) Security – This is the first thing most church leaders think of regarding kids check in. We all want children and families to be safe in our churches. But it’s important for us to remember that your kids ministry security is only as good as your procedures.
What do I mean by this? I’ll use my own church as an example. I’m a senior pastor and have two kids in our kids ministry. Since I’m always occupied on Sunday mornings, my wife usually checks our kids in. The kids check-in software in Churchteams generates a random code each week that is printed on my kids’ name tags and printed on a third tag with the same code that my wife gets. After church my wife goes to pick up my kids. Volunteers are supposed to match my wife’s tag with my kids’ tags before she’s allowed to take them. When we first started using our kids check-in software our volunteers were very lax about making sure tags matched.
I discovered this problem one Sunday when my wife was out of town. After church no one asked me to show my tag. I asked my wife if this was normal and she said, “Yes. In fact, they don’t check anyone’s tags.” I nearly blew a gasket! The next day I addressed this with our kids ministry staff leader.
Some of you may be thinking, “Why’s that a problem? You really need to calm down there, preacher.” It’s a problem because the principle behind the tag-comparing-rule matters. It IS important. Why? I’m glad you asked.
No one gets singled out – It makes guests feel uncomfortable if they have to show a tag, but no one else does. They may wonder, “Why did they single me out?” Face it, guests are far less likely to return to your church if they feel put on the spot.
Guests feel safe – Nothing is more worrisome to parents than giving their kids over to people they don’t know. They feel much better when it’s clear that no one is allowed to pick up a child without a matching tag. Guests will love it when it’s obvious that security is a high value to your church.
It eliminates assumptions – Imagine this scenario: a man in your church has been abusing his wife and she kicks him out of the house. The man has mental health issues and a Judge issues a restraining order and gives the mother full custody of the kids. The mother feels ashamed of the situation so she doesn’t tell anyone at church. One Sunday she comes to church and checks her kids in. After church before she’s able to pick up her kids, the husband casually walks into the building, picks up the kids, and takes off. BOOM! A preventable kidnapping just happened in your church! You’re in the news. You get sued. You lose. Your church caves under the financial pressure and closes.
Yes that’s a worst-case scenario, but it IS a real possibility. Why risk it? When kids ministry volunteers and staff assume it’s safe to hand off kids without checking for matching tags, they put the church at tremendous risk. DON’T LET YOUR CHURCH FACE THIS KIND OF RISK!
Whatever your church uses for kids check-in, make sure your systems allow you to easily handle attendance, emergencies, guest information and security.