Come On In, But Can I See Some ID?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

You probably think of your church as a place where all are welcome, anytime. When people enter the doors of your facility, they should get a sense that they are in a friendly, nurturing space. At the same time, though, you are responsible for protecting the children, youth, and vulnerable adults that make your church their home for parts of the weekend and sometimes during the week. How do you find balance, when you have the call to welcome people, yet keep predators out at the same time?

It’s the time of year when many departments throughout the church are gearing up for many different types of activities just on the horizon: Vacation Bible School, spring and summer camps, field trips, and mission trips. Your regular church members will hopefully be bringing guests with them to church as they have relatives or friends come into town. This means that more people are coming in and out of your church, many of whom you may not recognize.

How can you provide that balance between welcoming people vs. protecting the vulnerable? Here are some safeguarding tips:

  • Make sure you have policies in place for all visitors, especially those with children. For example, visiting families need to fill out brief paperwork before their children or youth join church activities that day. They should be informed of security and pickup policies at that time. Have copies of these policies available for all staff and volunteers.
  • Require all staff and volunteers in the children and youth departments to wear identifiers such as nametags or lanyards. This will not only help you quickly identify people who should be there, but also it will identify people who should not be there. If you see a staff member or volunteer who is not wearing the proper ID, give them a friendly reminder to follow the policy.
  • Always keep a watchful eye for people who seem out of place. If you see someone you don’t know, introduce yourself. It could be that the person is new to the church and has just lost his or her way, but you never know for sure without asking.
  • If you see something that doesn’t look right, follow your instinct and say something!