our everyday life

Child Safety Rules for Churches

by Sharon Perkins

Keeping kids safe during church activities is a high priority for most congregations. Every church needs written policies that address the potential for abuse or injury in the church nursery, at Sunday school and while on church field trips. Everyone in the church, no matter what their position, should be subject to the same safety regulations. A church should also maintain a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who breaks the rules in place to protect children.

Background Checks

Everyone working in the church with children, whether in the nursery, Sunday school or youth group, should undergo a background check. Any parishioner with a history of sexual crimes should not have access to children. Church boards should make decisions about parishioners with a criminal history on a case-by-case basis. However, it's also important to remember that 90 percent of sexual abuse cases are never reported, according to GuideOne Insurance. A clean record alone isn't a guarantee that a person won't abuse a child. It's also prudent to allow volunteers to work with children only after attending the church for at least six months, GuideOne Insurance suggests.

Two-adult Rule

Churches should enforce a two-adult rule, meaning that an adult should not be in a room with a child or children without another adult present. In the nursery, two adults should be present at all times. In Sunday school, one adult can teach a class, but other teachers should be within earshot in other classes. Youth group leaders should never spend time with students without another adult present. Having two adults not only keeps the opportunity for abuse low, but also gives the adults the opportunity to observe the other person's behavior with the children. Any adult who has concerns about another adult's interactions should report it promptly to the proper church authorities.

Church Nursery Safety

Infants and young children left in the nursery should be signed in and out by a parent or a previously approved adult. A parent should not be allowed to retrieve a child for another parent. Volunteers should sanitize all equipment after each use to prevent transmitting illnesses. All cribs and playpens should meet current safety standards. Churches should formulate emergency and fire evacuation plans and ensure that all workers know the locations of exits, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.

Youth Trips

Churches that own buses should allow only adults older than 25 years of age with an appropriate license to drive the bus. A second adult should ride on the bus to keep horseplay and other distractions to a minimum. For transportation in private cars, parents should sign waivers allowing transport and treatment in case of an accident. Teens should not drive other teens in private vehicles on youth group trips. Each child must have a seat belt and use it. For trips to remote areas, adults should carry cell phones and first aid kits, and know CPR and basic first aid procedures.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images