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As I scan the online networks of Children’s Ministry leaders, I see common questions about what policies and procedures should be included in volunteer training. We all want our volunteers to be properly equipped, so I think these are great questions to make sure we don’t miss something important.

In our ministry, we supply volunteers with a Policy and Procedure Manual that includes 11 pages of important information. While every page is important, we know that this is only one part of a training event and therefore can’t all be explained in detail. So, for our Volunteer Orientation Training, we focus on the Top 5 Policies that every volunteer needs to know.

I thought it might be helpful to share those Top 5 Policies here. (If you would like to see a copy of the full Policy and Procedure Manual or learn more about what else we cover in our volunteer training, leave a comment with your email or email me.)

1. Two Adult Rule

At least two adults (or one adult and one High School student volunteer) should remain in a classroom at all times. No volunteer should ever be alone with children. Occasionally, leaders will find themselves without another adult present due to unforeseen circumstances. The following procedures should be followed.

  • Immediately inform the Classroom Support Leader (CSL) or Fellowship Kids staff for assistance so that the policy may be maintained.
  • Visible location–For any time when there is only one adult present, the group must be in a location that is visible to others with an unobstructed window, open door, etc.

2. Bathroom & Diaper Policies

Policies regarding diaper changing are as follows:i

  • Only female adult volunteers may change diapers
  • Diapers are only changed in classrooms with children 35 months and under
  • Diapers are only to be changed on the changing stations
  • NEVER leave a child unsupervised while on the changing table
  • Always wear disposable gloves when changing any type of diaper
  • All children should be checked and changed before parents return for pick-up

Policies regarding bathrooms located inside the Preschool classrooms are as follows:

  • Allow only one child in the bathroom at a time
  • If a child can go on their own, let them. Stand by the door ready to help if needed.
  • Only female adult volunteers may assist children in the restroom
  • If a child needs help or has not finished up after some time, talk through the door or slightly crack the door so you can talk without looking.
  • If your assistance is required, ask another volunteer to stand at the door and watch you as you assist the child. NEVER be alone with a child in the bathroom.

Policies regarding bathrooms located in Preschool or Elementary hallways are as follows:

  • Hallway bathrooms labeled KIDS ONLY should never be used by adult or student volunteers.
  • Before allowing kids to enter bathrooms, check to make sure there are no adults or students in the room. While kids are using the bathroom, do not allow any adults or students to enter.
  • Only allow as many children as stalls in the bathroom (4 toilets = 4 children in bathroom at once)
  • Keep the bathroom door slightly propped open to monitor that only appropriate behavior is happening during the bathroom break.
  • If a child needs assistance, only enter the bathroom with another adult or student volunteer in the doorway (with door open) watching you.
  • Never be alone in the bathroom with a child.

3. Secure Check-In

Every child MUST be checked-in through an electronic kiosk. When the child arrives to class, they must be wearing their name tag. If a child arrives without a name tag, please direct the family to the nearest Check-In Desk for assistance.

Child Drop Off
Be sure to write the 4-digit alphanumeric security code on the classroom roster when a child arrives to the class. If a child should lose their name tag during the service, the roster may be used to match the parent pick-up tag.

  • For Nursery & Preschool children, be sure to collect items and necessary information from parents that will help you care for the child during service. Make sure all items are labeled.

Child Pick Up
When picking up a child, the parent must show the pick-up tag with security code that matches the security code on the child’s nametag. ALL PARENTS must show a pickup tag.

  • No child will be released to a sibling or family member under the age of 16, even with a pickup tag.
  • Children 2 and under should be handed to parents over the door when possible. Avoid opening the door in a way that might provide children with an opportunity to run out of the classroom.

4. Lost Security Tag Procedure

If a parent or guardian has lost the security tag to be used for pick-up, they must be directed to the nearest assisted check-in desk to complete an Authorization for Release form. If any volunteer encounters a parent who has lost the security tag, the initial response can be:

“I am not authorized to release children to parents without a security tag. You will need to go to the check-in desk and they will be able to help you. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but we have this policy to protect every child and family.”

If possible, the Classroom Support Leader or volunteer will escort the parent or guardian to the nearest check-in desk. At the desk, the parent will be asked to show their Driver’s License to a staff member. If the parent does not have a photo ID, the staff member will verify the family information through the church database and a series of security questions. Once the information has been verified, the green Authorization for Release form with a Fellowship Kids staff signature may be used in place of the security tag for pick-up of the child.

If a child should lose their tag and the security code was not recorded on the classroom roster, contact the Classroom Support Leader or Fellowship Kids staff member. A new tag will need to be printed from the check-in area before the child is released to the parent.

5. Volunteer Identification

We make every effort to keep Fellowship Kids safe. Below are our policies concerning volunteer identification in Fellowship Kids.

  • All volunteers are required to check-in via electronic kiosk. Only adults and students who are approved to serve will be able to generate a name tag. Please see the Policy Manual for instructions regarding a Visiting Adult or Substitute Volunteer.
  • All volunteers are required to wear a volunteer lanyard for an added method of visible identification.

I would love to hear your ministry’s top policies and how you equip your teams through volunteer training. Leave a comment with your best advice so that we can all learn from you!

(If you would like to see a copy of the full Policy and Procedure Manual or learn more about what else we cover in our volunteer training, leave a comment with your email or email me.)

As Children’s Ministry leaders, we have all lived in seasons of hard ministry. We have faced the temptation to call it quits and move on. I’ve been in those seasons before, and this is my attempt to offer encouragement and words that you can come back to whenever needed.

Dear Tired, Undervalued, About-to-Burnout Children’s Ministry Leader,

I see your tired mind and weary body. You love what you are called to do, but you’re not sure how much longer you can make it. There are nights when you can’t sleep and mornings when you don’t want to wake up. You work yourself to the bone as if eternity depended on it. And while the results are not up to you, eternity really is our focus. The weight of such a calling is heavy. It has made you tired and weary. You need to hear these words:

Do not give up. 

In your weariness, remember that wondrous God is using you to introduce Himself to wide-eyed children who desperately need to know Him. In your moments of feeling under appreciated, remember that every conversation with a child is a chance for the Holy Spirit reach their heart and transform their eternity. You are making a difference and God is using you to fulfill His good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

It might feel like no one understands or cares, but don’t give into that lie. Your church needs you to continue pouring into children and families. They may not see all that it takes or understand the sacrifices that you make. Your struggles to find volunteers and get support may feel like failures, but you must keep going. You are providing opportunities for others to be involved in everything God is doing to raise up a new generation who will love and serve Him.

Do not give up.

In His sovereignty, God could have placed anyone in this role, and He chose you. He chose you because you are made for this role. While He has certainly gifted you for this role, your abilities will never be enough. But His grace and power are enough. Find rest in what Jesus has done for you and who the Gospel proclaims you to be. Find strength in the God who has made and cares deeply for all things—including the kids in your ministry and you. Find hope in His promise that His word—faithfully taught in your ministry—will not return empty.

I’m sorry that you are tired and undervalued. I know that Satan has undoubtedly used those feelings to make you feel like throwing in the towel. If I could put a voice to what I think God might be saying at this very moment, I would simply say:

Do not give up.

If you are enduring a hard season and need prayer, please leave your name in the comments or contact me. I want to spend this month praying for you and your ministry.

Last week, I shared some thoughts about the next 10 years in children’s ministry. Many of those thoughts come from examining the trends of the past 10 years in children’s ministry. If you’ve been in ministry for a few years, you have likely noticed a few of these changes. Some of these changes have been subtle, while some have been dramatic.

In her book, Nothing Less, Jana Magruder breaks down recent research on the American family and reveals the top influences of spiritual health. The research upholds a few trends that many in children’s ministry have been feeling for a number of years.

One of the trends that has affected children’s ministry over the past 10 years is

Lesser Engagement and Lower Attendance

Here are some of the stats from Nothing Less:

  • Only 35% of American Christians find that church attendance is an essential part of being a Christian.
  • When asked what makes a good parent, only 26% of Dads and Moms said that being a committed Christian was an important influence on parenting.

The reality is that families who once attended church 2-3 times per week are now attending 2-3 times per month. This leads to a different type of engagement with children and families that lead to many challenges.

Another trend that has negatively impacted the work of children’s ministry is:

Lower Biblical Literacy

Here are a few more stats from Nothing Less:

  • 89% of American households own a Bible, but 53% of Americans have read only a handful of Bible passages.
  • Of Protestant churchgoers, 54% say that they have read the Bible once a week or less.
  • When asked why they don’t read the Bible more often, the most common response (35%) was “I don’t know.”

Sadly, we don’t value the Bible as a source of hope and instruction. In an age of information, the Bible has taken a back seat to Google, 24/7 news channels, and input from peers on social media. There is a great need for expository preaching and Biblical teaching in our churches in order to ensure the next generation does not forget the mighty works of God!

But it’s not all negative. There are some trends in children’s ministry that suggest we are moving in a healthy direction and providing those in ministry a great toolbox for reaching children and families.

One of the positive trends in the last 10 years of children’s ministry is

An Emphasis on Family Ministry: Church + Home

Pastors and churches are getting serious about using every available resource to pass faith on to children. The last 10 years has seen a major increase in churches hiring Family Pastors or Next-Gen Pastors to focus on parent-child discipleship. There is a rise in equipping classes focused on teaching parents how to lead the discipleship of their children in the home, and the church has focused more on creating resources to connect what happens on Sundays to the rest of the week.

Another positive trend in the last 10 years is the

Plethora of Children’s Ministry Curriculum Options

It’s not just churches and pastors who have sharpened their focus on families, but writers and publishers are also taking up the mission. The ability for digital distribution of curriculum has allowed publishers to produce loads and loads of more content. It’s not all perfect or useful for every church, but there are many more options available today than there were 10 years ago! Those options allow children’s ministries to customize content that helps them reach children and families in their community and context.

What trends have you seen over the past 10 years in children’s ministry?

At the Children’s Pastors Conference last week, I had the opportunity to teach a breakout session on the future of Children’s Ministry, specifically for the year 2025. I enjoyed researching my generation of Millennial parents and both my daughters’ generation, Generation Alpha, those born 2010-2025.

These two groups will make up the children and families who we minister to in 2025, and there is surprisingly a lot we can already know or predict about their future. In the breakout, I gave 5 objectives for effective Children’s Ministry in 2025. You can read the first four objectives in these previous posts:

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4

One of the interesting shifts we see in the coming generations centers on diversity. Millennials represent the most diverse generation we have ever seen. According to 2012 census data, 60% of 18 to 29-year-olds are non-Hispanic white. That is down from 70% in previous generations. Additionally, 11% of millennials are born to at least one immigrant parent.

But millennials will not hold the title of “Most Diverse Generation” for long because Generation Alpha represents an even greater shift across the American landscape. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the population of racial or ethnic minority babies was 50.2 percent. This marks a historical change because “minority” children have now become the majority.

Data reports that this shift has already been seeing the U.S. Public Schools. In the 2014-15 school year, minority student enrollment in public schools surpassed that of white students.

It is reported that by the year 2020 (certainly by the year 2025), “non-whites” are expected to become the majority of U.S. children.

This leads to the fifth and final objective:

An effective children’s ministry in the year 2025 will…

Build a Volunteer Team Whose Diversity Mirrors The Community They Reach

The next 10 years will see big changes in what the American family looks like. The community around your church is likely already very diverse. But is that diversity represented on Sunday morning?

If not, be open enough to discuss the reasons why someone might not feel welcome or accepted. Consider the unintentional messages that might deter someone from worshipping with your family. Be bold enough to make changes that will form intentional relationships with those of different race and ethnicity in order to better understand how the Gospel unites us all under the banner of Christ.

And if your church is experiencing a shift in diversity,  praise God for the opportunity to taste of what worshipping in Heaven just might be like!