Following are tips shared during a breakout session at LifeWay’s VBS 2016 Preview.
- Enlist a minimum of two teachers over 18 years old for each room. Preferably two unrelated adults; age reflects liability issues (under 18 can increase liability if something occurs); if teenagers are present, enlist two adults with teens.
- Use a security system to insure children are released to authorized adults. Systems can be simple or complex—permanent cards; temporary cards/tags; computerized systems; paper systems. Churches of all sizes/kinds should use some type of security system.
- Complete a background check on all leaders that work with children. Screening forms; application; make it mandatory for everyone; staff and other leaders should be example.
- Train all teachers on your policies and procedures. Policies and procedures give back-up to the leader or teacher; enforcement is key (for everybody); only thing worse than no policies are unfollowed policies.
- Maintain child-teacher ratios, the recommended number of children per teacher. Recommended are 1:3 younger preschoolers; 1:4 older preschoolers and pre-K; 1:5 Kindergarten; 1:6 grades 1-6. Even if classrooms have lots of kids, work to maintain ratios.
- Post allergy signs to inform parents when you offer tasting, touching, or smelling activities. Create a system for knowing kids’ allergies and what to do if allergic reaction occurs.
- Gather all pertinent information and keep good records. Including child info sheets (with allergy info), permission slips and medical releases, and any custodial issues.
- Keep classroom doors closed. Closed door keeps kids from leaving or others from entering, or at least slows down that process and lets the teacher know something is happening; minimizes distractions for both kids and teachers.
- Doors should have window in or beside them to allow visibility in the room. Window should be smaller but allow clear and easy visibility into the room. Protection for kids, leaders, and the church.
- The best way to maintain a clean environment is hand washing. Regular hand washing prevents spread of illness and keeps everything as clean as possible.
- All materials and activities should be age appropriate, suitable to the age and developmental level of children in the room. Many issues related to safety can be avoided if we make sure that what we are using/doing with kids is right for their age/development.
- Keep a fully stocked first aid kit that is easily assessable for teachers. Leaders know locations of these kits. Keep them maintained on a regular schedule.
- Post a list of leaders who are certified in first aid and CPR. Determine a system to locate these teachers/leaders; also a system to notify medical personnel of emergencies.
- Post a map marked with the emergency exit route in each room of your children’s ministry. Map of exit routes for fire and route/location for other emergencies; make sure teachers are familiar with primary and secondary exit points and safe places within the building for other emergencies.
- Make sure teachers know what the fire alarm sounds like and what to do if it sounds. Sound the alarm for leaders and children; practice fire drills. Make sure leaders know where to take children when evacuating the building. Parents should know where to meet kids. Develop a simple system to reconnect parents and children away from the classroom.
Make plans now to attend LifeWay’s VBS Preview in January 2017 in North Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee. Registration opens Monday, June 6 and will be announced at lifeway.com/vbs.