By Jenny Whitaker
The COVID-19 pandemic has given kids ministry leaders a lot of uncharted waters to navigate, but it has also provided opportunities to review and revise what we do and how we do it.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in play and churches beginning to regather with subsequent reopening of kids ministries, now is the time to update your policies and procedures. And if you never had any to begin with, now is the perfect time to put them in place.
Policies and procedures for a kids ministry isn’t just a wise idea, but a necessity. Our job as leaders is to serve kids and lead them to Christ, but we’re also charged with protecting those in our care—kids and workers alike.
In order to do that well, everyone must be on the same page. This requires well-written policies. Here are seven things to consider when writing or rewriting this vital document for your ministry in light of COVID-19.
1. What are your local government leaders recommending?
It’s important for you to consider and follow the directives and recommendations of your local leaders and authorities.
How you apply those to your space and dynamics at your church may vary, but God’s Word tells us in Romans 13 we should submit to our governing authorities.
Also keep in mind that your policies and procedures may need to include things local leaders are not requiring or recommending.
While not everyone will agree with or understand these policies or procedures, as a kids ministry leader, your job includes determining the best way to protect those vulnerable to COVID-19.
2. What are other kids ministries in your area doing?
I’ve been blessed with the voices of other leaders in my community, state, and beyond.
Right now, the leaders closest to you—those in your community or region—will be the ones best to collaborate with, because they’ll be familiar with how COVID-19 is affecting your area and the dynamics of the people you serve in your community.
They don’t need to define what you do, but their insight will be a valuable tool as you build your new policies and procedures.
3. How do your volunteers and families feel about returning, and what protocols do they want in place when they return?
Communicate with your volunteers and families. Ask them if they’re willing to return to kids ministry, and if so, what policies and procedures they’d like to see in place when they do.
Some will not yet feel safe to return. Others may be ready to return but will only feel safe if certain procedures are in place. Still others may be ready to return but will not want to if they’re required to follow procedures they feel are too rigid.
Knowing where a majority of your volunteers and families fall on this spectrum will be a tremendous help to you as you determine what changes to make, as well as how and when to make them.
Keep in mind that families may have different expectations for different ages. Therefore, policies and procedures may need to vary based on the ages you’re serving.
For example, the policies in an infant or two-year-old room can and should look different than those for a 5th grade room.
As you revise your policies, take time to determine which policies make your ministry feel unwelcoming or overbearing.
If your region/community is still at a point in which the policies or procedures you’d need to have in place would highly limit or restrict the level of ministry and care you can provide, it may not be the right time to reopen.
Similarly, it would be wise to outline in your new document what events or safety guidelines from local authorities could require your kids ministry to close or restrict ministry events and activities again.
Policies and procedures should clearly communicate not only what to do and how to do it, but why and when so everyone who’s involved in your ministry knows what to expect and what’s expected of them.
4. What are the dynamics and demographics of your church family?
As you consider reopening your kids ministry, you should take into account the demographics and dynamics of your church family.
If your church family has a significant number of senior adults or other vulnerable members, or if your church family has a significant number of healthcare workers, these may be variables that create the need for more stringent policies and procedures.
This consideration may also need to be applied to individual classrooms or kids areas as you determine if there are kids or adults who have an increased need for protection.
In addition to your classroom policies and procedures, these considerations will be the most helpful as you outline the best way to manage traffic flow within your kids ministry space.
How will drop-off and pick-up work? Or how heavily should you restrict traffic in your kids area?
For the protection of both the kids and volunteers in your care, as well as other church members and guests who will attend your in-person gatherings, these will be key procedures to have in place.
5. Do you need to make any adjustments to how you do ministry?
Many ministry leaders have had the chance in the past few months to gauge the effectiveness of what they do and how they do it.
Some methods proved to be great, while others could afford to change or have adjustments made. Now is a great time to make those adjustments.
Additionally, you may consider adding safety boundaries for new ways of doing ministry. For example, do you still require two adults on a Zoom call or other technology-based “room?”
These policies were never on our radar before, but they must be now, and addressing them while we have the opportunity, even if we believe or hope we won’t need them again moving forward, is the wise thing to do.
6. Can ministry still happen? Will the new policies and procedures still offer a positive experience to kids and families?
There will come a time when you’ll need to determine if opening your kids ministry is the best option based on the policies and procedures you need to have in place.
If ministry is to be effective, in addition to having adequate policies and procedures in place to keep kids safe, our areas must be welcoming, have enough caring adults in place to serve, and provide a positive environment that will encourage kids to learn about and get to know Jesus.
7. How can you communicate and train families and volunteers about your new policies and procedures?
Revising and rewriting your policies and procedures is a good start, but that can’t be where this recalibration in your ministry ends.
After you’ve made revisions it’s important to communicate to families and volunteers what’s new and why. They’ll need to understand the heart and vision behind the changes.
You’ll also want to retrain your volunteers to ensure that your kids ministry team can implement the new policies and procedures well and efficiently.
If your leaders aren’t adhering to policies and procedures, you’ll have a much harder time getting families to do so.
The bottom line is while policies and procedures are necessary and important, especially in this pandemic, their job is to enhance ministry to kids, while providing a safe way to serve children and families.
If policies and procedures prohibit you from serving, ministering, and loving well, then you’ll need to revise again or postpone reopening your ministry.
None of this is easy, and nobody has had to do it before, so there’s no manual or one-size-fits-all solution.
If you consider these things as you recalibrate and rewrite your policies and procedures, you’ll be better prepared to reopen safely with a team trained to do ministry and share Jesus while also keeping kids and families safe.
JENNY WHITAKER (@jenwhitaker00) serves as the children and family ministry director for Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida. She loves leading in Kids Ministry, but her favorite roles are being a wife and mom.