Today when a church builds children’s ministry space, one of the highest priorities is safety and security. You will see hallways that have very limited access. You will see rooms that are designed with good sight lines and limited access. You will see the ability to lockdown in the case of an emergency.
For those of us (which actually probably most of us) who are in older buildings, these spaces were designed way before the days when we had to have conversations about active shooters or abuse risks or any of the unfortunate realities of ministry today.
My church, West Bradenton Baptist, has existed since 1957. Much of the kid’s hall is part of one of the original buildings. In fact, it was a building that was previously a stand-alone building, unattached to everything else. There are literally five outside doors connected to classrooms. Aside from that, there are four ways to access our hallway from either outside or another part of the church. Many of our classrooms are L-shaped with lots of corners in which a child can hide. It is a wonderful building that has served generations of children. It is also a modern day security nightmare.
Here are some simple and fairly inexpensive ways that we have worked to make our environment safer:
- Limited access – We began by asking our congregation to only use the hallway if they are volunteering or are picking up/dropping off kids. This change honestly took a lot of time for our church to fully understand and get around. The kids’ hall had been a main thoroughfare for decades. We had to communicate over and over the WHY as well as the what. Additionally, we have to periodically remind the congregation as new people come in. We also purchased stanchions to place at each end as a visual reminder.
- Intercoms – We purchased inexpensive intercom systems from Amazon. These are not perfect but the goal was to have an easy way for us to communicate to classrooms. We plan to renovate this building over the next few years so we chose not to spend high dollar at this time. But a way for your people to communicate is essential.
- Security Team – Following the church shooting in Texas, one of our church members who is a police officer has begun setting up a team of volunteers who take turns hanging out on the kids’ hall. Their vision is to expand this to the rest of the campus, but we began with the most vulnerable area. Their entire job is to be a presence These guys will have volunteer shirts, just a different color.
- Monitor/cameras – We already have cameras on our hallway and outside the building. We are working on adding a monitor to our check-in area that shows all of the camera shots. This addition will help us monitor, of course, but also shows parents that we take security seriously.
- Walkie talkies – Our security team leader suggested that we give a walkie talkie to greeters at each of our entrances. Hopefully they won’t ever use them, but they can immediately contact our security team if they see something concerning.
I would love to hear what some of you in older buildings have done to make your children’s ministry space more secure. Please share your comments.