Posted in practice on December 11, 2015 9:31 am EST

Are You an Architect of Safety?

A look at some of the ways that security is achieved in the design of church spaces, and what that looks like across the board from both a design and attendee vantage point.

Image copyright Don Pablo.











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TAGS: architectural design, collaboration, security, software systems, systems integration,


By Chuck Hulstrand

Parents often cite children’s ministries as a critical aspect of choosing their family’s place of worship. People want places where children can thrive and grow in faith—and be safe in the process. Most religious leaders take this responsibility very seriously, since the stakes are high in safeguarding a congregation’s most precious resource. As worship centers grow and evolve, what systems and technologies can help manage this critical aspect of the life of a congregation?

Image copyright Anita Patterson Peppers.

From a practical perspective, many tools and strategies exist to help manage children’s’ check-in and provide a secure environment. From a theological perspective, the questions become more interesting: how can these tools and strategies become part of a holistic, integrated approach which serves the congregation’s greater mission of shepherding and discipleship? How can these tools be used to improve communication among staff, and sustain more meaningful engagement for families?

The [security] data [collected] on members and visitors can be integrated with church-wide management tools to facilitate communication, generate engagement, and cultivate better collaboration across all departments.

In a recent conversation with David Coons, who serves on church management software company Church Community Builder’s Church Partners Alignment team, some key ideas surfaced that can help us think through these issues. Coons has 10 years of experience working in church management software, and speaks to both perspectives on the question. He sees security as a critical piece of the puzzle, but is always aware that each piece of the puzzle forms a big picture. He wants worship centers to approach the issue of security from a similar perspective.

Unifying approaches to security

Coons offers a great deal of helpful information about security for children’s areas, and notes that the appropriate systems and strategies will depend on the worship center’s size and layout. In small congregations, it’s fairly easy to match parents with kids, but larger groups require more structured systems. Check-in and check-out can happen at a central location or at the classroom level; for added security, some spaces have a special entry to children’s spaces that only parents can access.

A manual check-in system works well in many congregations. A child is given a tag with a security code at check-in, and the parents are given a matching tag to use at pick-up. Some congregations utilize an automated checkout system, with each child wearing a barcode that pulls up parents’ photographs when scanned at check-out. From a liability perspective, this system also logs check-in and checkout times, so that staff can track exactly which children are where at any given time. Some worship centers prefer a “manned” check-in spot to create a more personal experience. Newcomers are welcomed by a greeter who can help them with check-in and answer questions. Manned systems work well in tandem with self check-in stations to expedite drop-off for regulars.

Once children age out of elementary school, they often switch to a different building and different ministry leaders, and will balk at labels and check-ins. For these older kids, it’s easy to print adult-style nametags, or check youth in discreetly on a tablet.  continued >>