In the wake of the church shootings in Colorado this past weekend, the issue of safety in churches is front and center in the media. To be honest, I'm vigilant about safety when I'm travelling with my youth, but I never gave as much thought to keeping them safe in the church building itself until I read this essay over at the excellent Faith'd blog. It's entitled Violence in Churches, Safety in Youth Ministry: 10 Quick-and-Dirty Tips" and in it Andrew lays out a list of very helpful steps for ensuring safety when youth are in your care, many based on his own experiences when things in his ministry weren't so safe:
Be safer than you have to be: As good as professionals are, don’t be complacent about safety. Go above and beyond when you can. Once we hired an inflatable climbing mountain for an event. Students climbed to the top of a pyramid shaped “mountain” and then slid back down. It looked safe, and they were harnessed in, but halfway through the event a freshman thought it would be fun to jump from the top onto the inflatable mat below. His harness ripped out, he did a free-fall onto the mat, and the impact shot him back into the air. He landed on his head, without a helmet, on a concrete floor. He instantly went into a grand mal seizure, and by the time I arrived he’d been seizing for nearly two minutes. We dialed 911, and when the seizure finally stopped, he looked straight up into my eyes and was unable to move any part of his body and could only mutter nonsense to me. I was afraid he’d been paralyzed. Luckily, he wasn’t, but it took several hours for him to regain full control of his body at the hospital. But the whole incident could have been averted by simply requiring kids to wear helmets. The company I hired said they weren’t necessary, but they were extra protection that would have cost us little and prevented serious injury. Taking kids skiing? Require them to wear helmets. Taking them boating? Local law may only require you to have lifejackets in the boats, but go a step further and require teens to wear them. Small safety precautions make a big difference and are minimally intrusive. Take them.