Extract: Whether you’re hosting an activity for the benefit of your own congregation, or to capture the attention of the local community, it’s critical that you’re working to keep everyone safe.
Houses of worship like yours host events and activities all the time, either for your own members or for the local community at large. Chances are good that you have been in charge of planning these activities, whether to support fundraising, outreach or simply to provide an outlet for your members and local residents.
While elements like the time, date, location, food or equipment are certainly important, it’s also critical to think about safety. Whether you’re hosting an activity for the benefit of your own congregation, or in an attempt to capture the attention of the local community, it’s critical that you’re working to keep everyone safe.
The potential for problems: Accidents or injury
While most events go off without a hitch, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the possibility of issues or dangers surrounding activities put on by your house of worship.
Particularly with large events, the sheer number of participants can create safety risks. With so many people populating your building and grounds, the chance of injury or accident goes up. This includes an increase in traffic in the parking lot. Other factors – like whether events take place inside or outside, the weather on that day and what activities are taking place – can also drive up the potential for accidents or other problematic issues.
In addition, there’s always the chance that malicious individuals may use a house of worship activity as an opportunity for vandalism, theft or violence. Security and monitoring of attendees can help reduce the potential for this – and can be as simple as having greeters at each entrance.
Unfortunately, some of these issues are out of your hands, even with the most thorough planning and foresight. However, one of the first measures you can take to help bolster the safety of your house of worship activities is having the right insurance coverage. In the event of an accident or injury, you and your congregation are covered.
Manage volunteer efforts
In addition to having the right insurance coverage, it’s also important to manage the efforts of any volunteers or other house of worship stakeholders involved in events and activities. This all starts with proper planning and ensuring preparedness.
If you’re hosting a large-scale event, chances are good that other church members and even members of the local community might come out to help. You should be prepared to inform them about the activity, as well as what role they will play and the responsibilities they will have during the event.
Here are a few more tips and best practices to keep in mind when managing your volunteers:
- Check out their applications: Especially before bringing new volunteers into the fold, it’s imperative that you know who you’re working with. This is a critical step for safety, and it can be helpful to have newcomers fill out a volunteer application like this one to give you a sense of their experience and any criminal history. Particularly when activities involve younger members of the congregation, leaders should complete their due diligence and ensure a safe environment for participants and volunteers. Make sure you allow enough time to complete proper screening before an event.
- Consider volunteers’ skill and ability: The volunteer application can also be helpful in matching volunteers with roles and responsibilities that align with their skills. As this resource from Church Mutual points out, it’s important to think about individuals’ abilities and talents ahead of time to make sure you don’t assign them to a task that is out of their range. Volunteers must have the proper physical ability and skills to ensure that they don’t overdo it, injure themselves or put other activity participants at risk.
- Make sure you have the right tools and resources: Finally, you should make sure that you have all the items and equipment volunteers will need for the event or activity. Inspecting these items ahead of time to ensure they are in good working order can also help you reduce risks, prevent injury and maintain safety throughout the activities.
Educate on the issues: Sexual abuse and misconduct
It’s also important to discuss key issues like sexual misconduct with volunteers and activity stakeholders ahead of time. While this can be a difficult conversation, educating chaperones and volunteers on suspect behavior and other signs to look for can help you keep members of your congregation safe.
Read our extensive resource, Safety Tips on a Sensitive Subject: Child Sexual Abuse, for more information and prevention tips.
Consider your surroundings: Safety on activity grounds
Once your volunteers are ready, educated and equipped, it’s time to turn an eye to the location in which the activity or event will take place.
For outdoor events, be sure to double check the weather forecast. It can also be helpful to have a backup plan, just in case of an unexpected storm or other weather issue.
In addition, you should also walk the activity area and clear any items that could pose a danger. For instance, if you plan to use an outdoor area near trees or shrubbery, be sure to cut back any low-hanging branches and remove any other debris. Other efforts, like ensuring smooth pathways for traffic in the lot and stationing greeters to monitor entrances, can make a big difference for safety and security as well.
For indoor events, you and your team should check for things like wet floors or obstructed workstations, and address these issues before inviting participants inside.
Events that involve your house of worship kitchen can create other unique risks. Check to make sure that any sharp items are stowed away, that you have non-slip mats to prevent falls and that volunteers follow safe kitchen procedures when using the range or oven. Read our resource on the CM Select website for more information about preventing accidents; in particular, how to make a first aid kit and the steps to take if an accident does take place during an event or activity.
Regular inspections of your building and grounds are best practice, but especially critical ahead of any activities. Take a look at our Self-Inspection Safety Checklist to help you further prevent any accidents or injury.
Activities and events can be a fun and effective way to entertain, raise awareness or support fundraising among your congregation and the community. When hosting these activities, your focus on safety will allow your participants to focus on the fun. However, safety should be your first priority.
The information contained in these materials is intended solely to provide general guidance on topics that may be of interest to you. While we have made reasonable efforts to present accurate and reliable information, Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions, or for any actions you take or fail to take based on these materials. The information provided may not apply to your particular facts or circumstances; therefore, you should seek professional advice prior to relying on any information that may be found in these materials.