by Brotherhood Mutual Staff Writers
As the days get longer and temperatures begin to rise, youth activities across the country are beginning to move outside. Kickball, bonfires, and summer retreats are in store. Is your ministry prepared? Whether your youth programming will continue as-is or shift to a more recreational form of fellowship throughout the warmer months, springtime is always a good time to transition to a more active, outdoor-oriented approach to community.
It’s also an ideal time to review the safety mindset of youth group leaders—a change in pace brings about new challenges to consider, and new risks to be aware of. Here are a few ways to ensure your youth ministry environment is healthy and safe this summer.
Train and Screen Volunteers
Volunteers are vital to your organization, but the most enthusiastic volunteer may not always be the best one. Every youth leader or volunteer you find needs to be carefully selected. Conducting background screening, providing adequate training, and making sure you have an appropriate adult-to-youth ratio are crucial.
While fun should always be at the forefront of a youth leader’s mind, it is important to plan for safety. Make sure your leaders know how to plan before you go, stop problems before they snowball, communicate expectations to students, and learn from near misses. By screening and training your volunteers, you can ensure that they are well-equipped to handle the various twists and turns of youth ministry.
Take the time to assess key elements that may go into a youth event:
- Are there enough volunteers?
- Do they understand our church policies?
- Has everyone signed an activity participation agreement?
- Have I communicated to the parents what we will be doing and when we will be finished?
Be Serious About Supervision
Make sure your volunteers can handle an energetic, high-spirited group. To maintain a safe and fun atmosphere for everyone, it’s essential that your volunteers can exercise the appropriate level of authority. Volunteers and youth leaders should be able to explain to youth what is expected for each activity. For example, before leaving for camp, youth leaders can reinforce safety guidelines and explain why it’s important to follow them. If a volunteer gives in to pressure too easily or lacks confrontational skills, teens may test the limits of their authority.
When choosing which volunteers to designate as “supervisors,” consider their involvement, maturity, training, and ability to exercise authority.
Activity Participation Agreements
To protect your youth ministry from liability, have teens and parents sign an activity participation agreement prior to an event. This type of agreement will help them know what to expect and agree to take responsibility for any risks that an activity may pose.
Because most participants will be under 18, this is an easy way to communicate with parents about youth group activities. An activity participation agreement opens the floor for parents to ask any questions they might have before an event, instead of questioning a youth leader afterward.
Keep Games Safe
Any activity has the potential to become dangerous. That’s why it’s important to think through each one before you make it part of your activities list. Engaging activities are a great way to get students interested in youth group, but safety will help keep them coming back.
When planning a game, make sure to identify who’s in charge. Take action if the game gets out of control, provide appropriate supervision, share information, and discuss protocol with your youth leaders prior to the game.
It’s also important to address inappropriate attire and set a standard of modesty and safety for teens. Finally, be sensitive; have extra shirts on hand or be willing to change the game if enough youth forgot gym shoes. The goal is to have as many participants as possible.
Visit the Brotherhood Mutual website for more resources and to download Checklists for use with your youth ministry program this summer:
Training and Screening Volunteers
- Background Screening Checklist
- Guidelines for Ministry Workers
- Volunteer Renewal Application
- Supervising Activities Checklist
- Supervision and Discipline Checklist
Activity Participation Agreements
- Choosing and Using an Activity Participation Agreement
- Activity Participation Agreement
- Youth Activities Checklist
About Brotherhood Mutual
Brotherhood Mutual® has been passionate about serving Christian churches, schools, camps, and related ministries for the past 100 years. Today, more than 58,000 ministries across the U.S. rely on us for comprehensive property, liability, workers’ compensation, commercial auto, and mission travel insurance needs. In addition to specializing in ministry insurance, Brotherhood Mutual also is a major provider of payroll services. The company’s corporate headquarters is located in Fort Wayne, IN.
Brotherhood Mutual’s communication staff is dedicated to writing safety and risk articles like today’s blog. The articles, checklists and resources are hosted in our robust online library and are available for free download. For more information visit www.brotherhoodmutual.com.