Church Safety Tips

Use these resources to analyze the safety and security of your ministry programs.

Allergy Policy

There has been a significant increase in the number of people that struggle with food and environmental allergies. Reactions can range from mild to life-threatening. By adopting an allergy policy, congregations can be pro-active in preventing a medical emergency.

Some items to consider are:

  • Rules about who may provide or purchase food, especially for the children's ministry program.
    • Will you allow home baked goods?
    • Will you allow items containing peanuts or other tree nuts to be served?
    • Cleaning and sanitation policies to avoid cross contamination.
  • Sign in policies for children to collect information about allergies, medications, treatment, etc.
  • Procedures to alert child care workers that a child has a specific allergy.
  • Procedures about who may administer medications and how to handle emergencies.
Building Security

Consider these questions to help you analyze how to secure and protect the investment in your building:

  • Do you keep a record of who has keys to the building or access to the security code? Are keys collected or codes changed when volunteers/employees leave?
  • Do you have a security system?
  • Are your entrances and parking lot well lighted?
  • Do you lock office doors when not in use?
  • Are cash, valuables, important documents locked in a safe?
  • How do you secure other valuable property such as laptops, musical equipment, and electronic equipment?
  • When groups are using the building, do you limit their access to the portion of the building that they are using?
Child Protection Act 153 of 2014 (PA)

As of 2014, there are new requirements in Pennsylvania for screening employees and volunteers as well as mandatory reporting requirements. The following resources provide more detailed information:

For additional information, please contact the PA Department of Human Services or an attorney.

Crib Safety

Beginning in 2011, all cribs sold (including resale) in the United States must meet new federal requirements for overall crib safety. Details can be found at the links below, provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

Cooking for Groups

Preparing food for your church group? Follow these food safety tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

Driver Screening

Whenever anybody drives a vehicle on a church sponsored activity, the church could be held responsible for their actions behind the wheel. To make sure passengers are safe and to protect the church against suits, we encourage you to screen your drivers:

  • Check driving records - order Motor Vehicle reports to make sure they don't have reckless driving/careless driving convictions, multiple convictions, or even a DUI.
  • Look for experience - it's important that drivers are experienced and can handle the type of vehicle that they are driving. Young, inexperienced drivers statistically have more accidents than mature, experienced drivers. The risk is even greater when they are driving an unfamiliar vehicle with many distractions in the vehicle. Establish a minimum and a maximum age for drivers.
  • Check CDL requirements - does your state require a CDL to drive a bus or larger van? Know your state requirements.
15-Passenger Vans
  • Many churches own or rent 15-passenger vans for short-term trips, youth activities, etc. While these vehicles are in high demand, they pose a safety risk to inexperienced van drivers and other road users.
Minimize the risks associated with these vehicles with these 15-passenger van safety precautions from the NHTSA.
Hired/Non-owned vehicles

Churches frequently borrow or rent vehicles for short-term activities. If a vehicle is being rented, it should be rented in the name of the church. The person renting the vehicle must also obtain permission from the leadership board before the vehicle is rented.

If a church member is using their personal vehicle for a church-sponsored event, these are some important questions to consider:

  • Does the member have insurance and a valid license?
  • How well do you know the driver? Is he/she new to the congregation?
  • Ask the member to provide a copy of their insurance ID card, license and a recent Motor Vehicle Report.
  • Establish a minimum and a maximum age for drivers.
Mission Trips

Plan ahead before embarking on your next mission trip:

  • Do all trip members have the appropriate vaccinations? Contact your family doctor for their recommendations.
  • Have each trip member give copies of important documents, such as passports, credit cards, drivers licenses, airline tickets/boarding passes, vaccination records, etc to the church office or someone at home in case they are stolen or lost.
  • Provide a small first aid kit for each member.
  • Get a list of emergency contacts (names and phone numbers) for each trip member.
  • Has each trip member signed a trip release form?
  • Does each trip member have travel insurance?
  • Have you discussed how to conceal valuables while traveling?
Pastoral/Lay Counseling

Counseling is an important part of a church's ministry to many hurting people. Counseling can include many different areas, including marital, family relationships, grief, etc. However, today's litigious society opens the door for suits related to your counseling ministry. Consider these questions to safeguard your church:

  • Are your counseling procedures in writing and reviewed regularly with all your counselors?
  • Do you have guidelines for:
    • Reporting child/elder abuse?
    • Confidentiality of information?
    • Compliance with state laws?
  • Do you use consent forms?
  • Do you have a network of other counselors for referrals that fall outside the scope of your expertise?
  • Do you have guidelines for opposite sex counseling?
  • Do you have a second adult present when counseling minors or members of the opposite sex to prevent allegations of sexual misconduct?
  • Do you screen everybody that is providing counseling services?
  • Where are counseling services provided?
    • Only on church premises?
    • While others are present in the building?
    • Is there a window in the counseling room?
  • Are counselors careful not to use language or actions that could be considered intimidating, romantic or sexual?
  • Do you have counseling guidelines for your youth ministry workers?
Playground Safety

Ask these questions when considering the safety of your playground:

  • Is your playground inspected regularly? Do you look for:
    • Sharp objects, broken glass or other hazards that could injure children?
    • Worn equipment, broken/damaged equipment, sharp points, splintering wood?
    • Anchors that are secure?
  • Are moving parts regularly checked and lubricated?
  • Was the playground area designed and installed by professionals?
  • Do you have supervision guidelines? Is the equipment age appropriate?
  • Is it accessible to the public?
  • Is it fenced?
  • Is it installed on shock absorbing materials?
  • Other resources:
Renting Your Building

Some items to consider before renting your building:

  • Does the organization have a good reputation in your community?
  • Do you have a Facility Use form that each organization must complete prior to the rental being approved? Does the agreement:
    • Require a minimum amount of required insurance? Their liability limit should be equal to or greater than your liability limit.
    • Require that a Certificate of insurance must be provided?
    • Require a hold harmless agreement?
    • Require that your church is named as an additional insured on their insurance policy?
    • Have a statement that the organization agrees with your Church's written statement of faith (as expressed in the Church constitution, by laws or similar document).
  • Was your agreement reviewed by an attorney?
  • Do you have a standard procedure to evaluate and review rentals?
  • How will the organization be using the facility? Are they planning any high risk activities?
Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct suits are very common in churches and can have a devastating effect on the church and those involved. Churches can face allegations of negligent selection or improper screening of volunteers. Proper screening helps to reduce these allegations.

We provide the attached samples that you can modify for your specific ministry needs. We also suggest that you contact an attorney for legal compliance in your state.

The links that are provided are for organizations that are not associated with Goodville Mutual. The links are provided as a service. Goodville may not endorse all the views found on these sites nor can we guarantee that the information that is provided is current and correct.