Safety first: Preserve the future of your churches

Check-in technology at Parkview Church keeps kids safe and integrates well with management software.

By Lauren Hunter

Among the most important things that church leaders can do for their congregations is keeping their children safe. In the past, many people didn’t worry about security issues at churches. However, times have changed and so have churches. Gone are the days when we simply relied on “good faith” to preserve the security of our children in the church nursery, Sunday school or youth rooms.

Over the years, technology has been introduced to churches to manage membership, financial data, volunteers and pretty much every other aspect of church life. Now, with security becoming an increasing concern in our society, software solutions are evolving for churches with children in mind as well.

Nestled in the quaint college town of Iowa City, IA, Parkview Church’s history can be traced back to the 1930s. Today, with a regular congregation of about 2,800, the church continues to serve its members in a multitude of ways.

Growing church

As Parkview has grown, the number of families that attend the church has also increased. With the growth in children came new challenges to keeping them safe while attending Sunday school, youth classes or other youth-related activities.

Recently, Parkview set out to update its child check-in capabilities. “At the time, we had no computerized check-in for our Sunday School or other related youth areas,” says Makenna Lary, Parkview’s Family Ministries administrative assistant. “Actually, we were using a rather archaic form of paper check-in and filing it away.”

The church staff spent many hours looking for top-notch security programs for churches and found that with church software, it’s often best to use a product that integrates with a church’s membership management software. The church settled on Church Community Builder to fulfill its needs.

The program is a socially-driven solution that offers everything from membership management and event calendaring to small-group communications, online giving and child check-in functionality.

Mobile kiosk stations

Lary says in order to make the transition easier, Parkview implemented mobile kiosk stations, which can simply roll wherever they need to go. “In order to save money, we obtained used and refurbished laptops and printers, and have them in rolling kiosk stations,” she says.

“We also bought used restaurant pagers to use with our software — we simply enter the pager number for each record. The pager number is located on each child’s nametag, and we simply type in the number in the box for the paging system.”

In order to keep children safe, Parkview uses an alphanumeric security code. Parents have to show their badge in order to check out their child. Another aspect is keeping the security fresh. A new code is entered on each badge every week so that if someone finds a badge in the trash or on the ground, the code wouldn’t be good for the following week.

Currently, Parkview has volunteers to help check in each child at the kiosks, which helps in getting church attendees to interact with different families on a consistent basis. “It’s a great way to interact with the families — to welcome them and have contact with different people all the time,” says Lary. “It’s a good way to be friendly and talk to people, and answer any questions. At some point, we’d like to add self check-in as well, but for now, this system is working extremely well for us.”

Parkview also uses family cards much like the coupon cards that are used at grocery stores nationwide. “They look like a credit card,” says Lary. “We assign the card to each family, and a volunteer uses a handheld scanner to scan the card, which then brings up the correct family account.”

By implementing new technology and state-of-the-art software, Parkview has taken a huge step in setting up security measures to make sure all kids are safe.

Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer, blogger, and church technology public relations consultant in Roseville, CA. [;]


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