3 Ways to Improve Safety at Your Parish

Family at a Catholic Church

Safe environments are everyone’s responsibility. That’s why it is empowering to know how you can improve the safety at your parish and protect your parishioners and visitors.

Safety is a Huge Concern

Keeping people safe is one of the main concerns that ParishSOFT’s partner Protect My Ministry routinely hear from their clients. Here’s what some of them have to say:

“With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I can attest to the fact that the strongest predictor of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. As the manager of campus safety, I depend on Protect my Ministry to provide a thorough assessment of every criminal history background check we request.”

“We have benefited from knowing that we are not exposing the communities we work with or ourselves to unnecessary risk. We continue to have a perfect record in that we have never had a serious incident with a trip participant causing harm or acting inappropriately with any community member or fellow team member- thank goodness!”

Although many parishes have used background checks in the past, many are coming to Protect My Ministry with serious safety concerns that they don’t know how to handle. So with the needs of parishes in mind, here are 3 affordable steps you can take to improve safety at your church.

Complete a safety assessment. It is important to many parishes to be known as welcoming, open and inviting, in order to provide as many as possible a peaceful place to worship. Providing more security measures, however, doesn’t need to infringe on these values. Balanced and sensitive efforts that reflect a spirit of hospitality, but also take into account serious considerations for increased security measures can help create an environment where everyone feels welcome and safe.

Safety assessments offer a solid baseline to identify security strengths and weaknesses.  As one of Protect My Ministry’s referral partners, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company says, “They’re an essential part of keeping your staff and parishioners aware of safety issues and taking meaningful steps to address them.”

You can find free safety assessments for parishes at a variety of locations around the web, but be sure they include checklists for building and properties, employee trainings (like abuse prevention), hiring measures (like background checks), emergency safety protocols, guidelines for working off-hours, and first aid situations.

Sometimes, an outside perspective is needed to see things that you might’ve overlooked. Consider tapping one or more of these experts in your area to help you assess the safety of your ministry:

  • Ambulance workers
  • Fire service workers
  • American Red Cross staff or volunteers
  • Insurance agents
  • Police or local sheriff staff
  • Security consultants

Conduct safety trainings. What are appropriate guidelines for supervising children? What would you do if someone showed up for Mass carrying a large backpack? Is it okay for a youth group leader to give a student a front-facing hug for a job well done? These are all questions that parish leaders, employees, additional temporary staff and volunteers should all know the answers to. If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, contact Protect My Ministry for assistance.

Safety trainings should be a key component to any hiring and on boarding processes you have. They should also be required during annual reviews. You simply can’t ever be too safe.

Implement background checks. Last, but certainly not least, is to conduct background checks on all employees, volunteers, and temporary staff. Background checks are an indispensible tool that you have at your disposal to protect your people. Fortunately background checks are also affordable, but if money is a concern, you can request prospective employees and volunteers cover the cost.

Why are background checks effective? Here are three reasons:

  1. Studies show that 30-40% of all job applicants put false information on their resumes or applications, and “exaggerate” their qualifications during interviews. A background check and help you find potential falsification of data before hiring the employee.
  2. Lawsuits for “negligent hiring” are on the rise. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, the employer may be liable. So when considering an applicant, it’s in the parish’s best interest to find out if that person has done anything in the past which might indicate future problems.
  3. Child abuse and abductions in churches do happen. Background checks combined with rigorous training and procedural standards create a safeguard at the doorway of your parish that are much more likely to scare off predators.

Certainly, there are more things individual ministries can to improve safety at your church, committing to the safeguarding of your parishioners and visitors as an undeniable priority. ParishSOFT’s partner Protect My Ministry understands the unique needs of parishes and they work hard to develop the right programs for you. Give them a call today at 1-800-319-5581 – and be sure to mention that you are a ParishSOFT customer.

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