Although many stores already have Christmas items on display, for most of us October means fall fun and festivals. Before you carve that pumpkin, keep these five C’s in mind to ensure a safe event.
Candles Never use real candles to set the mood. Whether used for spooky or romantic purposes, candles present a fire hazard, a potential for burns, and they can cause a big mess! (Call us for the secret recipe for how to get wax out of your church carpet!) Instead use electric tea lights, which will also save you time and money. If you’re decorating with holiday light strands, use only those that are UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) approved. Inspect lights for frays, weak cords, and broken bulbs, and never have more than three strands on one extension cord.
Costumes Request that kids wear costumes without face masks. Masks often cause visual impairment, and this can lead to slips, falls, and lots of spilled cider. Consider having your adult team members wear the same T-shirt or costume so they’re easily identifiable as those in charge.
Candy If you’re giving out treats, make sure you don’t get tricked. Only accept donations of wrapped candy or snack items. Aunt Mabel may make the best homemade candy apples, but insist on only store-bought items. Since peanuts present an issue with food allergies, play it safe and don’t offer any food items that contain nuts.
Consent Be sure to have all children register. This can be with a simple form that parents complete as they walk in, or it may involve an online process ahead of time. You’ll want to collect some basic information on each child such as emergency contact, existing medical conditions including allergies, parent or guardian who will pick up the child after the event, and the best phone number to call if someone needs to be contacted.
Checking Consider obtaining a background check on the volunteers who will have direct (and often unsupervised) contact with the children or youth. Episodic volunteering (helping out at a one-time event) is often an enticement to the very people you don’t want to have access to kids. While you won’t need to screen volunteers who help decorate, make the snacks, or do registration, be sure to check those who may be taking kids around in small groups.
Come to think of it, these tips can assist with another C word—Christmas. Keep these safety practices in mind for any holiday events you have coming up. Now go and C—celebrate!
[We love to provide tips to keep your ministry safe. You may also want to consult your local legal advisors to get their perspective on this topic.]