Tips for Supervising Child & Youth Activities

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Outings, retreats and social events at the church can be fun for children and youth. However, fun can turn into tragedy if supervision is inadequate. How can your church provide supervision that will ensure the least risk possible?

No amount of preparation can guarantee that accidents will not happen, but guidelines are available to ensure churches are taking all the required steps to promote and maintain safety.

The Supervision and Discipline Checklist developed by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company is an excellent place to start when evaluating your church’s supervision of child and youth activities. The checklist asks seven questions that help you determine if your church has the right number of chaperones, the right training for your chaperones and the needed guidelines and policies to support them in carrying out their volunteer duties.

When choosing supervisors, check out the helpful tips found on this page for choosing supervisors. The tips developed by Brotherhood Mutual ask you to consider the following:

  • Has your church’s screening process been followed when choosing supervisors?
  • Are your supervisors mature individuals who have demonstrated good judgment in the past?
  • Do your volunteers have special training such as first aid and CPR training or skills related to the activity you are planning?
  • Are your supervisors able to maintain control at all times? Be wary of individuals who give in easily or who might not be able to stand up to confrontational behaviours.

Be Prepared

  • Always use parent release forms and ask parents to document on the form any medical conditions or allergies.
  • Meet with your supervisors in advance and review any risks and go over any related guidelines and policies. Discuss the events and activities and decide how you will minimize any risks. 
  • Decide in advance how you will maintain discipline and ensure it follows your church’s policies.
  • Prepare rules for the event and discuss them with youth (and parents) prior to the event.

Develop Policies

If your church hasn’t yet considered putting in place a safe church policy that will cover issues like the ones raised above, don’t put it off any longer. To learn more about safe church policies, visit the CRC’s Safe Church Ministry website. Or click here to review elements of a safe church policy.

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It's a great checklist.  However, I'd add the following "must do" item if the outing or retreat is off-site.  INSPECT THE SITE!!.  It may be that the lodge or camp that you wish to use is not safe.  A pre-inspection is a very good idea.  For example, if cleaning chemicals are stored in unlocked cabinets, if furnace rooms are unlocked, if too many rooms are easily accessible but without windows, you may be bringing your charges to an unsafe area and the best supervision in the world may not be enough.  And, of course, check to see if your insurer will cover you for off-site activities; some don't.  And finally, if the off-site activity involves an activity that is outside of the normal risk-zone for church group activities (e.g. zip line), have the parents sign a release specifically related to that particular retreat that specifically details the potential dangers.  The one-size-fits-all release that is often signed at the beginning of the season may be far too generic.