One way to ensure a new family feels comfortable when they first visit your church is to provide a welcoming and safe area for their children.
A parent’s first impression of a children’s ministry is based on how well the church receives their kids. No mom or dad wants to hand off their precious child to a total stranger and hope everything works out okay. Parents want to know their children are accounted for at all times, in a safe and age-appropriate environment, with screened adults who’re never alone, one-on-one with their kids.
One way to ensure a great experience for parents is by providing a seamless check-in process. How you greet, receive, and place a new child into the appropriate children’s ministry room makes a big difference.
You’ll either help parents feel more at ease with your church or leave them feeling nervous throughout the worship service. To help create a great check-in process there are now children’s check-in systems complete with kiosks, mobile apps, and integrations with church management systems.
Here are key features to consider if you are looking to implement a children’s check-in system for the first time, or if you are interested in finding a better solution for your church.
FEATURE #1: ChMS INTEGRATION
Families who are members or frequent attendees may already have their contact information in your church management system. If your check-in system is part of your ChMS, you’ll have a single place to enter and update their information. This saves time and prevents potential data duplication or errors.
Many ChMS tools enable you to run reports such as attendance. If children’s check-in is part of the ChMS, you could run a report to see which families with kids haven’t checked in within the last month. From there, you could follow up with those families to see how they’re doing.
FEATURE #2: INCORPORATE INTO THE FOLLOW-UP PROCESS
When a family attends your church for the first time, you probably ask them to fill out a card during the offering portion of the service. Some people will fill that out, but not all. However, if they checked their kids in that morning, you have their contact information within the check-in system. When that system is part of your ChMS, it’s easy to leverage the data to include the new family into your automated follow-up process. This may mean the system adds Joe and Jane Smith’s email addresses to a list that receives a series of welcome and follow-up emails over the coming weeks. When asked what features ChMS customers look for in a children’s check-in system, Brian Seagraves, Ministry Brands chief innovation officer explains, “There’s an increasing realization from churches that kid’s check in is often the first and best point of contact for new families. We get requests for making this process more configurable to fit the numerous different processes churches have for outreach and follow up.”
FEATURE #3: DETAILED LABELS
When parents check in a child for the first time, the volunteer will need to enter their information into your system. Many check-in systems provide fields where you can add “Larger churches find the robust support for teacher and room coordination helpful: as rooms fill up, children and teachers can be directed to the places where they’re needed most.” – Brian Seagraves, Ministry Brands Chief Innovation Officer
essential facts about a child such as allergies, medical conditions, phone number of the adult who checked them in, and more. When you complete the check-in process, most systems print two labels – one that goes on the child that includes those key pieces of information and one that the adult uses at check out.
Also, many check-in systems print a label for the child’s guardian that doesn’t include any identifiable information on it (just in case it gets lost). In talking with church administrators, there has been feedback that more flexibility is needed with what can be included on a child’s label. This feedback aligns with what Brian Seagraves is hearing from customers. “With a growing emphasis on a particular church’s style, our customers are requesting even more design and configuration options around the badges that are printed at check in. They want to be able to modify each nametag and the logo that is displayed, based on the activity they are checking into,” says Seagraves.
FEATURE #4: MOBILE CHECK-IN
Today we do so much on our mobile devices, so it’s only natural that parents would look for the ability to check their kids in on their phone (especially when one kid wasn’t cooperating that morning, and they’re running late). When asked about the most popular features of their children’s check-in systems Seagraves shares, “Churches love the ability for families to check in on their way to the church service via their phone (iOS is the most popular) so they can avoid the lines.”.
FEATURE #5: SELF CHECK-IN
As long as a family is already in your system, most check-in systems allow you to set up self-service stations so parents can quickly check in their kids. A few steps over to a nearby label printer means they can attach the right label to each child, then make sure their kids get to the correct entrance for their rooms.
FEATURE #6: MANAGE ROOM CAPACITY
For churches with several children’s rooms and volunteers, it can get hectic on a Sunday morning trying to make sure no room exceeds child to volunteer ratio limits. Some check-in systems enable church leaders to set a limit for each room, so once a room reaches full capacity, you can’t check additional kids into that room. If a room reaches capacity, those running check-in can divert children to other rooms right away.
FEATURE #7: WEEKEND TECHNICAL SUPPORT
The system worked fine last Sunday and even during mid-week services, so of course, it has to have a glitch on Sunday morning. Fortunately, many children’s check-in vendors provide tech support on the weekends – during peak church service hours – to help you troubleshoot and fix issues. With all this in mind, what does the future of children’s check-in systems look like? Seagraves explains, “The two biggest trends in check-in will continue to be in the areas of mobile and machine learning. Mobile devices are ubiquitous, and check-in software will continue to find new ways to streamline the process of checking in by the use of mobile devices being contextually (location) aware of when and where families can check in (pre-check from the car, prompts as you’re walking in the parking lot, digital pick up tags, etc.).
Many systems have traditionally relied on administratively burdensome configuration to ensure that parents are shown the proper options for what to check their kids into. With the application of machine learning, systems like ours are learning where children should be checked in based on history, context, and demographic factors. We will only see emphasis on mobile and machine learning as time progresses.”
Consider talking with parents who’ve recently joined your church or who’ve visited a few times. Get their initial impressions of your check-in process and see if there’s room for improvement. As you decide whether to implement a new system, look for these features and evaluate potential options based on which will work best for your church’s needs.