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Streamlining Check-in For Children's Ministry

Providing a safe and secure environment for kids starts with a seamless check-in process.

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.  

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