I am wanting some advice on what to do when a child turns up to church without a parent or guardian.
We had a boy about 10yrs ride to church after dad called the church to find out what time church started last week and then was dropped off by an aunty today. Both weeks he was bought into to our childrens church late in by a well meaning steward so not officially checked in and so I asumed there was a parent or guardian in the service. That was until the steward told me how great it was that he'd come to church by himself....um no...I have absolutely no idea who he belongs to when someone comes to pick him up or any contact details if we should need them.
Mum came to collect him after church and I gave her one of our registration forms so that we have some contact details but I am still not sure where we stand legally/duty of care. I thought childrens church operated like a creche ie a parent or guardian need to be in the building at all times. I don't want to squash his enthusiasm to come to church by himself but would like to know how others manage this situation in regards to checkin/checkout and possible custody issues.
(Perth, Western Australia)
I would require parents to sign children in whether via a tag system or a simple sign in list. I would explain that you will be contacting them in the service if needed. There was a day when we could accept drop offs but no longer because of too many issues. When I have a special event it may be a drop off but not for worship when adult worship is also offered.
What an opportunity to visit the home. Did the mom return the registration form? A few thoughts.
We have two trailer parks on either side of our church, so we'll have kids walk themselves over to church and never see an adult with them. Our rules are to collect as much information as the kid can give. We let the child know that when they come, they must check themselve in like all the other students and stay for the entire service. They can't come and go as they please. Their parent tag is given to their small group leader and the leader is the one that gives them permission to leave the group.
We do texting to contact parents during service, which most kids are going to know their parents cell number at the least. I'd give a call to try to find out more info about the kid and which adults are approved to pick up the child for security measures, but we've had kids that come to church by themselves that eventually get their parents here, so I don't see a problem.
It's a hard situation to be in. We have been dealing with this issue much more often as we have started our Awana Program. We really need to focus on what the main goal is, reaching everyone with the truth of the gospel.
I always send home a registration form with the child, and intentionally go out to the car with them to introduce myself to whomever picks them up. Do all you can to get into their lives, find out where they are from. Most the time the kids will be the ones to give you the information, not the adults! Just keep moving forward with preaching the gospel to them! Encouragement to you, I know it is hard to feel like you don't know where they come from!