Camp meeting time is an especially wonderful time for children! In Children’s Ministries we look forward to it and prepare for it year round. Having 900 children at Gladstone Park for camp meeting comes with unique challenges. One of the most important challenges is keeping the children safe.
If you go to any Children’s Ministries conference, you will see several companies displaying and explaining their kids’ check-in systems. Likewise, if you go on-line you will find several more. Upon having conversations with these companies, it became apparent their systems would not work for our unique situation at camp meeting for several reasons:
1. These systems print out two name tags on labels; one for the child and one for the parent. You can put these on the back of the shirt of the younger children so they don’t tear them off, but, when it comes to older, primary age children, these labels don’t stay on very long creating a need to print new ones for each meeting.
2. Most of our meeting places are temporary, outdoor structures with limited access to electricity for setting up computers and printers, as well as not having a strong wifi signal.
3. These systems cannot be used with wristbands, which we use because of their durability to withstand the wear and tear of camp meeting fun.
Two years ago, the NAD/AdventSource VBX began offering a check-in system. With this system a parent can text a code to a telephone number and they are then sent a link to a web site for registering their child(ren) for the upcoming VBX program.
We then began a conversation with Todd Gessele from Totally Inspired Media to find out if this VBX check-in system could be adapted for our unique situation and by camp meeting 2017 the system was up and running thanks to support from our Oregon Conference administration.
For our situation here is what we do with this adapted system:
1. Our staff simply checks-in the child(ren) using the last four digits of the registered phone number. Each child being checked-in by an adult gets a colored wrist band with that same four digits on it and the adult receives a matching one as well.
2. For check-out, the child(ren) and adult picking up show their wrist band number to a staff member. If the numbers are a match, the child is free to go with that adult.
3. We can now use the collected data from registration to send out a mailing to invite the children back the next year which is a wonderful thing as many of the children who come to camp meeting with grandparents, uncles and aunts as well as parents, this is their one touch point with Jesus, the gospel and church.
The outcome from our 2017 camp meeting registration system was great!. This year we will continue to streamline our process and train more volunteers. We are happy to note that there were fewer lost parents (and children).
Shirley Allen is the Children’s Ministry Director for the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists