Church Check-In Stations: A Short Guide to Everything You Need to Know
Check-in stations can be a massive source of stress. Here's a guide to creating a church check-in station that's easy-to-find, fast, and secure.
January 18, 2019
Checking in children before your worship service can be stressful.
Most families in your church will not arrive 30 minutes before your service starts.
Families will arrive with enough time to check in their children to your children’s ministry before your worship service starts.
Know what else?
Other families (including mine) will show up just when your service is starting. I have five kids at home, and there are plenty of mornings when we’re rushing out of the door to get to our church’s worship service on time.
Getting to your church’s building or facility is one thing for families.
Families checking in their children to your children’s ministry is another thing.
Here’s the deal:
Families expect that your church’s check-in station is easy-to-find, fast, and secure.
Not getting any of these factors right will not only increase a family’s stress, anxiety, and awkwardness (I mean, who likes sitting down late after a worship service starts?).
Not getting your church’s check-in process dialed in can also discourage visitors from making a return visit.
To help you create a seamless and secure check-in process, I’m going to show you how to:
Set up your check-in station
Use a computer
Prepare your print station
Make your check-in station secure
Require a background check
Train your volunteers
Promote our check-in station
Let’s get started!
#1. Set up your check-in station
The first thing you’ll need to do is create a check-in station for your children’s ministry.
A check-in station is the place you’ll direct parents and guardians to check in their children. It’s a location people can sign in their kids and get the information they need about your children’s ministry.
The size of your church will influence the number of check-in stations you need to have. There’s no magic number to shoot for. But the main thing to keep in mind is efficiency.
For example, if it takes 10-15 minutes for a parent to check in their children before your worship service, then you’ll need to increase the number of check-in stations for people to use. This way you can reduce the amount of time it takes for someone to check in their children.
Where you position your check-in station and how you layout the area is up to you. But focus on making this location easy to find—especially for first-time guests.
Now that you have your check-in station in place, it’s time to get it ready for your church members and guests.
#2. Use a computer
With Tithe.ly ChMS, the first piece of equipment you’ll need is a computer running Mac OS or Windows.
For the sake of over communication, whatever type of computer you use, be sure you can connect it to the Internet wirelessly or with a hardline. How you connect to the Internet will influence the location of your print station or place you in a position to purchase a WiFi booster or extender to ensure you have a consistent and reliable Internet connection.
For many of the churches we serve, they only use a computer—and that’s totally fine. At the end of the day, you just need to be able to check in children and keep them safe.
Interested in using a label printer?
Then check out the next step. If not, feel free to skip to step 4.
#3. Prepare your print station
A print station is a great way to create a seamless and secure check-in process for the families in your church.
A print station is a device connected to a label printer.
To set up your print station with Tithe.ly, you can use three pieces of equipment:
Label printer (not required)
Barcode scanner (not required)
I just covered what type of computer you’ll need above.
So the next piece of equipment you’ll need to use is a label printer.
A label printer can support a seamless check in and check out experience, and they can make it easier for you to create a secure environment and keep track of who’s coming and going.
For your print station, you can test these options:
DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo
DYMO LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo
DYMO LabelWriter Wireless
For help setting up a label printer in your church with Tithe.ly ChMS, click here.
Another piece of equipment you can use is a barcode scanner.
A barcode scanner isn’t required. But using one can speed up the check-in process. With this device, your church member can bring a pre-printed barcode label or ID Card to check in quickly.
With Tithe.ly ChMS, the type of barcode scanner you use doesn’t really matter. Feel free to use something inexpensive or splurge on the latest device. What’s most important is that the scanned value of your barcode is the same as the profile of your church member.
#4. Make your check-in station secure
Church security is essential to your children's ministry, and your children’s security doesn’t stop at check-in or check-out.
You also need to protect their information.
When families check in their children to your children’s ministry or church event, they will also share with you their personal information. From their child’s date of birth to relevant medical history, you’ll have access to information families don’t want you to share with just anyone.
To ensure that a child's information is secure, limit who can access this information in your church management software. With Tithe.ly ChMS, you can limit what information can be accessed by different people. For example, you may only want your children ministry volunteers to have access to information related to the children in their ministry instead of every volunteer and church leader to have access.
Limiting who can access family information is one extra level of security you can provide.
To help you think through who needs to know what in your church, ask these two questions:
Who needs access to children’s information?
What type of access does he or she need?
In accessing a child’s information, your leaders in children ministry most likely will need access. But your worship leader probably doesn’t.
When it comes to the type of access you can provide, do you want your volunteers or staff to be able to see the information or do they need to keep it up-to-date or edit it?
After you answer these two questions, you’ll know who needs to have access to the information of the children in your church.
Talking about protecting your children, another added level of security you should provide is running background checks on your children’s ministry volunteers.
This requirement will provide an extra level of safety for your children.
For larger churches in size, this step is a no brainer. It’s tough to review every volunteer carefully. For smaller churches, you may not feel this step is necessary. But that’s not the case.
Regardless of the size of your church, you should require volunteers to submit a background check before they’re allowed to serve and once every two years.
We cannot stress enough the safety of the children you serve.
The child’s safety is of vital importance, and the parents and guardians who give you the privilege of ministering to their children also expect their child/children to be safe.
By overlooking the safety of your children’s ministry, you are placing children at risk, and a visiting family in need of hearing the gospel and growing in Christ may not return if they’re not secure in how you handle things.
#5. Train your volunteers
You’re going to run into a problem at some point with your check-in station.
Something’s not going to work, or someone won’t know how to work it.
Regardless of what goes down, you need to be prepared to resolve whatever problem you or your visitor runs into. To do this, you need to get people ready to help.
Thankfully, there’s not too much involved with training your volunteers.
Here’s a list of items you’ll need to cover:
How do I check-in and check-out a child?
How do I add someone new to the system?
How do I ensure the label printer is connected?
How do I replace labels in the label printer?
What does the information on the labels mean?
What are the common FAQs?
Having trained volunteers at your church check-in station will ensure things run smoothly, and that children remain safe.
#6. Promote your check-in station
Are you launching a new check-in station?
Do you have a lot of new guests visiting your church?
If you answered “yes” to either one of these questions, consider running a pre-registration campaign to get people registered and comfortable with your check-in station.
To run a pre-registration campaign, it’s best to do so before children go back to school in the fall or spring. This way you can help as many parents and guardians register their children in your system ahead of time.
During this campaign, encourage families to share as much relevant information as possible. To best serve children in your children’s ministry, it’s ideal to have on file allergies, special needs, and even custody arrangements.