With schools back in session and the weather starting to cool, it’s clear that fall is here. Many churches plan fall festivals during this season as a fun, family-friendly way to reach the community and spread the Gospel. But a large event with a variety of activities can present numerous risks to your church. Fortunately, with a little forethought and planning, you can protect your ministry and create a fun, safe environment for the families in your community.
Below are six tips for hosting a safe fall festival at your church.
1) Make sure your ministry is covered.
Prior to hosting a fall festival or any special event, your church should review its insurance policy and make sure that the policy covers activities outside of the regular ministry schedule. Some policies have special events exclusions, which could leave your church unprotected in the event of an injury or accident at your fall event.
If you use any third-party vendors, whether for food, games, or inflatables, require them to sign a contract with the church and provide a certificate of insurance. Keep an eye out for indemnification language in the contract that states your church will hold the company harmless if anything happens—if not deleted, your ministry could end up being liable in the event of an accident caused by that vendor’s service.
2) Provide proper supervision.
Supervision is essential to having a safe and enjoyable festival. At least two adults should be on hand in each area to supervise every activity, from games to inflatables to bonfires. If you have teen volunteers working as well, make sure each one is paired with an adult. As with any other church activity, require all volunteers to pass a background check and a reference check.
Consider creating a security team, especially if your fall festival is a large event. Just the presence of a security team can dissuade many participants from unsafe behaviors, and if an incident does occur, this team can be responsible for securing the situation and contacting the proper authorities, if necessary. It’s also a good idea to consider having a medical professional available to tend to any minor injuries or emergencies.
3) Keep parking and traffic organized.
Be sure to have some form of traffic control in place. Develop a parking plan and determine what options are available for overflow parking, should you need it. Many festivals continue after dark, so ensure that the parking lot has proper lighting to protect children and adults walking to and from cars. Depending on the size of your event, you may need to ask for help from local law enforcement to direct traffic.
4) Ensure that rules are known and followed.
Establish safety rules for each game or activity and post these rules in a visible place. Certain events like hayrides and bonfires offer a higher potential for injury, so require volunteers in charge of those events to make the safety rules clear to participants. Keep in mind that safety rules are of no use if they’re not implemented—have volunteers monitor the activity and make sure everyone follows the established rules.
5) Avoid injuries from inflatables.
Inflatables, like bounce houses, can be a significant hazard if they are not properly set up and monitored. Be sure to rent inflatables from a reputable, insured company that will perform the installation and tear-down for you. Require adult supervision of inflatables at all times, and be aware of weight and age limits. If your inflatable will be outside, keep a close watch on the weather forecast and wind speed, as high winds can cause inflatables to blow over.
6) Pay attention to the details.
Candy is a fun reward for games and activities, but make sure the candy you use is safe. Only hand out prepackaged candy to children and remind parents to throw away any candy that looks like it may have been tampered with.
Flickering candles can create a festive ambiance, but having open flames is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Instead, use nonflammable LED candles to create the same glow without the fire hazard.
While this list doesn’t cover every aspect of planning a fall festival, it offers a good starting point. A strong safety plan creates a safer environment for all in attendance and allows both volunteers and participants to enjoy your church festival.
For more information about church risk management, check out our risk management resources, where you’ll find free videos, articles, and downloads.
This information is not legal advice. Information is from sources deemed reliable. Information is subject to error, omission, withdrawal, or change. Contact your own legal advisor before taking any action that would have a legal consequence.