You don’t have to search hard to realize how dangerous our world can be at times. Go to your favorite news site, and you’ll see headline after headline where a predator has gone undetected or slipped through the cracks, and as a result, another victim was added to the statistics. A quick Google search for Church Predator Abuse returns 8,600,000 results in 0.57 seconds! It’s sick, and it’s sad, but it’s a reality. We need to keep kids safe in 2019.

Consequences of abuse:

Victims of child abuse often struggle with the emotional and spiritual effects of this sin for the rest of their lives. Sadly, child abuse victims are themselves at higher risk of inflicting the abuse on other children. Allegations of abuse can also tarnish, sometimes irretrievably, a church’s ministry. Instead of being able to discuss the gospel, leadership must spend their time explaining to the media, to the courts, and to visitors why they weren’t able to prevent the abuse. Also, of course, the financial impact can be devastating as well. Some churches have faced verdicts of up to $100 million for child abuse committed by those whom they were charged with supervising. Any church that sends an individual to serve in ministry (even those that serve without pay) may be held responsible for the actions of that individual.

The pain and damage from this is far-reaching. The shame and guilt can be crushing. A world like this demands that you ensure your ministry is not seen as a soft-target to would be predators. One of the strongest predictors of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. Background checks are your window into the past and a vital element in a healthy church risk-management program.

What is a background check?

A background check is a “records” screening of an individual which can be as little as a one-county check or as in-depth as a Security clearance investigation. Public and private records can be searched once applicant consent is given. The industry standard for turn-around time on a background check is 72 hours; however, some providers have same-day to 48-hour turn-around times.

Why do background checks?

A ministry that serves children and youth must exercise “due diligence” with regards to protecting its members, especially the children. By performing background checks on your volunteers, your ministry is putting up a safeguard at the “doorway” of the organization that will, in most cases, scare off sexual predators. You’ll also offer better peace of mind to discerning parents when choosing a church, by knowing your ministry is being proactive in trying to protect the children and that you do not tolerate, or turn a blind eye to abuse.

What criteria should your ministry require for a background check?

Multiple databases are searched to provide background information, however, they are not equally maintained and accessed by each state. This makes universal criteria hard to enforce. For that reason, it’s critical that you partner with a credible background screening company. At the very minimum, the background check should cover Social Security Number Verification, National Criminal Search, Sex Offender Registries Search and offer “re-verification” of records from the national criminal database and also do a “true” 50 state search on sexual offenders.

Choosing a trusted background check provider

Your background check provider should become an extension of your ministry and help to evaluate needs and implement and maintain a thorough background-screening program for employees and volunteers. Look for background check providers that offer different packages. Also, choose a provider that helps you with selecting the proper searches with recommendations based on the quality of data available in each state and industry best practices. Some simplify this process through an intuitive online consultation.

Before sending national background results to their clients, background check providers should verify the accuracy of the information by thoroughly reviewing every positive record “hit” returned from the national criminal & sex offender database. Then ensure those records are “frozen” for further investigation at the county courthouse before being returned and included in a final report. Doing this will prevent you from getting “false positives,” which can happen when doing national database searches. From there further due diligence is required, filtering out unreportable records (e.g., parking tickets). Clearing out unreportable records before sending results is the best way to protect the applicant’s rights and is required by the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA). A complete final report should include the following:

  • Case numbers
  • File Dates 
  • Complete description of charges 
  • Sentencing information 
  • Disposition and dates 
  • Full explanation for cases with multiple charges.

There are many excellent background-screening companies around the country, but there are many who are either not in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA, the federal law intended to protect individuals from lousy background checks) or are so cavalier with their quality that they routinely misreport negative information. This is bad for job seekers, volunteers, employers, and the background screening industry. Be wary of any background check service offering you instant results, unless there is a proactive re-verification process as well.

Screening Policies

It is imperative to implement a screening policy that depends on more than just background checks to succeed in the goal of protecting your ministry, children, and volunteers/staff from the risks and allegations of abuse.

There Are Three Key Elements to a Screening Policy:




Each element helps to identify whether or not an individual has anything in his/her background that would pose any danger to children. Moreover, while no background screening is perfect, these three elements when combined will help your church and ministry demonstrate that you have used reasonable care and diligence in selecting those who serve. Also, remember that background checks are not [foolproof] and constant vigilance is imperative. All staff and volunteers should be required to review the basic principles of sound child protection and procedures and complete child safety training as well. Child safety training is all about bringing awareness to those working with the most vulnerable. This helps them understand the methods that predators use when identifying and developing relationships with their victims.

Integrated Solutions

Technology is moving faster than ever before and selecting a background check provider that can integrate with your existing ChMS software is a smart move that can save you time and money. Integrated background check solutions are designed to save time and money. When working on your church’s budget, it’s crucial to factor in every dollar including how much time it’s going to take to complete specific tasks. Let’s face it — some of us enjoy using technology, and others would rather stick to pen and paper. However, even if you love technology, when it isn’t tailored to your specific needs it makes it twice as hard to adopt in the church office. The best background check integrations are manageable at every skill level, and because the technology aligns with your church’s vision and integrates with systems you already have in place, it’s easier to focus on growth, engagement, and protecting your ministry.

The world of background checks and church risk mitigation can be overwhelming at times. Being a church leader in 2019 requires that you become focused on spending your time where it makes the most significant impact: teaching, leading, and making disciples. Selecting a background check company focused on ministry that understands the unique needs of a church will not only make this much more comfortable on you as a church leader, but it will also ensure you are protecting what matters most.

Source: Ministry Tech


Shelby Systems has decades of experience working with ministries of all sizes, for more creative ideas and suggestions contact your Shelby Sales Consultant today!