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Wolves Among Sheep

Christine Yount Jones

Excuses, Excuses

Excuses vary from "It could never happen here" to "We can't scare off the few volunteers we have with that!" Excuse-proof your ministry with these responses to protect the children in your care.

"It could never happen here." Oh, yes it could. One thing that makes it difficult to spot abusers without security procedures is that they look like regular people. They come in all ages, genders, socioeconomic levels, locations, spiritual maturities, and ethnicities. If you don't believe it, visit to find registered sex offenders in your area.

"It'll scare off potential volunteers." Yes, it might, and volunteers can be tough to recruit. "Most churches hurt for volunteers," agrees Holsten, who has extensive experience as a police officer and criminal investigator; but he warns: "Sexual predators may be the first to offer help -- hoping for an eventual 'pay off' for their efforts."

Think about this: How many more volunteers would be scared off by an actual case of child abuse or even a hint of impropriety in your children's ministry? Not to mention the families who would flee as well.

"It costs too much." Does it? You can pay now -- or pay later. With Shepherd's Watch background checks at, you can get a comprehensive background check for $9 per person. Even with 1,000 volunteers, that's a cost of $9,000. Compare that with the hundreds of thousands your church will pay with one allegation and lawsuit of child abuse. If you face litigation, courts look at whether you applied "due diligence" -- that you did everything reasonably required to protect kids. Background and reference checks for all volunteers and staff is the first step of what's reasonably required.

Get your team to chip in. Dave Thornton, Director of Church Volunteer Central and, says, "Many churches ask their volunteers to pay for the background check so it doesn't take such a big chunk out of the ministry budget."

"The process is too complicated." Only if you try to do it all yourself. At Shepherd's Watch, you download the "Permission to Obtain a Background Check" form and have each volunteer sign and date it. Then enter the volunteer's data and view a completed report in less than a minute. It's not too complicated.

"Our volunteers have been teaching forever. I can't ask them now." Why not? All your volunteers need to know is your heart.

"Churches must protect our little ones -- whatever the challenge," says Anita Weldon, Discovery Island director at NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan. "Satan is out there working to destroy God's work and the lives of our kids and adults."

Let your volunteers know first about your heart for children loving God in a safe environment, and then explain the risk (use this article). Assure everyone of complete confidentiality. Make no exceptions and conduct a background check on your entire staff.

"Everyone knows everyone here." Really? That may be the problem. Studies show that 85 percent of children are molested by someone they know. The sad fact is that whenever a pastor, teenager, grandmother, parent, or anyone abuses a child, people say things like, "I never dreamed she could do that." Of course not! That's why child molesters can get close to children -- we don't suspect them, and deception is the best weapon in their arsenal.

"My volunteers are concerned about identity theft." Not to worry, according to Thornton. "Securing background checks does require a church to gather personal information, including Social Security numbers," he says. "Assure your volunteers that all forms will be stored in a secure locked file cabinet."
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