Fewer than half of all churches screen their paid children’s ministry workers. I talked with Melissa Towers about Group’s background checking service, Shepherd’s Watch, about why it’s so important for churches to screen volunteers.
David Jennings (DJ): Why is it more important than ever to screen your ministry volunteers and workers?
Melissa Towers (MT): In this day and age, it seems that we hear about more and more cases of child abuse and sexual predators taking advantage of minors. This is probably the number one reason that churches do background checks-to keep their children and youth safe. Predators look for places that would be easy for them to gain access to children and youth. In the past, churches have been seen as places for easy access. However, because having a background check policy in place has become more commonplace in the church, predators are learning to stay away from them. When churches are consistent about requiring background checks for anyone working with minors, then it deters predators from volunteering or obtaining a position at their church. Of course, this isn’t the only reason a church needs to run background checks. They would also want to be sure to screen those who are working with vulnerable adults, driving church vehicles, and those handling church money such as ushers and treasurers, to name a few.
It’s important to note that background checks aren’t the only way to keep the church and the people within the church safe, but they are an essential piece of the puzzle. Background checks only warn you of someone if they’ve been caught and have a record. So it’s also very important to get personal references and do other things to ensure the people coming to your church are safe. Because we understand this, Shepherd’s Watch not only helps with getting affordable and accurate background checks, but we also help you to understand the other things to do to ensure your church is a safe place to be.
DJ: What is unique/better about Shepherd’s Watch?
MT: Shepherd’s Watch is a service offered by Group Publishing. Group has been in the business of working with churches since 1974. Because of our history with churches, we understand the needs of the church. We understand their unique risks, we understand how the church operates, we understand a church’s budget, and we understand who the church serves. Plus, we’re trustworthy and we’ve negotiated low-cost background checks for our members. It’s just a one-time fee to become a member and there are no minimum orders or hidden fees.
DJ: Any testimonials or a story of someone who screened potential volunteers that our readers should hear?
MT: When we talk to churches who don’t run background checks, we like to ask them why. One misconception we hear is that they’re just too expensive. With Shepherd’s Watch, we have background check packages starting at just $9. When you consider the possible risks associated with not running background checks, this is actually a very small price to pay. We also commonly hear “our church is small and we know everyone” or “our church has been around for so long, everyone knows each other.” But think about the last person you saw in the news who was convicted of a terrible crime. Often- times when their neighbors or friends are interviewed, they express surprise about how they never would have expected it from that person. The fact is, people aren’t going to tell you they’re a bad seed. So it’s the church’s responsibility to make sure that they keep their church and the people in their church safe. Background checks are a crucial part of that.
Every 43 hours, a registered sex offender tries to obtain a volunteer or employment position at a nonprofit, according to First Advantage. As Melissa said, background checks are one piece of a puzzle to keep your ministry and kids safe. I want to hear what other steps you take for security. Let us know what you do in the comment section below!