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Q+A: Why Is It Important for Churches to Screen Volunteers?

Fewer than half of all churches screen their paid children’s ministry workers. So we talked with Melissa Towers about Group’s background checking service, Shepherd’s Watch, on why it’s so important for churches to screen volunteers.

Why is it more important than ever to screen your ministry volunteers and workers?

Melissa: 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 had reputations as places for easy access. However, since conducting background checks has become more common in the church, predators are learning to stay away from them.

When churches are consistent about requiring background checks for anyone working with minors, 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 should also screen those who are working with vulnerable adults, driving church vehicles, and handling church money, such as ushers and treasurers, for example.

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 important to get personal references and conduct other safety measures 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 understand what to do to ensure your church is a safe place to be.

What is unique/better about Shepherd’s Watch?

Melissa: 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 the unique risks, how the church operates, a church’s budget, and 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.

Any testimonials or a story of someone who screened potential volunteers that we should hear?

Melissa: 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 $12. 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 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. We want to hear what other steps you take for security. Let us know what you do in the comment section below!

Looking for more information on keeping your ministry safe? Check out these posts!

4 thoughts on “Q+A: Why Is It Important for Churches to Screen Volunteers?

  1. AfypavKopi

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  2. To find out whether an applicant or volunteer has a criminal past, a nonprofit organization may have access to state and federal criminal history repositories. Organizations may also employ professional background screening companies. Many commercial companies that perform employee screening have established programs specifically for nonprofit organizations seeking to check volunteers.


      Thanks for that input! No matter where you’re getting your background checks from, you always want to make sure it’s an organization that has access to a full database, not just partial information.

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for the information. I agree with the previous poster that it should be a full database background check. Do you know if there is any federal legislation regarding background checks within religious organizations?

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