Volunteer Screening Becoming the Norm for Churches

Unfortunately, red-flagging volunteers has become a necessary process for churches.
Unfortunately, red-flagging volunteers has become a necessary process for churches. (Flickr )

Almost half of the background checks requested by churches through LifeWay's program with backgroundchecks.com reveals some type of criminal offense.

Most of those are minor incidents such as speeding tickets, but 21 percent of inquiries discovered misdemeanors or more serious crimes, according to LifeWay's Jennie Taylor.

Since 2008, when LifeWay began its relationship with backgroundchecks.com, more than 11,300 churches and religious organizations have conducted almost 230,000 background checks using the program. In the past year, more than 2,100 churches have signed up through the LifeWay ONESource program.

CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach, Florida has been using backgroundchecks.com for five years. Sandy Watts, ministry assistant at the church, said, "We feel it is vital to be able to assure parents who entrust their children to us that the adults caring for and supervising their children are safe and have a clear background."

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Watts said most of their checks returned clear, but the few that have been flagged allowed church leadership to talk more deeply with the individuals and sometimes suggest other areas of the church that might be better suited for their service.

Chris Smith, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Beckley, West Virginia, said his church began using the service last year to screen volunteers for their AWANA clubs and the congregation was "eager to participate."

"We wanted to make sure the children are safe and the parents can have confidence in our volunteer staff," he said. "Having the information available to the leadership has given folks a greater sense of safety for the children, the youth and adults."

For Smith, it also serves as an avenue for community outreach. "Our church not only has a greater level of comfort knowing our volunteers and pastor are screened," he said, "but we can share that as a part of our outreach to neighborhood parents who send or might send their children to our ministry."

For Westwood Baptist Church in Alexandria, Alabama, the program allows church leaders to screen those participating in mission trips. Any adult who wants to volunteer must submit to a background check, said Janice Sheitlin, group leader for the church's World Changer missions team.

Sheitlin said she has been impressed with both the cost and speed of the service. "Since the background checks are inexpensive that helps your missions budget," she said. "Also, you're able to quickly enter the person's information and receive a report within a few moments."

Despite the risks involved, Taylor said, many churches have never done background screenings. Because of this, she said LifeWay negotiated a discounted screening price to encourage churches to take this precaution. The relationship with backgroundchecks.com is invaluable if "even one child or church is protected as a result," said Taylor.

For more information on background checks, visit lifeway.com/backgroundchecks or call (800) 464-2799. For additional resources to help churches avoid the devastating effects of sexual abuse and other moral failures by staff members or volunteers, visit lifeway.com/onesource, sbclife.net/pdf/protectingourchildren.pdf or sbc.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention.asp.

Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit blog.lifeway.com.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders