As ministry leaders, we face many challenges when recruiting and mobilizing staff and volunteers. One of those challenges is to make sure we appropriately screen our ministry team members. Research tells us that each year, children are victimized by individuals they know and trust. So, more than ever, we need established policies and protocols to ensure the safety of our children.
The church is not immune to the potential for abuse or neglect of children. Everyone who participates in church-sponsored activities with children should be required to comply with a Child, Youth and Worker Protection Policy. The church should also communicate this policy publicly.
The following eight steps can help you when establishing such a policy (For a sample of our Child, Youth and Worker Protection Policy, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.). These steps are the beginning of our program's policy:
Step 1: All Children's Equipping Center staff must complete a thorough screening process.
Step 2: All applicants are required to attend an on-ramp orientation class. This class should provide training in all policies, procedures and protocols, along with an understanding of the ministry's vision, values and program practices.
Step 3: All applicants will then complete a ministry application. This gives the staff permission to review the applicant's history and run a local, national and international background check, which will then be reviewed by the director of children's ministry and the screening/deployment team. This will include vetting the applicant with public registries of state, national and international sex offenders.
Step 4: Applicants who are cleared and who have passed all background checks are interviewed by senior-level deployment directors only. Prior to or just after the interview process, a director will also review and contact all references listed by the applicant.
Step 5: If an applicant is approved to continue in the process of being deployed, the applicant's name should be vetted through other senior-level directors and leaders within the church.
Step 6: Finally, the applicant's information will be reviewed by deployment directors, who will go over the application, background checks, interview responses and reference responses, as well as all internal review processes.
Step 7: This senior team will make a final decision to approve or deny the individual's placement.
Step 8: If approved, the applicant will be deployed to a department director for observation and assignment.
This vetting process may seem extensive, but our entire staff should represent Christ well. As we draw children into the presence and power of the Lord, my prayer is that He will give us wisdom when mobilizing and releasing staff.
Lenny La Guardia is executive director of the Children's Equipping Center and vice president of ministries at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.
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