Background check “helps keep kids safe”

Published Nov 01, 2013

NASHVILLE (BP) – The man serving snow cones at your Vacation Bible School is a convicted sex offender.

That was the news Bill Jones had to deliver to one of the pastors in his association.

The pastor came to Jones after learning a volunteer, who had been a “model church member” for two years, may have had a criminal record.

“(The pastor) asked if I would do a background search, as I often do for our smaller churches that cannot afford it themselves,” said Jones, executive director of Neches River Baptist Association in Crockett, TX.

The report did uncover a sex offense conviction, so the pastor and one of his deacons dealt with the volunteer.

Tom Belew, California Southern Baptist Convention childhood specialist, noted that background checks are “an important part of providing a safe and secure place for kids. Effective worker screening for volunteers and staff include an application, a background check, reference checks and an interview prior to placement in a ministry.”

“A person should be a member of the church for six months before being placed in a ministry position,” Belew added.

The Texas church was one of nearly 5,000 congregations and religious organizations that have used www.backgroundchecks.com over the past five years, through a relationship with LifeWay Christian Resources. There have been more than 84,500 background checks run through the www.LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks program during that time.

Of those checks, 53 percent (44,946) returned some type of issue, according to Jennie Taylor, a LifeWay coordinator who manages the backgroundchecks.com program. The issues range from minor traffic violations to felony convictions, Taylor said. Not all of the issues required any action, but more than 22.5 percent (19,202) of the screenings returned records with misdemeanor or felony offenses.

Jones said the Texas church now understands the importance of running background checks ahead of time.

“They now have a policy that everyone who works in (children and youth) areas will have a current background check on file,” Jones said.

Belew noted that in addition to worker screening, “churches need to provide adequate worker supervision. Good supervision includes two adults in every class or activity, windows in each classroom door to enable supervisors to monitor activities, greeters to assist guests and prevent unwanted intrusions in the classroom area, all approved children’s activities placed on the church calendar and an incident reporting process.”

Click here for more information about child safety at church.

Monongahela Baptist Association in West Virginia also uses the LifeWay service to run background checks on all volunteers for their children and youth camps.

“It’s a way to help keep kids safe,” said Jerilyn Smith, administrative assistant at the association.

“We want to assure parents that we are doing all we can to protect their children from those who would want to harm them,” she added.

Under the LifeWay program, churches and religious organizations can use the background check service at discounted rates. It is used to run background screenings on children’s ministry workers, camp counselors, bus drivers or other volunteers and staff.

“Leaders from churches and organizations who use LifeWay’s background checks service say protecting those God has placed under their care is paramount,” Taylor said.

She added backgroundchecks.com has “an extensive collection of public record sources,” including more than 450 million records in its database. It also provides easy-to-read reports, she said.

“All churches … should have policies in effect on how those checks can be used in a redemptive manner for those that come back with a criminal past,” Bill Jones added.

For more information, e-mail Belew or call 559-229-9533, ext. 237. For more about background checks, visit LifeWay.com/background checks 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 www.sbc.net or http://sbclife.net/pdf/ProtectingOurChildren.pdf.

(Statistics reflect results from clients who have purchased services from www.backgroundcheck.com through LifeWay’s OneSource program.)