by Aaron Earls
Having outgrown a living room, a bar, and a middle school cafeteria, New Discovery Christian Church needed to make some changes to reflect their situation—a still young but growing church plant.
One of those changes was realizing their burgeoning children’s ministry needed to do more to ensure the safety of those in their care. So the church in Hernando, Mississippi, decided to run background checks on all their adult and youth volunteers, according to Janet Stephens of New Discovery.
“I have received very positive feedback from parents and volunteers when they are informed that all our volunteers must pass a background check,” she says.
New Discovery is part of a growing number of churches—both new and established—that use background checks as a way to better protect everyone involved in the ministry.
The concerns of those churches have been borne out in the fact that more than 1-in-5 background checks processed by Lifeway’s program with backgroundchecks.com reveals a serious offense.
After a six-year relationship, the number of churches that say they are benefiting from the program between Lifeway Christian Resources and backgroundchecks.com continues to grow. Since last year, 50 percent more churches and organizations are using the service.
Since 2008, approximately 7,700 churches and religious organizations have conducted more than 142,000 background checks using the program. Of those checks, almost half (47 percent) contained some type of criminal offense, according to Lifeway’s Jennie Taylor.
Taylor said the majority of those were for minor incidents, such as speeding tickets or seatbelt violations. But more than 21 percent of the checks discovered misdemeanors or more serious crimes, including over 9,000 felonies.
Prior to sending his children and youth to summer camp this year, Tim Hubbard, pastor of Seminary Baptist Church in Seminary, Mississippi, discovered he needed background checks for all the volunteers who would be serving as chaperones. He turned to Lifeway and backgroundchecks.com
For Hubbard, the ability to obtain immediate access to run the necessary background checks was a significant benefit. He also appreciated the trust that was built between the parents and church leadership due to their performing checks on all the chaperones.
The relationship between Lifeway and backgroundchecks.com “gives us the opportunity to provide a product that protects children and church assets at a reasonable cost,” Taylor said.
The cost, with screenings that start at $10, has helped eliminate a barrier many churches face in background checks. Hubbard said the affordability of the reports was one of the main benefits for the program.
After using backgroundchecks.com at their church, Barbara Brook, church secretary at Superstition Foothills Baptist Church in Gold Canyon, Arizona, said she would recommend the service to others “because of its flexibility to meet individual needs and cost effectiveness.”
For Taylor knowing churches would recommend the service to other churches is great news because of the potential to protect the most vulnerable. “We have done something very worthwhile, if only one child or church is protected,” she said.
But background checks are just one way for churches to protect children and themselves. Taylor said security bands in the nursery, along with intrusion, video, and access control solutions can provide additional means to ensure the safety of those in the care of the church.
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 or the Southern Baptist Convention’s resources for sex abuse prevention.
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.