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Background Check Requirements for Volunteer Chaplains

Chaplains do important work. These faith-oriented individuals often work with hospitals, police departments, schools, prisons and other secular (non-religious) groups and provide a peaceful, nonjudgmental ear for employees to share their feelings with. They help in a variety of ways that often go beyond the scope of what an employer can provide to an employee:

  • help grieve the loss of a colleague
  • listen to someone grappling with divorce
  • support a person struggling with depression

Chaplains most often have some sort of previous leadership role with a religious organization. They could have been a minister, priest, rabbi, or imam. Chaplains may work directly for an institution, like a hospital or university. The military uses a lot of chaplains.

Sometimes, chaplains work for an agency who is contracted by other businesses to provide chaplaincy care for employees. Marketplace Chaplains USA is an example of this. In these instances, a background check is required for employment.

Marketplace Chaplains USA clearly states:

“Every applicant undergoes criminal, driving and financial background checks, along with extensive personal reference checks to verify character and personal history.”

In some cases, though, chaplains may volunteer their services. Requirements for volunteer chaplaincy positions vary, and in many cases, a background check is not listed as one of the main requirements. That’s not to say it’s not required at all, but it’s not listed as a primary hiring requirement. Here’s a couple of examples we found:

To become a volunteer chaplain, you must:

  • Fill out an application available in the Pastoral Care Office at the hospital
  • Be interviewed by the staff chaplain
  • Attend a Pastoral Care orientation session

To be considered for our Volunteer Chaplain Program, applicants must:

  • Be ordained or have completed at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Complete and submit an application
  • Be approved for service by the manager of Spiritual Care Services
  • Complete a mandatory orientation
  • Complete infection control/safety training
  • Complete Employee Health requirements, including a two-part TB skin test prior to service
  • Comply with hospital and departmental policies, rules, and code of ethics
  • Wear picture ID when on duty

Each of these examples comes from a health organization or hospital. These entities still heavily rely on the kindness of volunteer chaplains. Considering what chaplains may have access to when delivering care to people in these settings, though, it’s alarming when the positions may be filled by people who haven’t undergone a thorough background check.

Background screening is a necessary safety precaution for any agency that uses volunteers. The real reason most organizations require background checks of their employees and/or volunteers is to keep their workplace safe. They want their employees to be safe inside their brick and mortar buildings, and they want the data, money and other sensitive information that’s associated with their business to remain safe, too.

Chaplains, as with any clergy member or person who is representing your ministry, should be treated the same. So let’s take a look at how Protect My Ministry ensures that volunteers’ screening information is treated privately and fairly for everyone.

Protect My Ministry’s volunteer screening solutions meet industry Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance standards. All of the records gathered are re-verified for accuracy. We treat volunteer background checks the same as we do employee background checks. That means the federal, state and local laws that exist to protect employees during the hiring process also protect any volunteers undergoing the same process.

Ministry Mobilizer, our pioneering screening platform, is designed to exclusively meet the need of volunteer-based organizations by providing an effective and cost-efficient all-in-one paperless screening solution. Ministry Mobilizer also fully integrates a secure sign-on process to your current website, and offers additional child protection training.

There are some organizations who are getting it right. This story about a law enforcement agency that uses chaplains showcases the proper steps a business should take before bringing a chaplain on board:

“Chaplains need to have the blessing of their congregations, they need to be ordained or licensed or otherwise in good standing in whatever faith they practice. There’s also background checks and basic police training.”

We applaud their efforts and look forward to helping you vet your volunteer chaplains. It’s a smart move for everyone. Click here to get started.