Protect My Ministry currently serves over 5,000 different faith-based organizations in all 50 states, so we see a lot of situations and run into questions about these issues on a regular basis. So this month we will continue our investigation into more common mistakes or misconceptions many churches have regarding background checks:
Myth # 3 – “I am running a national search, so I am getting everything from every state.”
Fact – Contrary to popular belief there is not a national database that comprehensively covers all 50 states criminal information. One of the reasons Protect My Ministry created an online consultation is because the type of information we get from the national database varies from state to state. Some states, like North Carolina and Texas, update their information regularly and include details on felonies, misdemeanors, convictions, and non-convictions. Other states, like Georgia and Alabama, only report felony convictions through the Department of Corrections. So the type of search you run really varies depending on how much information you are looking for and how well your state reports.
Myth # 4 – “It’s not in the budget right now; we’ll just use people we know.”
Fact – You really cannot afford not to screen your volunteers. Within this objection are really two problems. First there is the assumption that you actually do know everyone in your congregation. No matter the size, I would question how well you know each person within your doors. I know of a case where there was a check run on an assistant pastor who had just graduated from Bible College. After investigation it was discovered that while he was in college he had two felony arrests for spouse abuse and child abuse as well as a restraining order against him. Sometimes you just never know. The other problem with this line of thinking is the court and legal cost the church could face if there is an allegation and there is not a child safety policy that includes background screening of volunteers. I have heard on several occasions that the cost to defend a church against a frivolous child molestation lawsuit can be $80,000-$100,000! And that’s just to prove that nothing happened! Background checks are cheap insurance compared to that.
For more information on what screening recommendations we make for your state visit our Online Consultation page.