Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a great opportunity for churches to share the gospel with kids of all ages. It is an excellent event for community outreach too. Kids are excited to attend, parents are excited to be kid-free for a few hours a day, and church leaders are excited to teach. The goal of VBS is to create a safe environment where kids can learn about Jesus and have fun! That’s why it’s important to implement volunteer screening and background checks prior to kicking off your summer program.
Now, before you resort to thinking that VBS background checks are excessive for a week-long event, think again. It might be true that you know the volunteers, but do you know their history or even their capabilities? Child protection is something we can’t be too careful about. Even though VBS is a one-time event, it is critical to keep our kids safe.
Plus, the last thing you want to deal with at your VBS is a security issue, especially involving a child. VBS is an opportunity for your church to share the gospel with children, and you want to avoid anything that could distract from that.
Here are a few reasons why your church needs VBS background checks, who you should perform the background checks on, and how to take additional security measures to make sure that your VBS is nothing but fun and gospel-focused.
Quality Background Checks Are Necessary
As a church leader, it is your job to protect all children attending your church’s summer Bible program, and that means looking into all areas that could be of concern. In addition to protecting the children, you want to protect your church too. Quality background checks are one important step you can take to keep everyone safe.
The National Child Protection and Volunteers for Children Improvement Act
The National Child Protection and Volunteers for Children Improvement Act of 2002 authorizes states to establish procedures to determine whether a provider is unfit to care for children because of a pending arrest or indictment for a crime. This act was created because too many dangerous individuals were volunteering and/or working with churches, and they posed a threat to those around them. In addition, most insurances actually require you to conduct background checks.
The Danger of Instant Checks
Additionally, it’s important that you are wary of instant checks that seem so popular online. Finding a way to do an instant background check on someone can be dangerous. The information provided through most instant checks is often outdated and inaccurate.
Be sure to find a VBS background check that includes the most up-to-date information so you can ensure everyone is safe. Protect My Ministry provides quality and thorough background checks. Serving over 35,000 ministries across the nation, we know how to keep churches safe. We are one of the only background check companies that will do a free “re-verification” of records from the national criminal database for a volunteer. Our company will also do a “true” 50 state search on sexual offenders.
Finding Quality Volunteers
Finally, the reason behind conducting a VBS background check is not only to ensure you don’t have child predators in your midst but also to provide safe, capable individuals to serve in your church. Background checks will help verify your volunteers are who they say they are. They will search criminal databases, motor vehicle records, and other key information you may find applicable to protecting your people. You can never be too safe when it comes to children and volunteers.
Ministering to Parents
As a parent, there’s no better feeling than knowing that your child is safe. By providing VBS background checks you can put parents’ minds at ease. Not only will this help you have more children attend your VBS, but it will open a door to minister to parents too. If they know that their children are safe, they are more likely to attend your church again, such as on Sunday mornings or other events.
Make Sure the Following People Have Background Checks
Background checks should be performed on any individual who may come in contact with children. Whether they are teaching kids or cleaning up spills, all volunteers should be screened.
Teachers are the individuals who come in the closest contact with the children attending your Vacation Bible School. They need to pass a background check to interact with kids in your ministry. You also want to make sure these teachers are trained and equipped for their tasks, especially in the area of proper conduct. One way to train each teacher is by providing a safety manual with policies and procedures. This way, they are equipped with your church’s standards on what to do and not to do.
Videographers and Photographers
This group of people is often overlooked. Churches desperately want to capture the joy and fun happening at their church, so sometimes the people behind the camera aren’t properly checked out. Conducting a background check on these individuals will help ensure you don’t have a predator snapping photos of kids. Just as teachers need proper training on appropriate conduct, so do your videographers and photographers. If you live in a state where taking photographs of children without parental consent is illegal, be sure to include that information in their training.
Even though the people emptying the trash and making sure things are tidy are often serving in the background, it’s still important they receive a background check. That’s because they can still come into contact with children at your church while performing their duties.
Does your VBS have a set staff to provide snacks or food to the children attending VBS? Make sure you include these individuals in your background check. Even though their time with the children is short, you still need to make sure they are safe to be around children while they prepare food and serve your children.
Take Additional Protective Steps
Another way you can protect your children and church in addition to a VBS background check is by hiring a local police officer who can come on-site during your VBS hours. Officers who are trained in child-related legal cases are often the best choices for officers to hire. They have the ability to recognize if anything is out of the norm, which will provide an extra level of protection for those attending your VBS. If you have an officer who attends your church, simply reach out and ask them to help. If they can’t help, more than likely they know someone who can.
Additional types of security can include identifying specific individuals who are trained to notice anything suspicious or unusual. If your church has a security team, these individuals can stand at high traffic points, as well as places where people enter and exit.
Child Check-in and Check-Out
You can also create a smooth and strategic check-in and check-out process for each child attending your VBS. Creating a safe way for parents or guardians to pick up their children will help eliminate the threat of someone dangerous picking up a child who is not their own.
The goal of creating a safe environment through VBS background checks and additional security is to create a safe atmosphere where parents and guardians can drop off their children without worry. These added security measures minimize the threats that could occur in your church.
Keep These Things in Mind
Before you can run a background check on anyone, you’ll need to get the volunteer’s permission. In order to run background checks for VBS volunteers, you’ll need the volunteer’s full legal name (first, middle, and last), social security number, and full date of birth. All parties need to consent to a background check before one is completed. If the volunteer is uneasy about conducting a background check, this may be a red flag for you to consider before they volunteer in your children’s ministry.
Most VBS background checks are returned within 48 hours. Make sure to plan ahead and gather all volunteers’ background checks in enough time to have a successful summer program. In case a VBS background check returns questionable results, you will want enough time to find additional volunteers to fill that need.
Frequency of Background Checks
If you have conducted background checks on your VBS volunteers in the past, it is still a good idea to run a new screening. Background checks should be conducted annually in case of any new or additional findings. So, every summer you host a Vacation Bible School, run (or rerun) background checks on all volunteers.
VBS is a great opportunity to connect with your community. Planning ahead, equipping your staff, and conducting VBS background checks can alleviate negative outcomes. Plus, Protect My Ministry is the leading church background screening CRA in the industry. Now, you can easily do background checks on your VBS volunteers from a Christian company, and rest assured knowing that your kids are in the right hands.
If you’re not already using Protect My Ministry for your church safety needs and background checks, sign up today!