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Student Ministry Makes Smart Move – Background Checks for Volunteers

There is a beautiful resurgence happening on a longtime religious property in Northwest Georgia. The Polk Haralson Christian Life Center in the Antioch Community, locally known as Camp Antioch, is now blossoming with visitors and wildlife after a major facilities upgrade project and a wildlife habitat certification from the The National Wildlife Federation.

More than a dozen area churches hosted events at Camp Antioch last summer, and numerous other events have crowded the calendar this school year. Camp Antioch’s latest effort is the founding of a Student Center Ministry, aimed at providing area youngsters a safe place to use the internet for school work.

Last week the Camp’s program manager, Janice Stewart, put out the call for volunteers. Adults will be needed to supervise the two available classrooms where students can access free wi-fi and do their homework. But Stewart, also stressed one very important fact: All adult volunteers will be asked to complete forms authorizing a criminal background check.

Screening volunteers, coaches, and/or employees, is one of the smartest and safest moves any employer or volunteer-reliant organization can make. Vetting the people representing your agency not only keeps your regular employees and volunteers safe, but it also protects your visitors and people who may only occasionally walk through your doors.

Here’s 4 reasons why ANY and EVERY ministry should be running background checks on its staffers and volunteers:

Our children’s safety is at stake. As Darkness to Light puts it, preventing child sexual abuse is an adult responsibility. In a stark and gut wrenching statement, the leading national organization to end child sexual abuse writes on its website:

“It is unrealistic to think that a young child can take responsibility for fending off sexual advances by an adult. Adults are responsible for the safety of children. Adults are the ones who need to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Yet, the statistics clearly show that adults aren’t shouldering this responsibility. Darkness to Light believes that adults just don’t know how.”

Running background checks on employees and volunteers who come in contact with children is one of the best first steps grown-ups can take to keep predators away from our kids.

More organizations are relying on volunteers. Budget strain is a common theme for many ministries and that’s why free help from volunteers is so often welcomed and needed. The latest volunteering report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showcases just who is using the most volunteers, with faith-based groups far outpacing the others:

Religious organizations – 33%

Educational or youth groups – 25.6%

Social or community service agencies – 14.7%

What this means is that people are kindly stepping forward to give of themselves to your ministry, but ministries also become more vulnerable to not-so-nice people who want to abuse the system.

It establishes a formal protocol for EVERY person. When you treat everyone the same in the vetting process, from employment candidate to volunteer, it’s hard for any of those people to claim unfair treatment. In other words, by having a standard operating procedure and process you are helping to protect yourself against any discrimination lawsuits.

Criminal background checks are a start, but if you want top-rate protection, you should employ full-scale screening. The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and other national criminal databases are full of gaps and don’t always give enough information about a person’s background to be trustworthy. That’s because the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and various states have different laws about what information they can share with the NCIC. The best background check service, like those performed by the nationally-accredited Protect My Ministry, will also dive into county-level criminal searches, federal court data, and name changes, among other sources.

It’s for these reasons and more that faith-based organizations, like Camp Antioch, should take the extra step and require full-scale screening for employees and volunteers. Protect My Ministry has created two customizable background screening packages to specifically meet these needs. We encourage you to click here to find out more or give one of our trusted team members a call at 1-800-319-5581.