By Julie Redmond Donavan
North Shelby Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
Background checks have become a necessity in children’s ministry over the past 10 to 15 years. It is sad our world has changed so much, but this means we must alter our procedures. As a church, we do want to show trust in people. However, the security of our children outweighs any argument against the requirement of background checks. Since they are a relatively new thing, some do not believe churches should require them for volunteers with children.
Consider these arguments:
I have known these people my entire life, why should they get a background check?
I understand this, and I have no doubt they are wonderful, godly volunteers you know and trust. But the parents might not know them. By requiring background checks for your volunteers, it shows parents you have covered all the bases. Requiring background checks reassures parents their children are in safe hands.
Background checks cost money. What if I don’t have enough in the church budget to secure them for all my volunteers?
Background checks can take up room in your budget but are well worth it. You can also ask people to pay for their own or pay a partial amount. This also allows them to have a little “skin in the game” if the money comes out of their own pocket — it shows they truly want to invest in children’s ministry. In most cases, the church should be able to budget the expense.
A basic background check is relatively inexpensive — but you might be pleasantly surprised how many workers will take on the expense. And it would be a reminder: Volunteering to serve the children of your church is an honor and privilege, even if it costs them something.
Would volunteers feel insulted if I ask them to get a background check or annoyed if they have to provide information?
If someone is insulted or annoyed about filling out a background check, maybe there is another spot in the church for them to serve. Those who protest may be sending up a red flag for you not to consider them for working with children. I am confident most of your volunteers are fully aware of why we do background checks and want to be an example for others. If, on rare occasion, someone asks why, or if your church has not made it a priority, hopefully this will be a help for you to answer questions or help others see the need. A lot of good background check options exist. Volunteers will find these easy options to complete: Protect My Ministry and Verified First.
Church can be a scary place for families, especially when it is their first time visiting. They might not know anyone, and this can give them a little reassurance that you care enough for their children to invest time and money into finding out who is taking care of them.
Background checks help parents feel safe when leaving their children in your hands.
If your church does not carry out background checks on everyone working with minors, my best advice is: “Do not pass go! Do not collect $200. Go directly!” In other words, do it now!
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 18:6