One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your hiring process is skipping the background and reference checks on your potential new Lead Pastor. A reference check is your opportunity to protect your church and learn how your pastor candidate has led congregations and staffs in the past. Here are a few tips on conducting effective background checks.
We have a list of questions we ask each reference that attempt to paint a broad picture of the candidate from work ethic to leadership abilities. It is also important to ask difficult questions that you may feel uncomfortable asking. For example, “Have you ever suspected the presence of an inappropriate relationship?” is a difficult question to ask but is an important one to protect both yourself and your ministry.
Ask follow-up questions
Conducting reference checks is a great opportunity to ask any remaining questions or to confirm the candidate’s recall of events following your initial interview with the candidate. You may have further questions that your pastoral candidate was unable to answer, or perhaps the answers didn’t satisfy you. Keep track of these questions and ask them to the references.
Use a reliable third-party company for your background checks
The background check is equally as important as the reference check, so be sure you use a reliable company that can conduct a criminal, credit, and education verification. Also, be sure you receive a signed release from the candidate giving you permission to conduct the background check. ...
Know what you will do with the information once you have completed the checks
Information from your church background checks report should be made available to all decision makers and be a part of the final hiring decision. If the report comes back clear and positive, congratulations! You have a new hire. However, if there are questions that arise through the reference and background check, we suggest continuing conversations with the candidate in an effort to get clarity on your findings. Don’t use a blanket determination to reject all candidates with a negative mark on their background check. We all have a story, and some of us may have an especially messy history before Christ entered our story.
A misconception about conducting church background checks is that they are intended to “dig up dirt” on a potential hire. This is not the case. The process of conducting church background checks is intended for you to get to know your potential new team member better and gain clarity on whether they would be a good fit for your team or not.
Excerpted from SEARCH by William Vanderbloemen. Copyright 2016 B&H Publishing Group. Used with permission.
- "Answering Church Leaders’ Common Questions about Background Checks" by Samuel Ogles
- "Mastering Reference Checks for Churches" by Richard Hammar
- "When Background Checks Lead to Discrimination" by Frank Sommerville
- "Liability for Positive References" by Richard Hammar
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