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Answering Church Leaders’ Common Questions About Background Checks
Answering Church Leaders’ Common Questions About Background Checks
Looking more closely at what is needed to effectively screen volunteers and employees who work with minors.

Background checks can deter those with bad intentions from having quick and easy access to children, reveal crimes in a candidate's past that would make him or her unsuitable for service, and demonstrate that the church is exercising due diligence. But many churches often have questions about background checks. Below are answers to 11 of those most common questions:

1) What is a “background check”?

The term “background check” can be interpreted to mean a criminal records check, or reference checks and other screening procedures, or both. An independent report regarding the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal defines a "standard" background check for the university as a criminal history check, a sex and violent offender registry check, plus the following additional components for specific positions based on job-related need: educational verification (required for all academic positions); motor vehicle record (required for positions where it can be regularly anticipated that a responsibility of the position will be to drive a university-owned vehicle); credit history check (conducted only for sensitive/critical positions with extensive authority to commit financial resources of the university); employment verifications; and license verifications (as needed based on job requirements).

2) Why should our church run a background check?

When it comes to screening those who work with minors, background checks are an important (though by no means the only) component in maintaining the safety of the youth under the church’s care. Many secular charities—including public schools, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, youth soccer, and Little League—have responded to this risk by mandating criminal records checks for persons who will work with minors. Many churches are doing the same. Criminal records checks not only reduce the risk of child molestation, but they also reduce the risk of institutional liability based on negligent selection. They also are relatively inexpensive and easily accessible.

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