5 Best Background Check Providers for Your Church Volunteers
As church leaders, you want to create a safe space within the walls of your sanctuary. Background checks for volunteers can protect your members, especially the children, from potential predators. Story after story reminds us just how important this task is — and how carefully screening all staff should be a priority at every church in the country. While background checks may only indicate that an individual hasn’t been caught, they are still a vital first step to properly vetting potential staff members and volunteers.
Here are five background check vendors to consider as you implement or improve the screening processes at your church:
To purchase background check screenings through Shepherd’s Watch, you must first purchase one of the two life-time memberships offered. These memberships, $29.99 or $79.99, are a one-time fee and provide additional safety knowledge in a monthly newsletter, videos for volunteer training, and articles to share with your staff.
Price: In addition, a membership offers special pricing on expert background checks, which range from $12 to $39.
SafeChurch offers risk management resources for GuideOne Insurance customers, offering inspection and assessment tools that give safety improvement recommendations, project plans for those improvements, and give access to online training designed specifically for churches. It also offers access to affordable background check services through Protect My Ministry, which serves churches of all sizes, and Reference Services Inc. (RSI), a nationally-accredited full-service background screening and drug testing firm.
Price: Because of GuideOne’s partnership with Protect My Ministry and RSI, discounted prices are available for background checks. Click on the links to learn pricing options for the specific needs at your church.
Protect My Ministry, as mentioned above, serves churches of all sizes. Currently, it’s serving more than 25,000 ministries throughout all 50 states. Its unique features include 50-state sex offender searches, free re-verification of criminal records, and no minimum requirements to use their services.
Price: This background check provider offers two packages, the Basic and Plus. Both are comprehensive screenings for both staff and volunteers. Use their online consultation tool to find out which package is recommended for your church.
LifeWay allows access to several background check providers at heavily discounted rates. By going through backgroundchecks.com’s proprietary National Criminal Database, they are able to offer a host of products that allow additional searches through various tribal territory sex offender files and numerous state health and human services exclusion lists.
Price: Though there are many options to choose from with LifeWay, pricing ranges from $10 to $20 per check. Learn more about their pricing options here.
Verified Volunteers offers an easy, user-friendly way to do background checks. Once you identify a potential volunteer, you send them the invitation through email or an embedded link. From there, the volunteer goes through the simple four-step process, which you can monitor the entire way.
Price: Costs of a VV background check are dependent on the complexity of the screening, which could cost as low as $10. Contact VV to learn a more accurate quote for your church’s needs.
In addition to background checks, there are more ways to ensure you’re meeting the highest level of safety protocols. Here are some additional tips:
- Talk with your church’s insurance provider to see if they provide a background check service or if they have a recommended vendor. Ask them for recommendations on vetting staff and volunteers along with policies for childcare and interaction with minors.
- Contact your church management system vendor to ask if they have a background check vendor.
- Don’t rely only on a clear background check to approve a staff member or volunteer. With staff members, you should have an extensive interview process and check references in addition to the background check.
- For volunteers, consider setting rules where a volunteer must attend the church for at least six months before he/she can serve around minors. You could also require them to serve in other areas (greeters, parking lot, etc.) before they serve around children. This allows staff and other volunteers time to interact with this individual and notice any potentially concerning behavior.
- Put policies into place — and make sure they’re followed — where an adult cannot be alone with a child. Ever. Even if this means canceling childcare on a Sunday morning because a few volunteers didn’t show up. As a parent, I’d rather be told I’ll need to keep my child in service with me than have her in the nursery and something bad happen because an adult was unsupervised.
No one wants to admit that abuse could happen at their church. It’s easy to read these horrifying stories and think they are so far away from your reality. But if we truly want to keep our church members safe, we have to first recognize that abuse is possible, and then take the steps necessary to prevent it. By implementing background checks and other safety procedures, you could save little ones (and their families) from the horrific long-term impacts of abuse.
If you’re interested in learning a more comprehensive approach to volunteer management, check out my book titled “The Volunteer Management Toolkit (Church Edition)”.