When this question was first asked back in the 2000's, "background checks for church volunteers" were just then becoming possible. Now there are many companies, online resources and databases, and local law enforcement agencies that can help perform what has is now rightly considered "standard practice."
While background checks have become a standard practice in many churches and denominations --one that is often driven by insurance company policy, that is not the case in all churches. Some are cavalier about it or inconsistent, or they are embarrassed to ask their church staff to submit to a background check. In fact, staff should be the FIRST to lead on this issue!
As the headlines often unfortunately remind us, being diligent about background checks for ALL staff and volunteers who will come into direct contact with children -- is an essential part of today's stewardship.
But background checks are not the only requirement for safety today. Each church should have in place both policies and actual practices that make the church a safe place for children, youth, and adults, and help identify young people at risk.
Safe Church practices include but are not limited to:
- Background checks.
- Surveying of the property, facility, and rooms for potential problems (including hiding places and visibility issues).
- Modifying doors and door-closing policies to create a more open environment.
- Policies for discipline, number of teachers per students, etc.
- Intruder alert and response.
- Understanding every volunteer's role in providing eyes and ears, and spotting troublesome behavior both in church or potentially happening at home/school.
- Church locks, keys, closing policy.
- Transportation policies, including safe-driver checks.
- Reporting and privacy policies.
- Recognizing and responsing to medical and mental health emergencies.
- Training (check with your insurance company and local law enforcement).
For more resources, consult with your church insurance company rep and visit your denomination's online resources. You can also find a plethora of safety policies and discussions online by googling "church safety policy" and the like.