Help for Screening Church Volunteers & Staff
help address the concerns of church workers and legal
experts, many churches are turning to outside third parties
have experience with assisting churches with pre-employment
(and post-employment) background checks, and who can provide a
background investigation that is independent, confidential,
and consistent with the requirements of the church as well
as state and federal law.
Pre-employment background checks can be extremely complex.
A recent review indicated most do-it-yourself background check programs fall far short with respect to
accuracy. A professional outside third party knows the
legal issues, can minimize liability and often has buying
power due to the large volumes of lookups they perform, a
cost saving option that a individual church would not have.
background check that is sufficiently accurate and in-depth
enough to protect the members of your church is not a
trivial exercise. The complication of doing a thorough job
without violating an individuals rights makes it even more
Do it Yourself Background Check - Challenges and
you were to try to do background screenings yourself, the first step would be
to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to develop
appropriate policies and guidelines with respect to record
your policies/guidelines are in place and an appropriate
authorization form is approved, it is then a matter of
getting the proper authorization form completed by your candidates
early on in the application process
Doing it yourself, the responsibility of compliance with Federal and State Law
rests on the church.
Some states require background screening for workers in
certain programs and ministries. If you are trying to do
this yourself, check with a local attorney to learn more
about the laws in your state.
order to be able to demonstrate in a court of law that you
were not negligent in hiring, your church will need to
search some or all of the following resources, depending on
the job description and salary:
Security Trace, National Criminal Records,
Child Abuse Registries, Sex Offender Registries, State Criminal History Records
and Motor Vehicle Records Check For Every State of Record.
following reports may be optional, depending on the position:
Employment credit reports should only be sought
in situations the person could affect the church
financially. When staff members are handling cash, have
credit cards, have access to accounting records or can
commit the church financially, credit reports are excellent
A civil search might reveal a restraining order, which could
indicate a propensity for violence. Civil records are
searched in the local courts, but also might be federal and
searched in the federal district court.
can see, background screening can
be a complicated process and one that is not without its own
liability. Failure to insure proper permissions,
proper use of information, proper disclosure and proper
record keeping can result in other legal actions by those
whom you executed background checks.
catch-22 is that background investigations must be thorough enough to protect
your congregation and meet legal defensibility requirements;
but without violating someone’s privacy rights.
The use of a professional
outside company to conduct employment background screening
for staff and volunteers will limit your
liability while making the process less painful and
The first choice you need to
make is whether you want to try to do it on your own or to
have it done for you by a 3rd. party. In consideration
of the ease, low cost factor (especially in consideration of
devastating potential downside) and increased liability,
this article is going to ignore the do-it-yourself approach.
One final word of warning, applications or vendors that only
scan National or State databases will miss a large
percentage of criminal records. Here is a second final
word of warning - "you git what you pay fer". Having
investigated some of the do-it-yourself options, it was
found the the reality did not live up to the marketing hype.
What should a vendor of
background screening be able to offer the church? Here
is a partial list of things that you should expect:
Ability to do more than
quick database checks. (Instant results are seldom
needed by the church. Instant checks merely skim
the top of the information pool.)
Secure Web based access
Assistance with Fair
Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance
Assistance with State
Privacy Law compliance
The following reports
Social Security Trace
County Criminal History Checks
Motor Vehicle Records
Sex Offender Report
Initial "Quick Check"
to verify SSN and name.
Workers Comp Claims
Form I-9 Compliance
Retention of reports at
Low cost to sign-up for
services with pay as you use pricing
Drug testing (optional)
relationship wherein the vendor looks out for the best
interest of the church, not just some access to data.
to Part 1 - Why Your Church
Back to Part 2 - The
Two-edged Sword of Background Screening