You know, it’s almost painful to think about this (much less write about it), because you would think that if there’s one place you can expect and receive the truth, it would be the church.
Unfortunately, churches are some of the most vulnerable entities to be victimized by criminals…because churches have a culture of trust.
My father is a pastor in Tennessee and related to me a story of a young couple who was systematically going around to churches in the area, giving the same sob story to get money, getting money, then targeting another area church with the same story. Word finally got around and churches had to refuse help to them. Sad, but true. There are other cases nationwide involving church employees directly.
What is a church to do? Unfortunately, background checks are becoming more and more important for churches. To protect the congregation (especially children) and to protect the church’s financial foundation. Here are some bullet points for background checks and personal monitoring for churches:
- Do criminal background checks on all church staff and volunteers. Everyone. Start off with staff, leaders and volunteers who work with children and the church youth.
- Do yearly personal interviews with every staff member, church leader and volunteer. It takes time, but it’s worth the time when you consider the problems that can be avoided or prevented.
- Verify all references. This is something employers have traditionally been lax on. They might follow up with one reference, but rarely all of them. Follow up on all of them, as many people know how lax reference follow up usually is and some of them will slip in a bogus reference or two.
- Continuous education and training should be provided for church leaders, including those working with children and youth. This not only ensures that leaders are truly leading and getting better at what they do, it provides more points of contact with them throughout the calendar year…especially vital if the church is large.