The Church is a sacred place. It’s where we worship, learn, and grow. We all want to feel safe and secure when we come together as a community to worship. Unfortunately, there are people who exist that seek to destroy this sense of security by hurting those in our congregations and communities. While every church strives to keep these types of people away from their congregation, sometimes dangerous people do gain access. And what happens if these people not only gain access but also gain access to power within the church?
Knowing your congregation is safe starts with knowing your church leaders. You can achieve confidence in leadership by breaking down the ways to ensure your leaders have pure intentions and discussing the signs of threats. Through vetting your people and facilitating open conversations with all members, you’re protecting your congregation and community.
Why should I get to know my church’s leadership?
A common misconception is that only those working with kids need to be formally vetted. While it is important to know your children’s leaders, it’s just as important to know the wider church leadership and staff. You want to protect all of your members and create a safe space within your ministry.
Churches center their mission statement around their beliefs. Just as a church is based on biblical doctrine, their mission is a reflection of its biblical doctrine’s understanding of leadership. While doctrine interpretations can be broad, all leadership is focused on ensuring leaders are upstanding when guiding their congregation. Searching a leader’s understanding of these elements will reflect their viewpoint on leadership:
- Relationships – those with their family and those within the church body
- Community – how they interact with those outside of the church
- Financials – their viewpoint on how church tithes and offerings should be used
- Time – how much time they devote to serving their community
When you understand these facets of a leader’s life, you’re able to hone in on who they are as a person. A good leader will align these viewpoints with the viewpoints of their church. If this is not true of those in leadership or staff positions within your ministry, you’ll want to have a discussion on whether or not they’re the right person to lead.
How can I ensure my leaders are safe?
Background screening your leaders is a solid way to judge their fit for your ministry. Background checks and screens search an applicant’s past for legal violations that could indicate an applicant is an unfit person for the job. This process is utilized by thousands of industries, including ministry, to protect their organization and community.
Through our partners, Verified First, we offer multiple background screening packages for churches. We even have a package specifically for vetting leaders. Our Leadership and Staff package includes verifications of:
- Education verification
- Employment verification
- Nationwide criminal records
- Credit checks
- Watch lists
- And more
By vetting your staff and leaders with our services, you’re verifying if a person is fit to lead. It’s answering the questions about a person’s ideals on morality. Their past is a reflection of where they’ve been as a person, and that can be used to ensure they’re going to guide your congregation on the right path in the future.
How do I discuss the signs of threats to vulnerable member groups?
It’s important to spread awareness about the signs of predatory staff members, especially to vulnerable member groups. Groups such as children and young adults look to church leadership for guidance, and they should be able to trust these people to keep them safe.
Screening your church leaders and staff is an important step in providing a safe environment. You can maintain a safe environment for children and young adults by teaching them the skills to identify predators. Here are some ways to talk to young children about abuse and sexual assault.
- Tell them it’s okay to say “no” – Especially for young children, “no” is taught not to be said when responding to adults. Let them know that “no” can be told to adults in certain scenarios.
- Make time for them – If you let children and young adults know that you will actively listen to what they have to say, they’ll be more likely to confide.
- Teach them to trust their gut – Make them understand that they can trust their instincts. If a situation feels wrong, they should listen to that feeling.
While these conversations can be hard, they’re extremely vital. Taking action is the responsible way to actively keep your congregation safe.
Utilize background screening when inviting a new leader or staff member to your congregation. Knowing a person’s background will give you a comprehensive understanding of their past. It can shed light on their morals and allow you to determine whether those morals align with your ministry. Make time to talk to vulnerable member groups about protecting themselves. By staying vigilant and talking about these hard topics, you can ensure you have a sacred and secure environment for all.
Verified First is the leading comprehensive background screening processor partnered with ACS Technologies. Together, we lead the market in knowing how best to help churches manage, grow, and protect their church with easy-to-use, integrated solutions. Verified First has received accreditation and is a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). This accreditation means Verified First has dedicated itself to providing the highest level of standards in the following areas: information security, legal and compliance, client education, researcher and data standards, verification services, and business practices.