Background Screening Guide for Church Employees and Volunteers

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Church employees and volunteers are entrusted with the safety and wellbeing of the congregation. It is essential that the church take formal steps to ensure that its staff is appropriately qualified for the job by performing background checks.

Part of your evaluation is taking into consideration the kind of work paid and volunteer staff will be doing. Considerations may differ between someone who packs food boxes in a group setting and someone who will be left alone with children.

Conducting a background check on prospective employees and volunteers can be an important part of protecting the organization from significant risk. A background check can include a range of different searches of public records, some of which can be conducted for free, and many of which require a volunteer’s consent.

Reference checks.

When vetting potential staff, part of your process should include a reference check. Taking the time to speak personally with past employers is a key part of the screening process and can reveal important information about an applicant’s past performance and conduct.

Criminal background checks.

A criminal background check will reveal convictions for felonies and most misdemeanors within the last seven years that have not been expunged through a pardon, or kept secret by court order. A check can be conducted at the state and federal levels, and may need to be conducted in other states if the person has moved around. Note that the results of a person’s criminal background check must be kept confidential.

Credit checks.

A credit check will reveal if someone has declared bankruptcy or had other significant financial problems in the past. A volunteer’s financial history may be relevant if he or she will handle significant sums of money for the organization.

Sex offender list.

California provides an online tool for screening individuals against the state’s sex offender registry.

Due to the high stakes involved, churches may want to consider hiring an outside screening service to conduct a search of court records to uncover any criminal history and verify that applicants are who they say they are.

The Church Law Center of California assists churches with organization, governance, and risk management. We can help your church craft policies so it is in a better position to address problems as they arise. To find out how we can help your church, call us today at (949) 892-1221 or reach out to us through our contact page.

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