Gaps remain with fewer than 10% of churches rescreening annually and 40% only ordering basic checks
LENOIR CITY, Tennessee – July 16, 2019 – Ministry Brands, the leading provider of church management software solutions, recently released data showing mainline Protestant and Evangelical churches are utilizing background checks at an increasing rate. Of the over 30,000 churches that have partnered with Protect My Ministry, a Ministry Brands company, background checks on church employees and volunteers have increased by 12% year-over-year.
Yet, critical gaps remain. Data spanning 29,768 churches and ministries, representing more than 1.6 million individual background checks, shows that just 60% of churches are utilizing background checks with the proper level of advanced searches that employ multiple real-time sources of data and thorough alias searches. This leaves 40% of churches using a screening product that potentially could result in allowing a bad actor to infiltrate the church. Additionally, the data shows that less than 10% of churches are actively rescreening their volunteers and staff annually. In comparison, Ministry Brands found that youth sports and little league teams recheck 99% of staff and volunteers every single year.
“As one of the most prominent background screening platforms in the U.S., the data shows that churches are more engaged than ever before in having their volunteers and staff background checked. But it’s not enough given what our communities are facing,” said Josh Weis, executive vice president, Ministry Brands. “Church leaders and congregants may be operating with a false sense of security with the perception all background checks are equal in their depth. We advocate that church leaders educate themselves to better understand that checking a single name or simply running an applicant through a criminal database is not enough. Depending on the state, these lower level screens can be equivalent to merely Googling a name.”
Not all background checks are created equal
Key facts about background checks:
- The National Sex Offender Registry is frequently checked as part of most background screenings. While it’s important to run applicants through the registry, be advised it may not report every qualifying sex offender, as there is a component of offender participation that is frequently subverted.
- Both the National Sex Offender Registry and National Criminal Database searches are not updated in real time. The only real-time data comes directly from counties and requires a deeper background search.
- Aliases tied to social security numbers are a critical must-have on all background checks conducted, given the overwhelming prevalence of falsified applicant information.
- The quality of data varies greatly on a state-by-state basis. In states with poor data collection, churches will need to invest in deeper background search products to generate results that are on par with less expensive searches in states with better data protocols.
“We are releasing this data to urge not just our base of predominantly Christian churches, but all faith-based organizations, to take a more systematic and comprehensive approach to safety in an effort to decrease the infiltration of predators to the greatest extent possible,” continued Weis.
Background checks are the first step of many
- Define protocols and processes designed to indicate which background check is right for each applicant based on information, behavior or role at the church.
- Ensure the background check chosen conducts in-depth alias name searches that are specifically tied to social security numbers. This broadens the search criteria and adds an additional layer of security.
- Ensure the selected background check is conducting additional county or statewide court searches in areas and states where database information is limited or non-existent, or criminal records could be missed.
- While rescreening every 2 to 3 years may be a best practice for businesses, churches should rescreen all volunteers and staff annually, leveraging an integrated system to ensure records and compliance are up to date.
- Determine your background check package and needs based on the applicant’s address, not the address of your organization. Additionally, if the applicant is coming from another state, conduct a background check that queries their previous addresses.
- Take a holistic approach to church child protection policies. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, more than 95% of all sexual offense arrests were committed by first-time sex offenders. Therefore, churches must establish training programs and procedures to ensure that potential threats are not missed and blind spots are minimized.
Protect My Ministry’s Background Check Blueprint summarizes the role, application and depth of background checks. Click here to get the guide and learn more about total church safety and how your ministry can proactively safeguard its members and families.
About Ministry Brands
Serving more than 90,000 customers, Ministry Brands is the leading provider of SaaS platforms for churches, parachurch ministries and other faith-based organizations in the United States and Canada. Under the leadership of a kingdom-driven management team, the company seeks to equip the 21st-century church with technology that empowers pastors, church executives, technology professionals and administrators to proactively carry out their biblical mission with excellence, reverence, and efficiency. Ministry Brands’ suite of solutions includes church management, giving, mobile applications, website development, background checks, content, and messaging. Learn more at ministrybrands.com.