NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In the last year, the number of churches signing up for Lifeway Christian Resources’ background check program increased by 100 percent.
According to Jennie Taylor, marketing coordinator in Lifeway’s direct marketing department, this dramatic increase “shows how serious churches and organizations are about protecting their children, students, employees and congregations.”
In 2008, Lifeway endorsed backgroundchecks.com to offer background screenings for churches and religious organizations. Subscribing through Lifeway enables churches and religious organizations to conduct background screenings for their camp counselors, bus drivers, staff, volunteers and others at discounted prices.
According to program records, nearly 2,800 churches and organizations have conducted more than 55,000 background checks. Of those checks, 35 percent (18,753) returned a criminal hit, “which is any kind of incident ranging from minor traffic violations to felony convictions,” said Taylor. More than 33 percent (6,340) of those criminal hits returned records with misdemeanor or felony offenses.
“Leaders from churches and organizations who use Lifeway’s background checks program say protecting those God has placed under their care is paramount,” Taylor said.
“In a culture where churches have become the last frontier of sorts for child predators, it is essential that we are diligent to properly screen and train all paid staff and volunteers who serve with preschoolers, children and teens,” said Garrick Conner, discipleship pastor at Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Ark.
“While it is true that churches should be places of grace and hope, far too often those positive traits are exploited by those who would seek to harm kids,” Conner said. “God entrusts these young ones to us and we will be accountable for how well we protected them – physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Bill Bartlett, business administrator for Oakview Baptist Church in Okeechobee, Fla., agreed with Conner, saying, “We, as church staff, have an obligation to protect the children in our care and those adults who work with children.”
Churches can conduct due diligence, Taylor said, by using backgroundchecks.com as a step in their security and safety policy. With a database of more than 450 million criminal records, backgroundchecks.com has an extensive collection of public record sources, delivering reports in a concise and user-friendly format.
“By obtaining a criminal background check annually on every staff member and volunteer who works with children of any age, we feel we are making the correct efforts to do just that – protect our children,” Bartlett said.
In their first year using backgroundchecks.com, Christie Sitek, pastor’s assistant at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Frost Proof, Fla., said using this service “speaks highly in our community. Families are grateful that we have concern for our children and youth.”
“We do everything we can to have a safety net for our ministry,” Sitek said.
Taylor said Lifeway’s program has made checking criminal backgrounds much more affordable for churches of any size.
Conner said today’s unstable economy has made church leaders reluctant to spend money on “extras.”
“I would assert that our children and youth are invaluable, and their safety is well worth the small investment,” he said.
“The service I was using was very slow, and I thought expensive. When I discovered that Lifeway had provided access to a background check service, I looked into it and discovered this service is much faster and much more cost effective,” Bartlett said.
For more information, visit LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks or call (800) 464-2799. For additional resources to help churches prevent the devastating effects of sexual abuse and other moral failures by staff members or volunteers
- Visit www.sbc.net/localchurches/ministryhelp.asp
- Download: sbclife.net/pdf/ProtectingOurChildren.pdf
Note: Statistics reported in this article reflect results from clients who have purchased background check services from backgroundchecks.com through Lifeway’s OneSource program.
by Communications Staff