I love engaging students in Gospel conversations, working diligently to organize and promote the next event, and showing up at a football game to support students and families. The pace and thrill of ministry motivate every student ministry leader to stick to the grind. On the flip side, it is the administrative details that often get pushed lower in the paperwork shuffle and ignored.
I can recall the times that my executive pastor would ask me to review my volunteer list to ensure that background checks were up to date, and how tempting it was to put that off until later. Is it really that important?
CALLED TO LEAD
The reality is that God has called us to advance the Gospel. Certainly, our foremost mission is to make disciples and to advance the Kingdom of God. We do this through preaching, teaching, small groups, and more. We must be faithful to never neglect this mandate and mission.
Conversely, we must recognize that there are administrative tasks that must be done, and must be done well.
LEAD AS A SHEPHERD
We are called to shepherd the flock of God. As a shepherd, we must take the safety and security of our sheep extremely seriously. One administrative task that must remain at the forefront of our mind is following the child protection policies of our church.
For the sake of conversation, let’s assume that your church has a child protection policy in place. If this is not the case, it should quickly rise to the top of the list of priorities for your church. These policies exist to enable and foster effective ministry in our current cultural context.
The most effective spiritual ministry can take place in a safe environment. While this discussion is broad, the focus of this document is to evaluate the effectiveness of a background check. Should you do them? The simple answer is, yes.
NO WORRIES, WE DO BACKGROUND CHECKS
As I consult with churches across the state of Georgia, when the topic of child protection arise the first response relates to the security found in a background check. I submit that this is a starting point but cannot be the extent of our child protection system.
Threats against our children’s security come from outside and from within the church family. For example, a background check may alert us to someone with a criminal past; but recognizing that most offenses against minors occur by a family member or someone close the child’s everyday context suggests that a background check is not sufficient.
Gregory Love, who is the co-author of Ministry Safe, reminds us that most often the preferential offender is the guilty party in crimes against children. 94% of all sexual abuse cases involved a family member or influencer over that child. Compared to 4% of sexual abuse cases that involve what Gregory Love calls an abduction offender.
As it relates to background checks, we are relying on a tool that is marginally effective against 4% of cases.
COMMIT TO MORE
The 94% of cases involving abuse toward children should move us to no longer be satisfied with a background check. We must move more toward an exhaustive system. It is my recommendation that every church re-evaluates their current process and consider utilizing external expertise, like Ministry Safe, to renew a commitment toward conducting ministry in a safe environment.
In summary, background checks are critically important and should be continued, but they are not solely sufficient.