NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — More than 25,000 background checks conducted by churches or organizations on prospective workers in the past three years have turned up more than 1,600 felony offenses, with the number of organizations conducting background checks having risen 27 percent in the past year, according to LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Since launching LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks in 2008, more than 1,656 different churches or organizations have conducted 25,470 background checks. Of those, more than 45 percent (11,656) returned a criminal hit. A “hit” is any kind of incident, ranging from minor traffic violations to felony convictions, explained Jennie Taylor, marketing coordinator in LifeWay’s direct marketing department.
Excluding traffic and non-traffic infractions (jay-walking, noise pollution, etc.,) more than 20 percent (5,107 searches) returned records with misdemeanor or felony results. More than 1,600 of those 5,107 searches returned felony offenses.
In 2008, LifeWay Christian Resources endorsed backgroundchecks.com to offer background screenings for churches and religious organizations at discounted prices. Through LifeWay’s OneSource program — encompassing products and services for churches and religious organizations that LifeWay has endorsed — all churches and religious organizations can receive discounts on background screenings for their camp counselors, bus drivers, staff, volunteers and others.
“Churches are realizing that this is something they need to be doing,” Taylor said. “With the OneSource program we’ve made it more affordable.”
Backgroundchecks.com works with customers based on their specific needs and will consult with churches one-on-one to help select the best screening process for their particular situation, Taylor said.
“We’ve had tremendous feedback from churches and individuals who have used this service,” she said. “Already we’ve seen more than a 27 percent increase in participation this year over last year. That just goes to show how important this service is to churches.”
Churches can conduct due diligence, Taylor said, by utilizing backgroundchecks.com as a step in their security and safety policy. With a database of over 400 million criminal records, backgroundchecks.com has an extensive collection of public record sources, delivering reports in a concise and user-friendly format.
Fairview Baptist Church in Columbus, Miss., started using backgroundchecks.com in 2010.
“Our mission is to tell others about Jesus Christ,” said Aubrey Adair, volunteer security team chairman at Fairview. “We have a lot of young people and children and we want to provide a safe environment for them and for other worshippers. For any worker who will be working with children 17 years and younger and for our security volunteers, we ask them to submit to a background check.
“This is not a foolproof process, but it’s a stronger method than doing nothing at all,” Adair said, adding that the church also uses the service for its Vacation Bible School.
Fairview has been very pleased with the service from backgroundchecks.com, including the turnaround time, which gives results within minutes, Adair said.
“They helped us set the program up and they gave us some great information,” he said. “We were facing a generational change at church with a lot of younger families coming in — this level of safety and precaution really appealed to them.”
Country Oaks Baptist Church in Elk Grove, Calif., used backgroundchecks.com in their process of interviewing pastoral candidates.
“We were able to get an overall view of our new pastor candidate,” said Arnold Dallas, a deacon at Country Oaks. “[Backgroundchecks.com] verified his degrees from college and seminary and had everything electronic, so we could print everything out and could talk by phone whenever we had questions.”
Erin Freshwater is a writer in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks or call 1-800-464-2799. 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 and http://sbclife.net/pdf/ProtectingOurChildren.pdf. Note: Statistics reported in this article are not derived from a representative sample but reflect clients who purchased background check services through LifeWay without regard to organizational type, denomination, region, demographic makeup or other factors.