More churches using background checks

NASHVILLE -- An estimated 1-in-5 background checks processed through LifeWay Christian Resources' program with backgroundchecks.com reveals a conviction of a felony or other serious offense.

This may be part of the reason why a growing number of churches use background checks as a way to better protect children and others involved in ministry.

After a six-year partnership between LifeWay and backgroundchecks.com, the number of churches that say they are benefiting from the screenings continues to grow. Since last year, 50 percent more churches and organizations have used the service.

Since 2008, approximately 7,700 churches and religious organizations have conducted more than 142,000 background checks by using backgroundchecks.com (www.LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks). Of those checks, nearly half (47 percent) contained some type of criminal offense, according to Jennie Taylor, a LifeWay coordinator who helps manage the service.

Taylor said the majority of those were for minor incidents, such as speeding tickets or seatbelt violations. But more than 21 percent of the checks discovered misdemeanors or more serious crimes, including more than 9,000 felonies.

Prior to sending his children and youth to summer camp this year, Tim Hubbard, pastor of Seminary Baptist Church in Seminary, Miss., discovered he needed background checks for all the volunteers who would be serving as chaperones. He turned to LifeWay and backgroundchecks.com.

For Hubbard, the ability to obtain immediate access to run the necessary background checks proved to be a significant benefit. He also appreciated the trust that was built between the parents and church leadership through performing checks on all the chaperones.

Taylor said the relationship between LifeWay and backgroundchecks.com "gives us the opportunity to provide a product that protects children and church assets at a reasonable cost."

The cost, with screenings that start at $10, has helped eliminate a barrier many churches face with background checks.

After using the service at their church, Barbara Brook, church secretary at Superstition Foothills Baptist Church in Gold Canyon, Ariz., said she would recommend it to others "because of its flexibility to meet individual needs and cost effectiveness."

Taylor noted that knowing churches would recommend the service to other churches is great news because of the potential to protect the most vulnerable.

"We have done something very worthwhile, if only one child or church is protected," she said.

But background checks are just one way for churches to protect children and themselves, Taylor says. Security bands in the nursery, along with intrusion, video and access control solutions can provide additional means to ensure the safety of those in the care of the church.

For more information on background checks, visit LifeWay.com/backgroundchecks or call (800) 464-2799. For additional resources to help churches avoid the devastating effects of sexual abuse and other moral failures by staff members or volunteers, visit sbc.net/localchurches/ministryhelp.asp and sbclife.net/pdf/ProtectingOurChildren.pdf.

Aaron Earls is a writer for the LifeWay communications team.
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