Life has a way of surprising us in ways that can sometimes leave you scratching your head. Take the following story for example:
Last week Thomas George Gordon, an 82 year old volunteer at a small Anglican Church, was arrested for stealing over $200,000 from 1998 to 2011. Gordon was arrested Thursday night and is now awaiting his day in court. He has been released pending the future court date.
How does someone get away with something that serious for that long? And who would have suspected a volunteer that has been with the church for all those years would be the one to watch? Despite this and countless other examples we have seen, one of the most common excuses for not doing background checks remains “We know everyone. We don’t need to do background checks or safety training here.” The message we want to communicate to churches is that complacency can easily lead to abuses of power. So what can you do to protect your church and its members?
It is vital that your church have a proper screening procedure in place and you are actively updating your policies. Here are a few simple recommendations we make for churches:
Consistency:
Volunteers need to know that you are not singling them out and that you aren’t subjecting them to a background check because you distrust them. This will also protect you from any discrimination issues that can come up with picking and choosing who you will screen.
Comprehension:
When selecting a screening provider make sure you know exactly what you are getting and the scope of your criminal background check. Here are a few questions to help you in that process.
·         How much information does my state and surrounding states report to your database?
·         How do you handle maiden names and alias names?
·         What happens if you find a criminal record on someone? Do you verify the information belongs to our applicant and request updated information directly from the source?
Remember that not all background checks are created equal and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all background check that covers all criminal information for the entire country. It doesn’t exist and anyone who tells you it does is misleading you.

Don’t fall into the trap of complacency. Make sure you are doing everything in your power to protect your church and those in your care!