Back to School: Back to Screening

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Do you screen the staff and volunteers who work with your children or other vulnerable individuals in your congregation? If not, this is the year to start. Screening volunteers is key to preventing abuse in church settings.

How to Get Started

Fall is an excellent time to begin your screening efforts. Here are some basic steps to start your screening effort:

  • Make a comprehensive table of all church staff and volunteers who need screening. Use a chart to keep yourself organized. List the names and then beside the names, put columns (depending on your church’s policy) such as “screening application submitted,” “result of screening, “date received,” “reference check.” Keep this form and update it as new volunteers or staff are added to your roster.
  • Put out an announcement in your church newsletter or bulletin in early September, or make a verbal announcement, to explain the screening process and why it is important for abuse prevention so that everyone realizes it is part of a congregational initiative that applies universally and that it isn’t targeting specific individuals.
  • You may wish to set up a table in your fellowship hall on a Sunday in September to make the screening forms available, allowing people to fill out the forms then and there. Alternately, you can send the forms around by email and then follow up with phone calls to ensure everyone submits their form by the deadline.
  • Once you have submitted the forms to the appropriate authorities, you will receive confirmation of screening results. Designate a church staff member to file these away in a locked cabinet. These are confidential documents and care needs to be taken in handling them and in ensuring people's personal information is kept in confidence and seen only by those needed to complete the screening process.


Why Screen?

Still not convinced that screening is necessary in your congregation? Remember that even if you feel you know each other very well, you cannot be sure that abuse will not happen in your church. History proves that to be the case.

Brotherhood Mutual offers a Guidelines for Ministry Workers, a sample policy manual, that can be helpful in adopting screening tools and processes. The manual includes:

  • screening forms for workers with children and youth
  • response forms for personal reference
  • reporting forms to be filled out if someone is injured during an activity on your premises or sponsored by your ministry
  • a checklist for developing a policy and a sample congregational letter are new entries in the “Sample Policy and Forms” section
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Imagine that you are the only house on the block that does not have a security system and the signage that denotes it.  If a burglar has to make a choice as to which home to break into, your non-secured home will likely be the primary choice.  

The same logic applies to ministries without screening protocol.  Which church is most likely to attract the sexual predator?  As more and more charities and ministries implement screening protocol, your church (if it has no such protocol) will be more likely to attract the prowling of predators.

Screening is only a minor part of a proper Safe Church Policy but it is crucial (ask your insurer).  It won't stop the first-time offender but it will severely limit the likelihood of repeat offences.