Unfortunately, destructive incidents can occur at any parish, even the most close-knit. Preventing harmful acts – such as abuse, embezzlement, violent crimes, and theft – is one of the main reasons many ministries conduct background checks on new employees and volunteers. Background checks are the single most effective tool at protecting the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who come through your doors every week.
Once a clean record, not always a clean a record
But just because an employee or volunteer passed an initial background check does not mean his/her circumstances have not changed to make him/her a concern to the parish.
Re-screening employees and volunteers can help. The latest studies show, though, that most employers negate this critical step in keeping their workplace safe. In fact, it is estimated that less than a third of employers re-screen current employees and volunteers. Some industries like health care and transportation require additional background checks, but most do not.
Ministries have some of the lowest re-screening rates. As reported in “The True Cost of Stewardship” in the November/December 2015 issue of Church Executive (which ParishSOFT’s sister company Protect My Ministry team wrote), tough budgets are often to blame. Legal issues, privacy concerns, and worrying about appearing untrusting of your ministry members also play a role in deciding against follow-up background checks.
When re-screening is the right move
There are concrete instances, though, where re-screening employees and volunteers are appropriate and necessary. Here are three of them.
- An Internal Move: When employees change positions or volunteers begin serving in a new role, they will undoubtedly have different responsibilities. In some cases, they may have greater access to sensitive information, church funds, or children. Promotions may come with benefits like the use of a parish vehicle or a key to the building. All of these new access points put your parish and parishioners at risk if you have not properly re-screened the employees and/or volunteers. For example, re-screening will examine a person’s driving and criminal record and show you any new offense you may not know about.
- A Workplace Incident: It is your responsibility to ensure your parish is a safe place to work. Failing to do so could leave the parish or arch/diocese vulnerable to a negligence lawsuit. A workplace incident may be a good indicator that an employee or volunteer needs to be re-screened. Challenging to initiate, rescreening can reveal important indicators. Rescreening would allow you to be in a better position to counsel your staff both professionally and personally. From a liability standpoint, you will have shown due diligence in keeping your workplace safe.
- Unusual Behavior: If an employee or volunteer starts acting out or exhibiting otherwise odd personality changes including, but not limited to, tardiness, rudeness, and uncleanliness, it may be time for a follow-up background check. Many secular employers already have a policy that unusual behavior can lead to a random drug test. Ministries may want to strongly consider beefing up this policy to include a full re-screen, because while personality changes can indicate substance abuse, they can also mean something else (a mental health issue, divorce, a child’s illness) is going on. It is important to proceed with compassion and caution, but steps must be taken to prevent an outside problem from becoming an insider threat that harms your congregation.
The most effective way to incorporate re-screening into your employment/volunteer guidelines is to make it a mandatory requirement. A study done in 2012 by the Employee Benefit Research Institute showed the average length of employment for Americans is more than five years. Use that as a benchmark and re-screen employees and volunteers every five years. That way, you are ensured you are keeping new hires and veterans to the same standards.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the church management, accounting, or giving products offered by ParishSOFT, please call our sales department at 866-930-4774 x6 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For all inquiries regarding background checks, we encourage you to visit the Protect My Ministry website or give them a call at 800-319-5581. Be sure to mention that you are a ParishSOFT customer!