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Churches Must Provide a Safe Environment for Minors


How vulnerable are the children and youth of your church to volunteers or staff with criminal histories? Could you confidently look in the eye of a young mother and as a responsible church staff member say that you have done everything you can to make sure her child is safe?

"Of all the crimes against children in the U.S. every year, thousands will occur within the walls of churches and youth centers," said Matthew Robbins with "With crime and abuse at an all time high, churches must develop hiring programs that work to prevent dangerous situations before they occur."

Because Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, the responsibility to provide safe, responsible employees and volunteers falls on the local church.

"Background screening will assist in making decisions that prevent placement of people in situations that could lead to them committing an illegal act that will harm a minor and ultimately hurt the trust that communities place upon organizations that have pledged to protect that trust," said Robbins.

Lifeway Christian Resources has an agreement with to provide discount screening services for churches. Because most criminal records are kept at three levels - federal, state and county records - has compiled their own proprietary database called US OneSEARCH, the largest publicly available national criminal conviction database available. Individual services offered include motor vehicle record screening as well as education and employment verification.

Background checks may be helpful, but they must also fall within legal guidelines.

"While it is very important to create and execute a thorough plan for protection against violence or crimes against children and workers, organizations must be mindful of consumer rights as well," said Robbins. " provides support by promoting strict adherence to the Fair Credit Reporting Act that was put in place to protect consumers from misuse of their background information."

Some pastors or hiring committees may feel uncomfortable performing background checks on volunteers or staff members. However, the consequence of not performing these checks can be devastating.

"It is unfortunate that everyone must be checked out before they are given trust or confidence in their goodwill, especially when they are only trying to give back to the community through the giving of themselves to support a ministry," said Robbins. "But child protection statistics tell a gruesome story that needs to change."