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Protecting children in the church: the true cost of stewardship

3 reasons why cost isn’t everything when it comes to screening

By Patricia Carlson

PROTECTING CHILDREN IN CHURCH ICONMinistries have a bold task. You want — and need — to be good stewards of your communities and congregations. That can often lead to conflicting methodologies when it comes to balancing budgets.

While you want to devote the majority of your money to your missions, outreach and education programs, you also understand the importance of recruiting quality volunteers and employees, and prioritizing hiring procedures.

This, of course, has a dollar value, too.

Background screening is one of the most important and effective tools ministries have at their disposal to keep their employees, visitors, volunteers, children, finances and other private information safe. It’s well-known among church leaders that background checks are the primary line of defense against fending off predators who might do damage to your congregation and its hard-earned reputation.

Yet, this invaluable hiring instrument is routinely put on the budgetary chopping block because of its supposed high price tag.

The true cost of stewardship, though, can be seen and felt when ministries use the cheapest screening agency available or forego background checks altogether.

Here are three reasons why cost isn’t everything when it comes to background screening.

kids in hands1) Cost doesn’t equal quality

You might be tempted to accept the lowest bid from the screening firm which promises you “instant results.” Know this: There is no single database of criminal information available, and instant checks with criminal records do not exist.

Criminal records should never be instantly returned; this shows that the information was not verified. Criminal records should take 24 to 48 hours on average to verify and return. In some instances, a “No Record” result might take 24 to 48 hours to return because of the initial possible hits found on the national database result.

Prices for background checks can vary greatly. Ministries that are serious about finding a quality Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) should consider using the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) as a starting point.

Consumer Reporting Agencies that are NAPBS-accredited must pass a series of rigorous tests that ensure they exercise ethical business practices, comply with the FCRA, as well as state and international consumer protection laws as they relate to the background screening profession.

2) Cheap might actually be illegal

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is certainly true in the background screening industry.

Benton Mobley, Director of Compliance for Protect My Ministry, says some screening agencies will promise big returns for a fee as low as $3. The problem is that these companies might be breaking the law and delivering unverified results.

“What good does an unverified background report do for a client on a generic name like ‘Mike Clark’?,” Mobley asks. “They’re going to get back 27 pages of possible records, when in reality, their candidate is clear. The client has now wasted money and time, and will probably not hire the qualified candidate because of a $3 national background check, instead of paying for a verified national product.

“It’s OK to be cheap when you buy sunglasses, but not when you buy other things,” he adds. “[This includes] a background report.”

Furthermore, providing unverified results is illegal. You definitely don’t want your church making a hiring decision based on information that was illegally obtained in the first place.

3) New hires cost more

Turnover — even among volunteers — is expensive. The entire recruiting process (both direct and indirect) can cost a church hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, per volunteer. That grows exponentially — to the tune of double a person’s annual salary — for salaried employees, especially those at a managerial or executive level.

Ministries simply cannot afford to have a rotating roster of volunteers or employees. It’s expensive, disruptive to your culture, and takes time away from more important tasks.

Remember: It will cost you significantly more to replace a bad hire than to ensure you’re getting the right person from the start.

Patricia Carlson is a Florida-based freelance writer for Protect My Ministry in Tampa, FL. 


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