Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an awesome opportunity for churches to share the Gospel with kids of all ages. Kids are excited to attend, parents are excited for their kids to leave their house, and the leaders at the church are excited to teach. Even though all parties are (and should be) excited when VBS kicks off, there is one key factor that should be at the forefront of all leaders’ minds before it even begins: VBS background checks.
Now, before you resort to thinking that VBS background checks are excessive and nothing could possibly happen if someone joyfully and willingly volunteers, think twice. It might be true that you know the person volunteering, but do you know their history or even their capabilities? This is an unfortunate reality of our world, and it’s always better to prioritize the safety of children in your church.
Plus, the last thing you want to deal with at your VBS is a security issue, especially involving a child. VBS is an opportunity for your church to share the Gospel with children, and you want to work hard to avoid anything that could distract from that.
Here are a few reasons why your church needs VBS background checks, who you should perform the background checks on, and how to take additional security measures to make sure that your VBS is nothing but fun and Gospel-focused.
Know Why Quality Background Checks Are Necessary
As a leader, it is your job to protect all children attending your church’s VBS, and that means looking into all areas that could be of concern. In addition to protecting the children, you want to protect your church too.
The Volunteers for Children Act
The Volunteers for Children Act of 1998 allows any church to be sued if a church does not conduct a national search to check for a previous criminal record and an incident occurs with an employee or volunteer. This act was created because too many dangerous individuals were volunteering and/or working with churches, and they posed a threat to those around them. In addition, most insurances actually require you to conduct background checks.
The Danger of Instant Checks
Additionally, it’s important that you are wary of instant checks that seem so popular online. Finding a way to do an instant background check on someone is dangerous. The information provided through most instant checks is often outdated and inaccurate. Be sure to find a VBS background check that includes the most up-to-date information so you can be sure everyone is safe. Protect My Ministry provides quality and thorough background checks and they’re one of the only background check companies that will do a free “re-verification” of records from the national criminal database for a volunteer, and to also do a “true” 50 state search on sexual offenders.
Finding Quality Volunteers
Finally, the reason behind conducting a VBS background check is not only to ensure you don’t have child predators in your midst but also to ensure you have safe, capable individuals serving your church. Background checks will ensure your volunteers are who they say they are, search criminal databases, motor vehicle records, and other key information you may find applicable to protecting your church. This will help you protect your church from volunteers who have a record of becoming easily angered to the point of harm or even who have had multiple recent DUI’s. You can never be too safe when it comes to children and volunteers.
Ministering to Parents
As a parent, there’s no better feeling than knowing that your child is safe. By providing VBS background checks you can put parents’ minds at ease. Not only will this help you have more children attend your VBS, but it will open a door to minister to parents too. If they know that their children are safe, they are more likely to attend your church at other times (like Sunday mornings) too.
If you feel like this seems over the top, take a deep breath. The heart behind all of this information is to make sure anyone who enters the front doors of your church is protected, no matter their age.
Make Sure the Following People Have Background Checks
Teachers are the individuals who come in the closest contact with the children attending your VBS. You want to make sure these teachers are trained and equipped for their tasks, especially in the area of proper conduct. Ten years ago, it might have been okay for teachers to hug their students, but unfortunately, today’s society makes us question these actions. One way to train each teacher is by providing a safety manual for each of your volunteers to follow, including proper conduct. This way, your teachers are equipped with your church’s standards on what to do and not do.
Videographers and Photographers
This group of people is often overlooked. Churches desperately want to capture the joy and fun happening at their church, and so sometimes the people behind the camera aren’t properly checked out. Conducting a background check on these individuals will help ensure you don’t have a predator behind the camera. Just as teachers need proper training on proper conduct, so do your videographers and photographers. If you live in a state where taking photographs of children without parental consent is illegal, be sure to include that information in their training.
Often serving in the background and often unseen are the people who empty the trash cans and make sure everything is nice and tidy. These individuals need a background check too because even though they are in the background, they can still come into contact with children at your church.
Does your VBS have a set staff to provide snacks or food to the children attending VBS? Make sure you include these individuals in your background check. Even though their time with the children is short, you still need to make sure they are safe to be around children and/or prepare food for children to eat.
Take Additional Protective Steps
Another way you can protect your children and church in addition to a VBS background check is by hiring a local police officer who can come on site during your VBS hours. Officers who are trained in child-related legal cases are often the best choices for officers to hire. They have the ability to recognize if anything is out of the norm, which will provide an extra level of protection for those attending your VBS. If you have an officer who attends your church, simply reach out and ask them to help. If they can’t help, more than likely they know someone who can.
Additional types of security can include identifying specific individuals who are trained to notice anything suspicious or unusual. These individuals can stand at high traffic points as well as places where people enter and exit.
Child Check-in and Check-Out
You can also create a smooth and strategic check-in and check-out process for each child attending your VBS. Creating a safe way for parents or guardians to pick up their children will help eliminate the threat of someone dangerous picking up a child who is not their own. If your church needs a strategic and safe check-in and check-out system, check out Elexio. This system is created specifically to keep your children’s ministry safe.
The goal of creating a safe environment through VBS background checks and additional security is to create a safe atmosphere where parents and guardians can drop off their children without worry. These added security measures eliminate the threat that could occur in your church and provide a safe space for kids to hear the gospel message without distraction.
Keep These Things in Mind
Before you can run a background check on anyone, you’ll need to get the volunteer’s permission. In order to run background checks for VBS volunteers, you’ll need the volunteer’s full legal name (first, middle, and last), social security number, and full date of birth. All parties need to consent to a background check before one is completed. If the volunteer is uneasy about conducting a background check, this may be a red flag for you to consider before they volunteer in your children’s ministry.
Most VBS background checks are returned within 48 hours. This is good information to keep in mind so that you don’t get in a bind with volunteers. Make sure to plan ahead and gather all volunteers’ background checks in enough time to have a successful VBS. In case a VBS background check returns questionable findings, you will want enough time to find additional volunteers to fill that need.
Frequency of Background Checks
If you have conducted background checks on your VBS volunteers in prior years, it is still a good idea to run new background checks. Background checks should be conducted annually in case of any new or additional findings. Even though this might seem excessive, know you can never be too safe!
VBS is a great opportunity to connect with your community. Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the things that could go wrong. Planning ahead, equipping your staff, and conducting VBS background checks can alleviate those thoughts. Plus, your Elexio church management software integrates with Protect My Ministry, the leading Church background screening CRA in the industry. Now, you can easily do background checks on your VBS volunteers from a Christian company and rest knowing that your kids are in the right hands.
If you still need a church management system, download our eBook, “Nine Questions to Ask as You Consider a CHMS” to help you make the best decision for your ministry.