Season 2, Episode 2: Background Checks: How Thorough Should They Be?

In this episode of our podcast we are talking about background checks for ministries.  Our discussion includes asking the question “do we need background checks?”  We also discuss who we should be running background checks on, why we should be doing background checks and choosing a background screening provider.      We also talk about some of the basics including what is involved in the background process and do we need permission to do a background check.

Credentials Needed For Your Security Team

This is an excellent foundational question especially focused to minimize our liabilities. As a former law enforcement administrator I do not believe we can just say to an usher, security person or ministry leader “you are now a security person” and let it go at that.   

Some of us may be able to find police, corrections officers or already certified security officers to serve on our team, that is great if you are able to find those already certified and trained personnel . Most of us are going to have trouble finding those folks to serve as a complete team.  So what is required or should we require for ushers, greeters or other staff to serve as “security team” members?

First, let me say i am not an attorney, so if you have one I would consult them.  This is not legal advice…..but it is some simple discussion of what I think we should do to limit our liabilities from a supervisor or leaders perspective.   So the first thing we need to know is if our state or local government requires our staff who might act as security, to be certfied.  This certification will generally mean they have to take a class and get a certficate or security guard card.

Some areas might have an exemption if the person is a volunteer when they are conducting “security” duties.   It is really important that we know what those requirements are.   If you are not sure, try to find a security or enforcement person within your group or congregation to interview about the requirements.   But I also want to remind you that I have seen exemptions in some states based on the fact that these security persons are volunteers.  So while I want to make sure you cover your bases of liability, I also want to make sure that you are not trying to get more for your people than you need.

Here is what I want to talk about beyond those laws or regulations.   Once you get your people certified where required then we need to look at further credentials or training.  I do believe we need to look at several areas to find some training for our personnel.  If these people are serving as an usher and security person, and they are not a police officer, then we need some ongoing or yearly training topics.

Here is a list from my experience of what you should seek out as starter training topics for your people and there should be some form of updates yearly for each member.   We also want to make sure that the new people we recruit for the team in the future also get this training:

1. Defensive Training – how to defend yourself and how to escort or control someone who is being disorderly.

2. Verbal skills training – Communicatiing with difficult people.

3. Dealing with Mentally ILL people

To find someone to give a class you might contact your local police agency or security company and see if you can hire one of their trainers  to do a 3 or 4 hour training on these topics.  You might be surprised how inexpensive it can be to find an instructor.  Most instructors will probably not charge more than $50 per hour to conduct the training for your people.   So you can get a 4 or 5 hour class for $200 to $250 for 10 or so people.  This is just to give you an idea, but the cost will definately depend on the instructor and how much detail they go into and of course your location/region.

You might also find training online that individuals can take and bring the certificate to you as proof that they took the course.

This brings me to another point, I am really suggesting this based on our liabilities.  So we want to also document this training and keep a file of this training that you are doing. We want to show that we are training our team.  If they get hurt or hurt someone, our insurance company I am sure is going to want to know what training your were doing for your people.

After the state or local certifications are met, this training for your team on a yearly basis becomes their credentials.   I believe this is what you want them to have to be able to participate in your ministry security program.   We don’t want to just say that we are expecting people to protect us or handle disorderly people or emergencies and not make sure that we are providing them some training or maintaining our own credentials for the team.

I won’t address credentials for people who we are asking to carry firearms to protect our group in this post, but I will address that in the near future.