In the Bible
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans (Daniel 1:3-4).
In Bible times, the Tabernacle and the Temple faced East (Exodus 27:13; 38:13). The altar was set up east of the building. Then, in the Christian era, after Roman persecution had ended, churches were built with the altar at the east end of the sanctuary. In ancient times, directions began with East. For most of us today, they begin with North.
The word orient comes from the Latin word for the East. To orient means to position something or someone facing east. Now it has come to mean getting one's bearings, to face the right direction (someone confused about where they are is disoriented). It also means to introduce a new employee, student, or group member to the purpose, practices, and expectations of the company, school, or organization. The process is called orientation.
In Daniel 1:3-4, King Nebuchadnezzar wanted the socially elite captives from Jerusalem to be oriented to the culture of Babylon so they could serve in his government. He put Ashpenaz in charge of this orientation, which included training in the Chaldean Academy.
Safety Ministry Orientation
In a Church Safety Ministry, new members need orientation to the ministry. This includes recruitment, the application process, and learning the qualifications and responsibilities of being a Safety Team member. The Church Safety and Security Volunteer Academy is the Church Safety Ministry version of basic training.
The Church Safety Team Academy
In the article "Implementation," the last step in setting up a Church Safety Ministry is training. The Church Safety and Security Volunteer Academy is the first - the basic one - of the Sheepdog Church Security training courses. Its focus is on the Church Safety Team. Its major points are:
- Qualifications and Restrictions
- Ethics and Conduct
- Team Priorities
- Sample Policies and Procedures
- Radio Procedures
- Patrol Procedures
- Forms and Reporting
The first four points are covered in this article. The last four are addressed in other articles in this series.
If you have gotten this far, then you have already been recruited or have independently volunteered. There are a number of routes to signing up to be a member of the Church Safety Team:
- The applicant knew of the team by hearing about it from others, hearing reports of an incident or the team's activities, or seeing team members on duty, and decided to be a member of the team.
- The applicant saw or heard an announcement asking for Safety Team volunteers.
- The applicant knows a Safety Team member.
- The Safety Director, a team member, or someone on the Safety Committee personally asked the applicant to apply.
Each person signing up to be a member of the Safety Ministry must fill out an application. This includes Safety Committee members, the Safety Director, and Safety Team members. Why the Committee too? First, they set the example. If even those on the Committee have to submit to the application process, then there is no reason for team members to be exempt. Second, by the nature of the Safety Ministry's responsibilities, verification and accountability extend to all involved.
Besides name, social security number, contact information, and address, the application for the Safety Ministry also asks for previous experience and employment, former addresses, previous churches attended (especially those where the applicant had been on staff or volunteered), and educational institutions attended. It also asks about driving and criminal records.
Daniel and his friends were interviewed by the king:
... they were to stand before the king...the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:5,18).
Interviewing the applicant gives the Safety Director and/or the Safety Ministry interview team the opportunity to see and hear the applicant in person. There are standard questions they will ask, as well as questions related to answers on the application. Follow-up questions may arise from the applicant's answers or the interviewer's observation of the applicant's demeanor or way of answering.
Depending on your church's practice or the results of reference and background checks, there may be a second interview.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17: 11).
This is following up with people and places named in the application. One reason is verification of the applicant's education, employment, prior memberships, marital status, etc.
There are specific questions which can be asked of people contacted in the reference check. For instance, the pastor and persons the applicant worked with in a previous church can tell how he interacted with them and others in the church. Some of the concerns are:
- How diligent was the applicant?
- How did he or she take instruction and constructive criticism?
- Were there relational issues?
- Did the applicant keep appropriate boundaries with children, youth, and those of the opposite sex?
- How honest was he or she with money and with facts?
- How good a listener was he or she?
- How well did he or she control anger?
Similar questions and others specific to the place can be asked of employers, schools, neighbors, and people with whom they did business.
The reference check can verify that the applicant is truthful in answering questions on the application. On the other hand, some of the answers may be either not true or not entirely accurate. Sometimes if a detail is not entirely accurate, it may be a mistake or faulty memory, such as one digit in a house number, phone number, or zip code. In that case, ask for documentation or for the applicant to copy the information from his or her own records. By the way, for this reason it is a good idea for the applicant to take the application home and fill it out with the records on hand.
Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored (Ezra 6:1).
The application for joining the Safety Ministry asks for the applicant's Social Security Number because it is needed for a background check. Along with the application is a separate form asking permission to conduct a background check.
Why a Background Check?
Background checks have become necessary for church staff and volunteers. One reason more churches are running background checks is liability. According to Smart Church Management (SCM), churches used to have "the benefit of the doubt," but that has changed. Now "attorneys found out that churches were lax in policy and churches became a prime target for litigation." SCM lists three reasons for running background checks on all volunteers:
- Protect Church Assets
- Protect The Kids
- Protect Church Members
What is a Background Check?
This is mostly a public records search. Sources include the FBI database (as used for firearm checks), state and local courts, federal courts records, bankruptcy courts, and credit checks. Driving records should also be checked. Whether or not the volunteer will be operating motor vehicles as part of his or her duties, a driving record may reveal issues of concern such as operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI) or frequent moving violations. OVI may show a pattern of substance abuse, especially if repeated. Frequent moving violations could possibly indicate habitual inattention or disregard for the law.
How to Run a Background Check
Your church may try to run background checks on its own, looking up the applicant in all available databases. Many of the online services allowing a person, company, or institution to search for court records, etc. require paid subscriptions. However, few churches have someone who has not only the expertise to conduct a background check, but also has the time, especially when doing it for a dozen applicants at once. Most churches instead contract the background checks with a service provider. There are several services available online which run background checks for churches with fees starting from $10 per check
Qualifications & Restrictions
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:2-3).
Since a Church Safety Team is part of a ministry, its members, including the Safety Director, have to meet the same qualifications the Bible holds for ministers, including overseers, elders, and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:6-9). Here's a summary:
- Above reproach
- Faithful to his [or her] spouse
- Able to teach
- Not quarrelsome
To these we add other qualifications, some specific to safety and security work:
- A member and/or a regular attendee of the church
- Physically able to complete assigned tasks
- Able to demonstrate good character, honesty, and integrity
- Without disqualifying criminal convictions
There are two restrictions and disqualifications for working on the Safety Team, whether from before joining the team or done while on the team:
- Committing a crime
- Knowingly providing false information to the church
Ethics & Conduct
Ethical behavior is expected of all members of the Church Safety Ministry. This is summarized as "The Six Bs" -
- Be modest, honoring others above yourself.
- Be on time and perform all duties completely and correctly.
- Be an example for others.
- Be faithful.
- Be wise.
- Be discrete.
The last point, discretion, includes confidentiality. We, as Safety Team members may be privy to other persons' private matters if it is a safety concern. We also know plans of the safety ministry or of church leadership which should not be public knowledge. Therefore, we need to be discrete, not revealing what we know, nor talking about it where we can be overheard.
Everybody has priorities - or should have. Those for Safety Team members are:
- Attend church services
- Spend time with families
- Participate in training
- Serve during services
- Serve at large events
These priorities, as well as the points under Ethics & Conduct, are discussed in more detail in the ChurchSafety and Security Volunteer Academy training course.
There Is More
Other articles in this series are "Setting It Straight" (Policies and Procedures), "Communication" (Radio Use and Reporting), "Making the Rounds" (Patrolling), "Curricula" (More Courses, Refreshers), and "Access Control" (A Key to Security).
- Kris Moloney, "Church Safety and Security Volunteer Academy," Sheepdog Church Security Training Courses, Training Bundle Classroom) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/church-safety-and-security-volunteer-academy-training-bundle]; Individual (Online) Training [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/church-safety-and-security-volunteer-academy].
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Orient," [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orient].
- _____, "Orientation," [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orientation].
- W. Vaughn, "Implementation: Setting up a Safety Ministry," Sheepdog Church Security, August 18, 2019 [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/articles/implementation/].
- Patricia Lotich, "3 Reasons to Run Background Checks on All Volunteers," Smart Church Management, January 17, 2018 [https://smartchurchmanagement.com/background-checks/].