MBC offers way to do background checks
By Brian Koonce
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is offering churches a way to keep children safe by performing cost-effective background checks on prospective employees and volunteers.
The agreement with VolunteerSelect Plus allows churches to do a national criminal file check for $5 and allows them to avoid the $25-$100 setup fee.
In an age where clergy sex scandals and allegations of child abuse rock the front pages, churches cannot afford not to take some measures to protect children and themselves, said David Tolliver, interim executive director of the MBC.
“This is not just a Catholic problem,” he said. “Child abuse is prevalent throughout our society. On a practical level, we should do it to protect ourselves and save money on insurance. But more importantly, we want to protect kids.”
Although requiring and performing background checks does not provide a failsafe way to keep pedophiles or predators away from children, it can go a long way toward making sure a local church is not creating an environment conducive to such behavior.
“Any church that does not do background checks and has no program in place to screen those who work with children, chances are the insurance company will not back them up,” Tolliver said.
Since the Catholic priest scandal broke out in 2001, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has been the target of criticism from some advocacy groups who say the denomination does not remove or “defrock” those suspected of child abuse or pedophilia from ministry. While measures like that are impossible due to Baptist polity and the autonomy of the local church, Tolliver said the background checks are merely a tool being made available to the local congregation.
“I certainly can’t force any church to do this, but I certainly would strongly encourage them to take advantage of it,” he said.
The program can be accessed at www.volunteerselectplus.com or the MBC’s website, www.mobaptist.org/home/volunteerselectplus. Churches must use the promotional code “MBC2” (not case-sensitive) to avoid paying the setup fee. After that, each background check costs $5. Other services, from credential verification to other record searches, run from $2.10 to $11.20 each.