Selecting and Screening Volunteers

Key Steps to Protecting People and Furthering the Work of the Ministry

In today’s busy world, churches and schools rely on volunteers more than ever. It’s important to not only select the right volunteers for the right jobs, but to also screen your volunteers. While it may seem like mission impossible, with some planning and organization, your church or school can develop a robust volunteer program.

Selecting Volunteers Takes Coordination

Many churches and schools have someone who acts as a volunteer coordinator. This central point of contact can help with recruiting volunteers because people know who they can speak with if they have a desire to serve or a question about serving. Like many ministries, The Chapel, a multi-campus church in the Akron, Ohio, area, relies heavily on volunteers. Having someone who serves as a single point of contact is an important aspect of selecting volunteers. “This central role really serves as a liaison, a friendly face folks can come to with thoughts, questions, or concerns,” said Jamie Fuller, servant coordinator at The Chapel in Green, the church’s Uniontown, Ohio, campus. 

The coordinator develops a keen sense for the personality types that have a desire to serve. Several traits evident in a good volunteer include being, “humble, teachable, committed, and flexible. A good volunteer is someone who wants to use their gifts to enhance the kingdom and to advance the ministry’s mission,” reflected Fuller.

Serving Covenant Protects Ministry

When selecting volunteers, it’s important that they understand the moral obligations of serving in your ministry. One way to communicate that is through a serving covenant. “This covenant clearly states expectations and what it means to serve at The Chapel,” said Fuller. A serving covenant outlines the ministry’s doctrine and what is morally right and expected as a volunteer. “It serves as a protection for our volunteers and for us, especially when we run into a situation where we’re forced to ask a volunteer to step down,” remarked Fuller.

Screening Best Practices

After selecting and matching a volunteer to a role, it’s critically important to perform a thorough screening. The screening process is a necessary step to protect the safety of everyone involved with your ministry, especially children and youth.  

The screening process varies depending on the type of role the volunteer will fill. In the church setting, greater levels of screening should be performed on volunteers who interact or work with children, youth, or vulnerable adults. Other volunteers, such as those in a greeter ministry, wouldn’t necessarily receive the same level of screening. However, in the school setting, there are very few instances where a school wouldn’t perform a full background screening. To protect your ministry and your volunteers, ministries should implement the following steps every time a volunteer will work directly with children or youth.

  1. Written application with at least two references unrelated to the volunteer. The key component with any written application is gathering the necessary information to verify truthfulness and to gain insight into a person’s character.
  2. Reference check and interview. It’s important to interview the references included in the application. This helps make sure you have an accurate representation of the volunteer’s character.
  3. Personal interview with volunteer. The interview ensures the volunteer is qualified and is an opportunity to clarify any information they’ve included in the application. It also serves as an opportunity to clarify any information uncovered during the reference check.
  4. Criminal background screen. 
  • A background check should go beyond a national criminal database and sex offender registry search to include social security number verification and a local county criminal records search.  If any volunteer is going to drive, a bureau of motor vehicles check should also be performed. 
  • Not all background checks are created equal. Ministries should expect to pay about $10-$20 for a volunteer background check. This generally ensures that you’re getting a check of local and national databases. It’s also important to not rely solely on a criminal records check. It’s simply one component of a thorough screening process. To help ministries make an informed decision, SafeHiring Solutions offers, "10 Things to Know Before Selecting a Background Screening Firm."
  • Schools rely on many volunteers and screening them may be cost prohibitive. Schools can request volunteers to pay for their own background check. This not only removes the financial burden, but it helps ensure you’re getting committed volunteers. 

A thorough screening process protects churches and schools, but it does so much more. “With thorough screening as part of our policies and procedures, there is a peace in knowing that there’s a process and it’s supported by the team. It’s intentional and having multiple steps makes you feel good knowing that you weren’t careless, and you had a plan to protect the ministry,” remarked Fuller.