Staffing the Children’s Ministry

Key Steps to Protecting Children and Youth

Many ministries are choosing to slowly phase in their children’s activities. Check in with your volunteer pool as soon as possible to make sure you will be fully staffed. You may find that some may not be ready to resume their roles at this time. If you do find a void, remember that it is important to not only select the right volunteers for the right jobs, but to also screen your volunteers. With some planning and organization, your church can make sure your volunteers are vetted for when your children's ministry resumes.

Screening Best Practices

The screening process helps 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, it is a good idea to perform greater levels of screening 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. To protect your ministry and your volunteers, you are encouraged 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. It is beneficial to use a background check that goes 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, you are encouraged to have a bureau of motor vehicles check 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."

As normal ministry operations resume, your regular group of volunteers may not immediately return. Ideally, churches will be able to rely on volunteers and staff who have already gone through screening procedures (i.e., application form, reference checks, background check, and interview). At a minimum, churches are encouraged to consider screening volunteers with a background check if feasible, and an application form that asks about criminal history and any prior incidents of abuse or misconduct.

Policy Considerations

Your ministry may want to update its children’s ministry policies. The following are some special considerations to address:

  • Churches are encouraged to implement safety and supervision policies that follow the church’s established procedures and state and local requirements.
  • Churches are encouraged to ensure that at least two screened adults are always present when supervising children or youth.
  • Churches are encouraged to stay informed on federal, state, and local guidelines for social distancing and illness prevention.
  • It is beneficial to ask volunteers who have been sick with any illness within the past 14 days or live with someone who is ill during the same time period to not volunteer.

For a full list of policy considerations, download our free resource Child Protection in a Ministry Environment.

Ministries can help ensure the safety and security of their children and youth with a thorough screening process and enhanced policy considerations. This protects churches and conveys care to the families you’re serving.   


Posted May 12, 2020

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.