Manpower: People are selected and placed in positions that fit their gifts, passions and callings and that align with the church’s objectives and culture

Pre-Employment Screening: Reference and Background Checks

Pre-employment screening is a vital component of a comprehensive church staff hiring process. Pre-employment screening can make the difference between a successful and an unfortunate hire. A thorough pre-employment screening process includes both reference and background checks.

What is Included in a Reference Check?

A reference check is when an employer contacts a job applicants previous employers, friends, associates, schools, and other sources about his or her employment history, education, experience, family, and qualifications for a job.

The goal of the reference check is to determine whether the candidate has the character, qualities, skills, strengths, weaknesses, hard wiring, passions, and calling necessary to serve on your staff. Another goal is to discern how well they will fit in with your church culture, how they lead and how they are best supervised. A final objective of the reference check is to confirm employment history and clarify gaps in employment history.

Best practices of in-depth reference checks include:

  • Ask candidates for a list of references and permission to contact them.
  • Tailor questions based on the relationship between the candidate and the reference.
  • Tailor questions based on the competencies required of the position and the job description.
  • Talk with a staff supervisor, peer, and someone the candidate supervised.
  • Talk with lay leaders who served with the candidate.
  • If red flags surface about a candidate’s performance, follow up with the candidate about those concerns.
  • Look for patterns of responses. Don’t give more weight to one reference over another without validating their response with another reference.
  • Conduct back-door reference checks….talk with people that know them well that aren’t listed as references.
  • Ask for reference letters to keep in the employee’s file.
  • Use a Reference Check Template with standard questions asked of all references.

What is Included in a Background Check?

 Today, churches intent on due diligence are including background checks in their pre-employment screening practices. Background checks are intended to identify potential hiring risks based on safety, security, and character reasons. Typically this includes a credit and criminal history. They are also used to verify employment and education, driving records, and increasingly, social media checks.

Churches cannot check a prospective employee’s credit without their written permission. However, criminal history checks are a condition of employment in most organizations, especially for any employee who will be working with children or youth.

A job applicant credit report includes name, current and previous addresses, and social security number. It also shows debt incurred, such as credit card, home mortgage, car loans, student loans, and other loans including payment history, late payments, and defaulted loans.

Why is this information important? Most church staff receive and disperse funds, as well as manage a budget. How well they handle their personal finances may provide insights into how they will manage church funds and what accountabilities and safeguards should be put in place. Further, knowing the debt load a prospective employee is carrying can inform compensation and relocation packages.

Driving records can help a church determine whether or not to allow a staff member to drive church owned vehicles. And, an individual’s social media activity can expose character flaws and/or bad judgment.

Background checks are typically administered by private companies for a fee and can be expensive depending upon the information requested. Three third party sources that specifically cater to churches include:

Vanderbloemen Search Group: www.vanderbloemen.com

GuideOne Insruance: www.referenceservices.com

LifeWay: www.backgroundchecks.com






Posted on May 8, 2018

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5