What is meant by ‘screening’ all volunteer workers?

  |   17/02/17

Proper screening of the workers in our ministries to vulnerable people is perhaps the single best tool in our toolbox to help prevent abuse in our ministries.

Our Safe Ministry Training course (Essentials) is very clear about this process:

Thorough recruitment, screening and selection of leaders are vital to the success of a ministry. By being thorough, churches are ensuring that those attending programs are being ministered to by people who are suited to the ministry role. The recruitment and appointment of leaders should involve creating role descriptions, undertaking appropriate screening checks, completing an application for ministry and conducting interviews with candidates for certain positions before their appointment. Once appointed leaders should be expected to undertake ongoing training for their role as well as being appropriately supervised.

A leadership pack should be made available to leaders prior to engaging them in leadership. This should include:

Job descriptions (including a code of conduct)
Churches should have clear job descriptions written for each ministry role, both paid and unpaid positions. Leaders should know to whom they are responsible, what they are responsible for and the expected length of time they will serve in their role.

Code of Conduct‐Faithfulness in Service (2014)

3.1  This Code [Faithfulness in Service] will only be effective if it is widely known and available throughout the Church, practiced consistently and implemented justly. Clergy and church workers will protect the safety of others and themselves by observing its standards and following its guidelines.

This code of conduct is the basis for how all leaders should appropriately minister to others and where the boundaries are in their capacity as a leader. It is highly recommended that leaders are given a copy of the code early in their induction process and should access it on a regular basis . As part of their commitment to leadership and preferably prior to taking on their leadership position, leaders should agree to read the code of conduct and confirm in writing that they have done so and will abide by the code.

Application for ministry
This is similar to a job application form and can provide general information about a person for a particular role as well as any experience or qualifications
they may have that are relevant to the position. they can also provide an opportunity to understand more about the person’s understanding of the gospel.
Examples are here and here

Relevant screening procedures

  • Background or referee checks
    This should be part of the application process for a volunteer and provide further information about a potential leader. This is also a valuable source of information when a person is new or relatively unknown to a church. Any leader should have a positive reputation and opportunity to be observed in the life of the church before they are appointed as a leader.
  • Working with Children Check
    It is a legal requirement for any leader 18yrs and over working with children or youth to undertake a NSW Working With Children Check (WWCC) prior to commencing in their position. Leaders under 18yrs should complete a Volunteer Declaration form.
    All workers 18yrs and over in child‐related work in NSW (volunteers and paidworkers) must obtain a Working with Children Check clearance number (to apply go to www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au).
    Employers (in our case the local church) must request this number from workers and verify their Check’s status before engaging them in child‐related work. Any worker with a barred status must not be engaged in child‐related work.
    Employers (churches) are required to keep the following records of child‐related workers in electronic or hard copy format:

    • full name
    • Working With Children Check number
    • date and outcome of the Check verification
    • Check expiry date
  • Engaging leaders in school‐based ministries
    To access current SRE authorisation forms and information go to www.youthworks.net/sre/authorisation_policy

    • Special Religious Education (SRE) Engagement form
      An Engagement form needs to be completed by paid and voluntary SRE teachers and helpers upon commencement of SRE teaching or change of church. It is signed by the Senior Minister and teacher/helper and copies are kept by the church.
    • SRE Teacher Authorisation (Orange card)
      A person will be authorised to teach SRE in a public school and issued with an orange Authorisation card when they have completed Safe Ministry training and submitted both their WWCC number and SRE Engagement form to their employer or church.
      The SRE teacher, and anyone accompanying them, should carry the Authorisation card with them at all times on NSW Government School grounds.
    • Scripture Union Christian lunchtime voluntary group leaders forms
      This document can be obtained by contacting NSW SU House or by registering online at www.nsw.su.org.au