A children’s worker once stated in a teacher’s meeting that she didn’t like teaching the Old Testament, she had issues with the Bible character David and she would much rather make up her own material than using the prescribed curriculum. Another volunteer refused to cooperate with other workers and regularly lost his temper when those workers didn’t meet his demands. Yet another worker, seen as a friendly man who loved children, was discovered to have sexually abused many of the teenaged girls. All these events happened in small churches.
More and more, large churches are adapting the practice of using applications and background checks for their workers. When people join the church, a staff can’t know their backgrounds and their motivations for joining the church. With such large numbers of children and volunteers, large churches have to adapt a structure to keep track of children and keep their workers accountable.
It’s time small churches adapt these practices as well. Yet small churches often don’t see the need for accountability until something drastic like the above situations happen. Small churches have the advantage of everyone knowing everyone in the congregation. This lulls them into a naïve trust. Small churches also often have the misfortune of being short on volunteers. Perhaps desperate is a more suitable word. And so, there’s an unwritten code that churches are foolish to turn down volunteers. If you have warm blood coursing through your veins and you want to help, why roll up your sleeves and get busy!
Sadly, I’ve learned lately that Inside the Classroom, this cannot be our strategy. Our children’s safety should be one of our highest priorities and we must be circumspect about who leads and influences the minds and hearts of our young people. We cannot afford to blithely accept any new person who volunteers to work with our children. Large churches require applications and background checks for children’s ministry workers. It is time small churches adapt those practices as well.
I’ve learned through experience what the Bible taught long ago. Take a look at Paul’s list of qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (Also see 2 Timothy 2:24). While deacons are often an elected position, the Bible often uses the term deacon to denote any servant or worker in the church. That definitely includes teachers and other youth workers. With this list of qualifications, we can’t accept any person who walks in the door and raises their hand to volunteer. We need not feel compelled to accept anyone who volunteers; in fact, it’s completely permissible and mandatory that we evaluate those who want to serve.
How do you evaluate a volunteer? How can a church do it on a small budget without intimidating the new worker? In my next post, I’ll give a list of guidelines on how the small church can evaluate new workers.