Screening youth and children’s workers is a hit-or-miss practice in today’s churches. One out of every four pastors (23%) admitted their congregation has little or no protective screening processes for the people working with young people. That equates to more than 70,000 Protestant congregations that do not give sufficient attention to protecting young people.
Slightly more than half of all pastors gave their church high marks for doing "thorough background or reference checks of the people working with children and youth" (57% said this description was a "very accurate" of their church). However, another one-fifth of pastors (20%) described their efforts as merely "somewhat" thorough.
Larger churches are generally more vigilant than smaller ministries. For instance, churches with more than 250 adult attenders were the most likely to evaluate workers very carefully (78%), while congregations of less than 100 adults were the least likely to engage in such practices (49%). About three-fifths of mid-sized churches (attendance of 100 to 250, 62%) said their church is well described by such practices.
Many other subgroup differences emerged when it came to doing a thorough job of evaluating children’s and youth workers. Congregations in the West (75%) were more likely than those in the Northeast (60%), South (56%), or Midwest (50%) to report strong levels of such screening. Churches comprised primarily of white attenders (54%) were less likely to report security screening than were congregations with primarily non-white individuals (69%). Churches led by a pastor who had graduated from a seminary were slightly more likely than congregations whose pastor lacked a seminary degree to pursue security measures (60% versus 51%).
In terms of age and experience, churches pastored by Baby Boomers (ages 43 to 61) more frequently took part in security checks (60%) than did Protestant ministries led by pastors from the Baby Bust generation (52% among pastors 42 or under) or those older than Boomers (55% among those 62 or older). Similarly, those in full-time ministry for fewer than 10 years were less likely to claim thorough worker-screening (50%) than were ministry veterans of 10 years or more (61%).