Background And Reference Checks

Ensuring that our congregations are places of sanctuary requires that we do our "due diligence" by checking into the backgrounds and references of pastors, staff, and volunteers who work with our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Below you will find information about how to use a background check and respond to the results, as well as some companies that provide background check services. 

How do we use the information provided on a criminal background report?

A criminal background check provides information that can help us protect one another, but also can be a means of grace as we remember that we are called to forgive "seventy x seven." 

There are some offenses that are so egregious that we cannot permit a potential volunteer's interaction with a particular population. Obviously, we are not going to put someone convicted of child abuse or molestation into a classroom of toddlers or young teens or put a person convicted of bank fraud in charge of counting the offering plate. 

Here are some questions that can help you make a decision as to what is best in a particular situation:

  • How old is the offense?
  • What do we know about this person from our contact with them?
  • How long have they been in our congregation?
  • Have they received counseling or treatment?
  • Does the offense put a child/youth/adult in our care at risk?
  • Does this offense provide a financial risk for our congregation?
  • Is there a way we can minimize risk (supervision, limiting exposure, etc.)

When evaluating the results of a background check, use your common sense and document the decision you made and the reasoning behind it. Staple that document to the criminal background report and file it. 

It can be difficult to tell someone that you have concerns about their behavior or record and are, therefore, limiting their access to children, youth or vulnerable adults. Make certain you have a face-to-face conversation with the individual that explains your reasoning. Include your pastor in this conversation. If you are the pastor, make certain you have a lay leader from the congregation with you. Following the conversation, make notes to document the content of the  conversation, and staple it to the criminal record report. Documentation is ALWAYS helpful should later questions come up.

How does our congregation obtain a criminal background check?

Staff:  The New England Conference completes the criminal records and background checks for clergy before they are appointed to congregations.  For other staff members, a criminal records background check is a must. In addition, during the interview process, the applicant should provide the names and contact information of three people who serve as references for the applicant.

Volunteers: In addition to having the criminal background check completed before the volunteer begins serving children, youth or vulnerable adults, it is good policy to institute a "six month rule."  Having volunteers wait to serve for six months following their entry into a congregation, gives leaders time to get to know them, to observe both their gifts and their vulnerable places.  In all cases, newer volunteers to a congregation should be paired with a well-trusted and well-known member with whom they will serve.

Background Checks: Each state in the Conference offers criminal background checking services to non-profits.  There is often a fee per criminal record request. Also, most states have requirements for how the information is to be stored upon receipt, who is able to view that information and guidelines as to how these reports are to be used.  You will find each state's information on criminal records at the links below.

  • Maine                                                                                
  • New Hampshire                                         
  • Connecticut
  • Vermont                                                                           
  • Rhode Island                                               
  • Massachusetts

Background Checks through Safe Gatherings

Contact the Safe Gatherings team at or (888) 241-8258

Safe Gatherings is an online abuse prevention program that screens and educates staff and volunteers to help prevent abuse of children, youth, and vulnerable adults in group settings. When employees and volunteers are trained to identify potential abusers, recognize the signs of abuse, and know how to handle reporting, they are better equipped to prevent abuse.

Upon successful completion of the Safe Gatherings application, background and reference checks, and online training program, each applicant will receive documentation of approval valid for three years, and will have continued access to the online training program for one year. Online training is provided through Safe Gatherings' sister company CongregationU (read more about them below).

The price per applicant for the individual church program available through the Safe Gatherings website is $37*

This includes processing of two electronic references, a national and  current county of residence 7-year background check, national and state of residence Sex Offender Registry check, and the 1.5-hour online abuse prevention and boundary awareness training.

*Note: Some Counties in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will have higher rates based on county background check costs. Contact Safe Gatherings for those rates.

Contact the Safe Gatherings team to provide the contact information for your church or group. 

As soon as the church or group is set up within Safe Gatherings, your applicants will be able to follow the links below to begin their Safe Gatherings approval.

Click here to start the Safe Gatherings process 
Click here to login to your Safe Gatherings application after you have completed your registration

When applicants follow the link to get started, they will need to select:

  • Language Preference (English or Spanish),
  • Type of Organization (Church or Faith Based Organization),
  • Denomination (Methodist), and
  • State where their church is located.

In the next field, they will start typing any part of your organization name and a list will appear in a drop down menu where they will select the organization name where they are seeking approval to serve.

Individuals can login to their account at any time to check the status of their application.

Training through CongregationU

Contact the CongregationU team at or (866) 862-5855

CongregationU provides more than 40 online courses on practical topics relevant to your church or faith-based organization. Topics include human resources, security and safety, risk management, health and wellness, and more. Several courses are also available in Spanish.

Rooftop pricing enables your church or organization to cost-effectively train everyone in your congregation, including leaders, volunteers and members. Pricing is based on average weekly attendance. You will also receive a 20 percent discount on the purchase of this package.

Click here to set up an account and purchase training courses.

Background Checks through Trusted Employees

Contact Trusted Employees at (888) 389-4026 or

Background checks related to the Safe Sanctuaries policy may be obtained through Trusted Employees, a corporate partner of Church Mutual, insurance provider for the New England Conference.

Trusted Employees provides a comprehensive range of applicant screening and verification services that are scalable, customizable, and can be integrated with applicant tracking systems. Trusted Employees’ “Invite Applicant” tool is an online process for candidates to supply their information and electronically sign the consent form. 

To become a Trusted Employee customer, please utilize the following link:

Once you set up a user name and password, access your account through this website:

For instructions on how to set up a new account for your church, click here: setting up a new account. For direct assistance with setting up accounts or compliance issues, contact Julie Welch, Trusted Employees national sales executive, at (813) 837-9265 or

IMPORTANT: Before conducting a background check, a disclosure release form must be signed by the applicant and the applicant must be provided with a document detailing rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Click the link above to find both documents. They are also available under the “Resources” tab when you log in to your Trusted Employees account. 

Trusted Employees also offers “Apply Now” Online Background Authorization where applicants can fill out the disclosure form online through “Invite Applicant.” Information is available under the “Tools” tab on the Trusted Employees website