New to Shepherd's Watch Background Checks?

Download Your Launch Kit

Getting Started

  1. Register your new account with First Advantage. Click the button below to get started.

    Group has partnered with First Advantage—the leading global background check company—for all your background check needs. You can be assured you’re getting best-in-class background checks at exceptionally affordable prices.

    Note: You will need the following information to register your account:
    • Legal name of your church organization
    • Physical address of your church/organization. If your church/organization doesn’t have a building, use the address where you will be accessing and storing background screening information through First Advantage. You cannot use a P.O. Box.
    • Primary contact full name, title, email address, and phone number.
    • Billing contact information if different from primary contact.
    Register Your Account Now
  2. After Registration

    Your account will be active and ready to start ordering background checks within one day of registering your account. First Advantage will also begin the credentialing process. This is what allows your organization to be able to open and review the background check reports.

    Credentialing is a process by which First Advantage will be verifying your place of business. During this process, they may be in touch with you for additional information such as a photo of your building and questions about the safe keeping of sensitive information.

    Registration HelpCredentialing HelpPlacing Orders Help
  3. Helpful Training Videos

    Watch the training videos below to start getting the most out of your Shepherd's Watch Background checks membership.

    Vendor Registration

    Placing Orders

    User Management

Have questions?

Visit the FAQ below, or contact First Advantage at 866-237-2135 or First Advantage business hours are 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Best Practices

Simplifying background checks…

This section is divided into three key areas: your responsibilities as an organization running background checks and knowing how to choose the right background check and best practices beyond background checks. This is informational only and shall not be taken as legal advice.

Prior to running a background check, you’re required to get both of these forms signed by the applicant. Most screening companies will provide you with a basic disclosure form and authorization form. Ultimately though, it’s your organization’s responsibility to comply with the law and to understand what these forms are—this is especially important if any litigation should arise. The forms provided by the screening company may be used in part or in whole—it’s your obligation to determine whether it’s in compliance with all the relevant federal, state, and local laws in your area.

  • We recommend consulting with an attorney prior to adopting any form.

Disclosure Form

This tells the applicant that a background check may be obtained for employment/volunteer purposes. It also includes information about what would happen before any adverse action is taken based on the results of the report.

Best Practices
  • The disclosure should be a separate document from the authorization form, employment application, or any other document.
  • The language should be clear and not confusing.
  • It shouldn’t include any extraneous information. For example, information that pertains to another state or a release of liability.

Authorization Form

This gives you the permission to run a background check on the applicant. Obtain an authorization form once it becomes a final condition of their employment/volunteer position.

Best Practices
  • The authorization should NOT be included in an employment/volunteer application.
  • If you have “evergreen” language stating you have permission to run a check through the entirety of their employment/volunteer position, make sure that it’s very clear what that means. Confusing language can have negative effects on you in the case of litigation.

TIP! You may want to consider having separate forms for an employee versus a volunteer to create clarity and reduce the chance for confusion.

You have an obligation under the FCRA to follow a process called Adverse Action when rejecting an applicant, reassigning or terminating an employee/volunteer, or denying a promotion based on information received in the background check.

TIP! Writing a policy that states the reasons your church will take adverse action assures there’s no room for interpretation/subjectivity.

Adverse Action consists of two steps:
  • STEP 1

    Provide the applicant with a Pre-Adverse Action notice that gives the applicant an opportunity to review the report for accuracy. There are times when records can get crossed and the information may not actually belong to the applicant. This step in the process gives the applicant a chance to ensure the information belongs to them and explain any negative information.

    The Pre-Adverse Action notice must consist of the notice, a copy of the report, and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

  • STEP 2

    Provide a written Adverse Action notification to the applicant stating what action is being taken (for example, not hiring, not promoting) and what the decision is based on, such as specific information from the background check.

You will be collecting highly sensitive personal data. It’s your responsibility to properly store and destroy these documents whether they be electronic or print.

How long to keep records?

The FCRA doesn’t have requirements for how long you need to keep forms and reports, but the EEOC does and your state, screening company, or insurance company may have additional requirements. It’s always good to check with all parties before creating a policy and process.

First Advantage stores data in their system for a period of seven years.

Disposing of Records

The FCRA Disposal Rule outlines steps you must take to dispose of the data securely in order to reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft. Learn more.

Knowing what options to choose can be confusing. Most churches we work with choose the basic check. While this check is fairly comprehensive in nature, it may not cover you in the case of litigation.

Although tempting, don’t let cost drive your choice. This choice could ultimately cost your church hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation. It’s best to pay a little more upfront than to leave your church vulnerable to the alternative. Contact your attorney and insurance company for guidance and help with understanding your risk.

  • National does NOT mean all-inclusive. While it does sound that way—it’s actually not true. Some courts still rely on paperwork, and don’t submit records to electronic databases. And even if the court is electronic, they may not report all of their data or they may not report to a national database.
  • There’s no central database containing every record across the United States. This is why it’s important to consult a lawyer, and to fully understand what’s included in your screening company’s “national” check for the states/counties your applicant has lived.
  • Some states require people with routine and direct access to children to have both a state and federal background check. Know the law before choosing any background check package.

Before you choose your package:
  • Understand your church’s policies
  • Understand your insurance company’s requirements
  • Understand your state’s laws/statutes regarding screening of people working with children, elderly, and people with disabilities
  • Know who the applicant will be working with (for example, kids, adults)
  • Know what the applicant will be working with (for example, financials, vehicles)
  • Know the residential history of the applicant

TIP! Best practice is to perform a national criminal database search AND a county courthouse search for the counties the applicant has lived. These two searches, when combined together, drastically improve the usefulness of a background check.

While most churches now recognize the need for background screening volunteers and staff, far too many churches are putting their churches at risk because they simply don’t understand some basic best practices.

If the candidate may be serving as a staff member, in children’s or youth ministry, handling money, or driving a vehicle on behalf of the church, you’ll want to consider performing much more thorough screenings. (Refer to our Applicant Screening Checklist sheet)

Often in their desperation for staff and volunteers, churches will overlook or scrimp on the interview process. The interview is a great time to ask direct and probing questions that will hopefully confirm that they’re a good fit or reveal potential issues that should disqualify them from serving. (Refer to our Volunteer Interview Questions)

Now that you’ve interviewed the candidate, the next important step is to request and actually call references. You’d be surprised by how many situations could have been avoided if the church had only called a past employer or co-worker. (Refer to our References Interview Questions)

As thorough as a background check can be, it won’t identify a thief or an abuser that hasn’t been caught yet. Unfortunately, a sexual predator may have amassed several victims before the crime comes to light. That’s why it’s imperative that staff and volunteers be vigilant to identify any behaviors or actions that are suspect. (Refer to our Signs of Grooming or Abuse sheet)

An initial background check is an important first step, but it shouldn’t stop there. The reality is that situations can arise at any time so it’s essential that churches perform annual background checks to help ensure that your volunteers and staff are in adherence with church policies.

Downloadable Forms & Checklists

Essentials for a Safe Church

This library of downloadable pdf checklists and forms will save you time and help you thoroughly screen your volunteer team. Each checklist includes convenient editable fields for digital record keeping, or they can also be printed per your preference.

Training Videos

Training Basics for Volunteers and Staff

These quick training videos are designed for you to send to your volunteers or staff. We have worked with thousands of churches and have carefully selected these topics based on the needs of churches just like yours.

Children’s Ministry Safety

Money & Your Ministry

Driver Safety

Why Background Checks?

Youth Ministry Safety

Frequently Asked Questions

Background checks can reveal red flags for behaviors you need to know about. And should any sort of litigation ever emerge against your organization, you must show your due diligence in screening candidates, employees, and volunteers with church background checks.

A number of industries—especially those that require the handling of other people’s personal and private information—require background screenings. These include the home healthcare, financial, and education industries among others. But even if your organization does not operate in or provide services to these industries, there are still enough crucial reasons to run them. Many insurance companies do require that church background checks be performed when dealing with children, youth, and at-risk adults regardless of the law.

Yes. First Advantage makes this easy with an electronic consent/order form. You will simply add the name and email of the person you wish to check into the online system, and an email will be sent to them. The email will contain a link where they will fill out their own personal information and sign the electronic consent.

You will only need their first and last name and email address. Once you enter their information into the online system, the applicant will receive an email with a link to an online consent form where they will fill out their own personal data. They will need to provide their Social Security Number, date of birth, full legal name, and address history for the past seven years.

The best option is to run a comprehensive background screening on your employees and volunteers at the point of hire and check annually after that. Hiring someone doesn’t mean that he or she won’t commit a crime in the future. Without a periodic check, you have no way of knowing if someone has been convicted unless the information is volunteered. It is important to check with your insurance company to see what they require.

If you intend to decline an applicant based on what was found in the background screening, you need to provide the applicant with at least two notifications, commonly known as the pre-adverse and adverse action letter. For more information on the pre-adverse and adverse action letter CLICK HERE.

There are no monthly minimums, but we do ask churches to order at least one church background check a year in order to keep their account active.

It all depends on what type of report you run. 93% of all U.S. Criminal Screens are completed in 1 day. If a record is found, it will be verified before being reported to you. The verification process can take 1-3 business days.

The First Advantage XTDForce platform uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for encrypting all personal information online, including your business information, payment methods, and personal information on your applicants. When you are logged in XTDForce, you will notice there’s a HTTPS, instead of an HTTP in the URL so you can visually see that you are in a secured location of our site.

To protect the candidates being screened, it’s important for First Advantage to verify your organization and ensure you have permissible purpose to run background checks. This process does not keep you from running background checks. However, you won’t be able to open and read any candidate’s background check report until the credentialing process is complete. All background checks will receive a YELLOW or a GREEN status once completed. YELLOW means there’s something in their background check needing review. GREEN means their background check is free from any adverse information. In order to open and review a report with a YELLOW status, you will need to wait until credentialing is complete. But don’t worry, credentialing should be completed within 48-72 hours of registration.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is informational only and shall not be taken or used as legal advice. Please contact your insurance company or lawyer with any questions pertaining to legal matters.