We’re all familiar with the headlines—respected church and youth leaders being investigated for abuse.
And the churches, schools and nonprofits that work with children, youth and vulnerable adults are well aware of their responsibility to protect these at-risk populations from that abuse.
The due diligence can be overwhelming for the organizations, which often don’t have the resources for the required records documentation, training and procedures.
Safe Gatherings, a company founded by Sharon Holt, has developed an online system that assists these organizations. The system streamlines abuse prevention training, background and reference checks, and approval tracking.
Holt said that Safe Gatherings’ abuse prevention initiative began as a project in 2012 to help churches track training and paperwork of clergy, staff and volunteers.
“The Kansas East United Methodist Church Conference wanted to take the paper- and time-intensive process of background checks and abuse prevention training and move it online. We built a platform from scratch in four months and rolled it out to the group of 300 churches.”
The churches immediately put the system to use, and Holt worked with the Conference to make improvements over the next year. The system is now available to multiple denominations and organizations.
“We now work with 3,600 churches across the U.S.,” said Holt.
How It Works
Prospective employees and volunteers complete a quick application via Safe Gatherings’ website for a $35 fee. Safe Gatherings facilitates electronic reference checks and background checks. Applicants also complete online abuse prevention training as part of the program.
The entire approval process is tracked by the online system. The system reduces paperwork, saves time and provides a documentation trail designed to protect the organization, applicant and at-risk populations.
“The online training program presents best practices and what signs of abuse to look for,” Holt said.
Some of the training module topics cover the types of abuse and inappropriate behaviors, respecting boundaries, responding to and reporting abuse and bullying.
Employees and volunteers renew applications every two years.