A Church That Doesn't Take Any Chances With Youth Safety

On a typical Wednesday night at South Mountain Community Church in Draper, about 60 teenagers are gathered for youth group. There’s loud music playing over the speakers, lots of chatter and a very competitive foosball game in the corner of the room.

The youth night vibe is typical for a non-denominational Christian church: laid back, casual. But at SMCC they are anything but laid back when it comes to keeping the youth in this room safe.

In the past year, a rekindled national dialogue has focused on child and youth safety in religious settings, driven in part by revelations of abuses by Catholic priests, sexually explicit questions in a Mormon bishops office or #metoo accounts with pastors of megachurches. But SMCC is one church that hasn’t taken any chances when it comes to protecting children.

In fact every adult volunteer in the room — and there are a lot of them — has undergone a background check through Utah’s Department of Public Safety. Youth pastor Shane Lingo sees vetting the volunteers as one of the most critically important parts of his job.

“You can’t safely assume that just because someone walks through the doors of the church or is even a member of the church is a safe person,” Lingo said. “You have to take that extra step to be sure.”

Background checks are common for many non-denominational churches, and while it isn’t new for this 20-year-old place of worship, it’s becoming more and more relevant as stories of abuse continue to make headlines.

Kama Maendl, a mother of three, ha...

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