How does a church minister to a coverted, sex offender?

I received many difficult questions at the workshop on Monday evening.  But, this one stuck out to me as especially difficult.  Here was the nature of the question from a pastor:

How do I and our church minister to a man who appears radically converted, desires to come to our church, but had been a convicted child molester and long-time sex offender?

Here are a few thoughts:

We should try to minister to a man as this, especially if he is converted.  No one should be turned away from our doors as Jesus was seen with the vilest of sinners.   This is what the gospel is all about!  However, you cannot ignore the “elephant in the room.”   Here are a few suggestions having faced this in comparable ways before:

1) Appoint a “host” for him while he is at church.  Hand pick a very reliable man whose sole job that day is to meet him outside in the parking lot, walk in with him, and be attached to this man’s hip.  Pick a host who is spiritually mature, gracious, who understands the importance of his role, but will not make him feel like a prisoner in church.

Explain to the offender attending that this is what this man’s role is and that he must be seen with him at all times.  Pick a host who will take him to talk with others and it will be a good way for this new guy to meet and converse with folks he might not otherwise feel comfortable with and vice versa.

2) Inform the church ahead of time in some way of what is happening (email, member’s meeting, etc), so they know you are taking strict precautions to protect the safety of the people and especially the children.  This allows the church as a whole to ”keep watch” in a loving way.

3) Inform all children’s workers of the situation weekly and report who the man’s “host” is for that week.  Allow them the freedom to ask questions as they feel the responsibility to protect their own children as well as the children in their room for that week.

4) One strike and your out.  There is no grace period for this man.  If he is found alone without his “host” once…that is it.  He needs to be placed in a position to be loved by the people, but must realize your responsibility as a shepherd before God to protect the sheep first and foremost.

5) Remind your people that this is what the gospel is all about.  Jesus died for the most wretched of sinners and we deserved the same punishment for our sins from our righteous and holy God as this man does for his rebellion against God and crimes against others.  If he is truly converted, you want your people to rejoice in the hope of the gospel more than fear for their children when they see this man coming.  Shepherding through teaching and example is how God by His Spirit will form that culture in your local church over time.

I praise God for the opportunity you have to remind your people of the gospel and how sufficient, powerful, and glorious the mercy of God is in Christ!  But, be wise also dear brother.  Know for sure the enemy is prowling like a lion in your midst desiring to use this situation to divide your church…or worse.  I pray the Lord gives you great wisdom, discernment, and grace as you attempt to care for this man and your people through him coming.

Posted in Discipleship
13 comments on “How does a church minister to a coverted, sex offender?
  1. anonymous mom says:

    Thank you for this.

    One thing I want to note is that the vast majority of sex offenders are NOT child molesters. There are, at the current time, about 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. In some states, 1% of the male population is on the registry. Of those 800,000 men, only about 13% committed either an offense of any type against a child 13 or under, a forcible or violent offense against anybody or any age, or multiple offenses of any kind (including multiple non-violent offenses). The other 87% are on the registry for a single non-violent statutory offense (often inappropriate contact with a willing young woman 14-16 when the man was in his late teens or early-to-mid twenties himself) or for a single non-violent victimless offense, often online.

    What does a church do with the man who, at 23, had an inappropriate relationship with a girlfriend who was a month away from turning 16, spent time in prison or years on probation of his crime, has turned his life around, but now has decades or life left on the registry? If this man is lucky, he may have found a partner willing to overlook his offense. The label placed on him will affect his wife and children more than it affects him, in many cases. The whole family needs to be ministered to. They are probably facing rejection everywhere they turn, are suffering financially because it’s likely the man cannot find a job, and may have trouble with things like keeping a home (sex offenders, regardless of the nature of their offense and how long they have been law-abiding citizens, are routinely run out or kicked out of their homes).

    I speak from experience. I am married to a registered sex offender. When he was 25, and in the midst of a serious online sex addiction, my husband was approached in an adults-only online sex chat room by an undercover officer (who was three decades older than my husband was at the time) pretending to be a sexually-experienced, eager teen a couple of months under the age of consent looking to hook up with an older guy. He was not seeking out a teen–or else he wouldn’t have been in an 18+ sex chat room–but he didn’t have the good sense, maturity, impulse control, or moral compass at the time to say no when a person posing as a willing, eager teen made an offer. Their interactions online resulted in his arrest, although no images were exchanged or solicited. He was threatened with 20 years in prison, got 2 years probation. He will be on the sex offender registry for 25 years. It affects every single part of his life, even a decade later, when he is a loving, responsible, mature father of soon-to-be four children. He wants to provide for his family, but because of his status, it’s extremely hard. He often feels like the family would be better off without him, since a decade of a changed life means nothing to the state, our neighbors, or society at large. He will always, he feels, be defined entirely by the worst mistake he ever made.

    Your policies are sound when dealing with a person who was a convicted child molester. But, again, that’s a small minority of sex offenders. Many, many more are men like my husband. What about them? How can the church minister to them, and to their families?

    • Brian Croft says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is good for us all to know the different levels of this issue and how best to care for this in the church like your husband. My the Lord give you grace through these times and bless your family.

      • anonymous mom says:

        Thank you for reading my rambling response! I do think this is something the church needs to grapple with. I’ve read so many Christian blogs and articles about pornography addiction. Well, the fastest-growing area of prosecutions in the United States today is online sex crimes. Many of these cases involve men in their late teens or 20s who are struggling with online sex addictions–to pornography and/or to explicit chats–who get caught up in online sting operations involving officers posing as slightly-underage girls looking for hook-ups on adults sites or for downloading pornographic images of teens. This is both one potential fall-out from pornography addictions that rarely gets talked about–people seek out more and more “extreme” material to satisfy their addiction and its not uncommon for that to progress into toying with the barely-legal or illegal–and a consequence of pornography addictions that will impact a man’s entire life.

        I wish churches were more aware of these issues. The fact is that, right now, the 50 year old man who spends time looking at pornographic images of 18 year olds can, in many settings, admit his struggles and find support and compassion. The 23 year old man who possessed one pornographic image of a 16 year old, on the other hand, is publicly labelled a sexual predator and in many churches is treated as a pariah if he is allowed to attend at all. That shouldn’t be the case. “Sex offenders” are a rapidly growing group of people, nearly all men, who have committed a wide variety of crimes, and, if we’re honest, many of their crimes–particularly those involving relationships with slightly-underage girlfriends or looking at images of teens online–are ones that many people have committed but just never been caught or arrested for. But your 19 year old son who has a 15 year old girlfriend could be a sex offender if the relationship goes too far and is reported; your 18 year old son who has a 16 year old girlfriend could be a sex offender if she sends him a photo of herself that she shouldn’t. There are more and more of these cases, and churches are going to be increasingly dealing with men convicted of these sorts of statutory crimes, given the sex offender label for decades or life, and then growing up and trying to move on. Posts like yours do encourage me that churches will be up for the challenge.

    • Robert Curtis says:

      Not to step on religious toes but below is a response I gave to a fellow Christian’s reasoning for having a registry:

      For the registry to exist a Christian must compromise their character under grace. Remember the woman caught in adultery. How did Jesus handle that situation? Be Like Jesus! Remember Matt. 25:40 What you do to the least of these your brethren …you do it unto me (saith the Lord). Who is more least than a registered sex offender? That settles any and all possible religious responses you might have. Grace doesn’t allow place for a thing like the registry. TRUTH

  2. Matt says:

    I find it interesting that the article was titled “How does a church minister to a coverted, sex offender?” But only a part of the last point actually referred to ministry to this man – and that only obliquely. The vast majority of this article was not how to minister to the man but how to protect the church. Now, while that is important, if ministering to such a man is only about protecting the congregation, then you might as well tell him not to bother to come to Church as you really have nothing to offer him.

    May I suggest you either rewrite the article or rewrite the title.

  3. Matt says:

    I just wrote the comment about the fact this article doesn’t actually talk about ministering to sex offenders.

    Let me be a bit more complete. When I was 7 I was raped by an older teen boy who when to our church. So I know the damage molestation causes.

    But the fact is, no matter how carefully you watch an offender, if he really wants to, he can find a way to make contact with kids, even kids in the Church. Now, I’m not saying we should not use caution. I am saying that is not enough.

    Kids like I was will be a lot safer if we actually find ways to truly minister to these men, to apply the Word of God and, yes, forgive them when they repent. A forgiven sinner seeking to serve God is a lot safer than a person who is merely “watched.”

    Your suggestions are OK. But there is nothing in them that answers the real need.

    How about going back to the drawing board and giving us ways we can actually minister?

    • Brian Croft says:

      Matt,

      Thanks for your insights and being willing to share of those horrible things that you experienced in your childhood. This article is focused on the church, but hopefully in it there are tips for a church to not be afraid of these men to be involved in the church, thus would allow them to be present to hear the word, be disciple, experience Christian fellowship, and other ways for them to be ministered to. How to ultimately do that would be another good article. My hope was to disarm those in the church scared to even let them into the church so that those seeking a second chance from this crime which is at the heart of the gospel could receive it. I hope that helps and agree much more could be said. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Adam says:

    Good topic for discussion. There’s some good legal material out there on this issue from Brotherhood Mutual, Ministry Safe, and also on the Church Law & Tax website through Christianity Today.

    This link contains Brotherhood Mutual’s legal counsel policy, which includes a sex offender attendance policy and a contingent participant agreement form: file:///Users/thekids/Downloads/RegisteredSexOffendersinMinistryActivities.pdf

  5. Mya says:

    Response to anonymous mom’s remarks-
    Bottom line on sin is that there are consequences that are far reaching. (Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, he shall also reap. Gal6:7)
    That’s not judgement, it’d just natural consequence like sticking your hand on a hot stove. You’ll get burned.
    In the case of sex offenders, age of offender whether 50 or 23 is neither here nor there. And Online predators included, in their lust, are “using” girls & young women in hopes of satisfying the flesh. Even without a moral compass or a faith in God, one can choose to obey the US law (designed to PROTECT girls from these men) or break the law.
    It’s very sad that the consequence for this is a lifelong one. But God loves, forgives, and can most certainly turn what was ashes into beauty. He did it for King David who He loved and any man/woman who repents of this sin He will do the same for.
    Now – on to the embracing of the church to the EX-offended, aka, FREED man made new! He needs grace.

    • Nathaniel Hawthorne says:

      Mya,

      I absolutely agree that there are consequences for our sins that are far reaching, and becoming a Christian does not give us a clean slate from a human standpoint. Yet, it is also true that Christians can impose ridiculous, extra-biblical “consequences” on selective sins and if anyone questions those “consequences” we smugly say, “what a man sows he will reap.” In other words, we had a responsibility to accept the consequences of our sin, whatever those consequences may be, but we also have a responsibility to make sure that we do not go beyond what is written and impose unbiblical consequences on repentant sinners.

      In all truth, this is probably the most ridiculous article I have ever read on the subject. It is frankly embarrassing. I surprised that the author did not recommend that his host put leashes around the necks of the converted sex offenders for extra-protection, or make them wear neon signs around their neck with a large capital P.

      Apparently this one sin has an entirely different set of rules which puts it in a category of it’s own.

      On a serious note, ridicule aside, would you, the author, or anyone else for that matter recommend the same treatment for ex-prostitutes? Or adulterers? Or sodomites? Or murderers?

      Secondly, there were clearly pedophiles in the ancient world, if this sin was a sin that should be placed in it’s own special category, why did the New Testament not address it in this way?

  6. Liz says:

    Nathaniel Hawthrone brings up some good questions, but to get back to the question-
    If I were the minister I would suggest a small men’s Bible study group for this person of interest to participate in (first). It would provide a place to get to know some mature folks who love God, love His Word, and are praying people. This would help him to get acquainted and comfortable with the group and they with him ; it is usually a place for body ministry or prayers for one another and here he could be uplifted in prayer and encouraged. I definitely advise exercising wisdom than to single out this man and make him a public spectacle and generating unnecessary anxiety in a place where he should find God’s welcoming love and peace among those in the assembly. Do you know that church is for sinners, sinners saved by grace and not for the righteous or holier than thou folks? Pray and ask God for specific guidance and have His mind in the matter because His Ways are definitely Higher than our ways, and He will lead us by His Peace. \o/ AMEN.

  7. David Roeder says:

    I’m seeing a lot of criticism for Pastor Brian’s approach on protecting the flock from someone convicted of sexual misconduct. I agree with certain points being made, even when they are given in a spirit of contention. I think the openness of the church family will be/should be proportionate to the humility and brokenness shown by the converted sex offender. I’m hearing advocates for this offender that he be received “as if he never sinned, and will never sin again” but this kind of trust will be easier displayed when the offender is contrite, and doesn’t carry a “victim” mentality. Excellent post and comments looking into the heart of an issue exposing the tip of the iceberg.

  8. Excuse me for butting in but I find this article interesting since I am a sex offender and believe it or not I count it all joy. I guess some people can say that thou.
    My story goes a bit deeper. While good things come out of bad man wants to look for the bad instead of the good.
    God doesn’t live in buildings but in your heart. A church is just a place to congregate and to fellowship. We are all sinners.
    There is not a just man upon the face of the earth that doeth good and sinnith not.
    I had a little discussion with a pastor I sought out to attend church, I told him about myself. I had to bring up the question if I could attend church and he said I could but getting a chaperone to take me, which is my sister is a bit different. I can’t force her to take me to church.
    The pastor suggested I minister those in this sex offender situation as I would be qualified somewhat. He also suggest me read the book or acts and John but we finely came to a Paul and Silas difference.
    My personal opinion is that churches really don’t want to get involved as since the sex offender is public and sinners are not it makes a world of difference. Sinners are sinners and yes Paul had a thorn in the flesh also.
    Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous. He came to save all of us. I think each church handles things different but let God be true. People that go to church are there to worship God and enjoy the word of the Lord as far as the sex offender it is no different than any other sin of the flesh. Here’s a blog that helps me in a lot of this…http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2015/11/we-are-all-sex-offenders.html….. Blessings.

4 Pings/Trackbacks for "How does a church minister to a coverted, sex offender?"
  1. […] How Does a Church Minister to a Converted Sex Offender Good to answer this before it happens. And may it often happen. […]

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