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.