- What are the core beliefs of the organization? Do you support including everyone, or do you specify who is able to attend or become a member of your congregation?
- Do you have established ministries for urban communities or walk-in traffic? Do you already have a prison ministry or an urban community outreach program that might attract convicted sex offenders?
- What will your congregation tolerate? Will your congregation react positively or negatively to opening your doors to sex offenders?
- What are the risks to the congregation? Will allowing the offender to participate in the organization put any current members at risk?
Here’s what a couple of churches are doing:
Some congregations welcome sex offenders into regular services by restricting the person to a specific service or by requiring the offender to report in and be accompanied by an escort at all times. If a congregation is not comfortable with sex offenders attending regular services, there are many other options to consider.
Some pastors choose to meet regularly, one-on-one, with the offender to provide spiritual support for the person outside of the congregation’s weekly services.
Other congregations, such as First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, Wis., are introducing adult-only services to help sex offenders who aren’t allowed to be in the presence of children.
Rev. Jerry Hancock, director of prison ministries for the Madison-based church, became aware that a number of people were unable to attend religious services with children present for therapeutic or legal reasons. To meet this need, he established a biweekly, adult-only service—which is not just for sex offenders but provides a service where convicted sex offenders are welcome to worship. During the service, there are no children’s activities anywhere on the property.
// Read more here…
Has YOUR church had to deal with sex offenders in any way? Does your church have a policy?
Share your thoughts below in the comments…
Here are some recommendations from Kristen Blanford, partner at Hermes Sargent Bates law firm in Dallas for developing your sex offender policy (which, by the way, she thinks every church should have these days):