Released Sex Offenders
and Pastoral Care
ome sex offenders
who are released from custody with the help of Christian prison ministries
are at times referred for potential membership in a church or
This can be a confusing request for church authorities because it
catches them between a rock and a hard place.
On one hand... ministry
exists to bring people closer to God.
Part of ministry...then...is the rehabilitation of sinners.
On the other hand, church elders and authorities are stewards of the
church and its ministry. As stewards they must protect the
people from anyone who might harm them and lead them away from God.
Their stewardship role is a way out of the impasse that a
request of membership for a sex offender creates.
not reject the sex offender out of hand. It would be against
the purpose of ministry to do so. However, it would also be
against the purpose of ministry to accept such an offender into the
congregation without raising some basic issues that
would help church authorities to arrive
at a prudent decision.
So here are some starting points for discussion...you should add others
that are relevant to the values of your congregation.
(Click on the tabs below to open a panel. Reclick to close to minimize scrolling.)
Some questions for evaluating sex offenders
the accused person abuse minors or adults?
If minors...were they adolescents or prepubertal children (these
abusers are psychologically very different)? If he (I'm assuming its a
male...very few women are convicted of sexual abuse) abused adults were
the adults married...because such abuse affects the whole family.
the offender seeking some kind of redemption?
Or is he merely fulfilling a condition of his release to attend church?
kind of sex
offense was it?
Patting someone on the bottom is an assault...but it is not the same
thing as a rape.
it a one-time
offense or was it a series of offenses?
A one time offense may represent a lapse in judgment for any number of
reasons (e.g. alcohol abuse). The serial sex offender already has a
history of relapse.
it a person-to-person
offense or was there no human victim?
Actually molesting a child is not the same thing as possessing
pornography a victimless crime.
the person is accepted as a member
of the congregation...who should know about the offender's
history...and how much should they know?
With a convicted offender there would be a trial record which
public document. However, charity requires that the information be
handled with prudence.
does the sex offender have to live up to...and who supervises the
cooperation with those conditions?
For example, are regular counseling sessions required? Is a curfew
imposed? And so forth.
much should the
congregation know about the counseling? And how do you deal with a
therapist or counselor about this issue?
Confidentiality is a privilege that the counseling client has. The
therapist does not have the privilege. Confidentiality does not mean secrecy.
It means that knowledge is
transmitted with the permission of the client through proper
channels...to those who need the information for a proper
If carefully answered using only data and no unverifiable
church authorities should be able to arrive at a considered decision
about whether or not they could take on the responsibility of a
convicted offender...as a member of their congregation.
Evaulate the resources of your ministry periodically.
From this sex
offenders page you can go back to sexual boundaries.
Or, you can...