Church families are a great place for kids to make friends and see a loving community in action. We want them to learn about Jesus in a place that is safe with people they can trust.
This same body of people, saved by grace, ought to want non-Christians to feel welcomed, to hear of the gospel of Jesus, repent of sins and trust Him to change them by his Spirit. This process of ongoing sanctification is not just for new Christians, but continues for all of us this side of Jesus’ return.
How would you respond if a non-Christian, or a Christian new to your church, has a history of child pornography or child sexual abuse and wants to attend your church?
As a parent, wrestling with this would have to be the hardest part of Jesus’ command to love our enemy.
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28
Echoed again by Paul in Romans 12:16-21
This situation may not involve a personal enemy who has hated or cursed me directly, but those involved in paedophilia invoke a hatred from society at large (1). These verses run counter to this pattern of the world, a pattern Paul tells us NOT to conform to (Rom 12:2). After all, sin and evil is the enemy, not the person. They are not beyond salvation should God choose to show mercy, their sin is not unforgivable. Don’t we also struggle with our own temptations and sins – most of which we can hide from the rest of society (and even our church community)? We have been shown mercy for our sin and still need to take our sins to God daily for forgiveness and repentance. Is our sin any less offensive to God?
These two conflicting desires for our church meetings – the desire for a loving and trusting environment and the desire to lovingly welcome people whoever they are – means we cannot wholeheartedly embrace both. The latter opens the door (literally) to a person with such convictions being amongst us any given weekend. Since we might never know, might I suggest these four things we can do as parents so we can keep our kids safe AND welcome people all people like Jesus did:
- Welcome all visitors well, and not just the first time they come. A person with any criminal convictions is NOT going to bring it up in conversation. While this shouldn’t be our motivation for welcoming well, it is certainly a fringe benefit.
- Know where your kids are at all times, especially when they need to use the bathroom. If they are prepubescent, escort them into the toilet or have them use an accessible toilet you have checked first. Give clear boundaries of where they can play so that you have clear sight of them. Better still, include them in your encouraging conversations and model Christian community for them.
- Thank God for His mercy and pray many more would be given this greatest treasure in the whole wide world – Peace with God, made possible in Jesus.
- Get informed and trained in the safe ministry practises of your church, including background checks for volunteering with children. At our church, all such volunteers undertake Safe Ministry Training which does the (Australian) background checks and meets our church insurance requirements.
Note of Clarification:
This post does not address the decision of whether to allow a person who has a history of child pornography or child sexual abuse to attend a church meeting where children are present. This is a decision for your church leadership. Any action on such a policy
- can only occur after disclosure of this history,
- does not absolve you of your reaction to this question, and
- does not relieve you of your own responsibility towards the protection of your children.
(1) Kelly Richards, “Misperceptions about child sex offenders”, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No.429, 2011, http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/421-440/tandi429.html [accessed June 17th 2014].
Do you find these posts helpful in parenting to the Glory of God? If you do, then I’m sure others would too.
Please SHARE these posts with a prayer for a generation of kids who have had this modelled for them by their parents.