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A Safe Distance

Isolating Offenders

The person divides with the palm the red and green figures of people.

Based on the training module "Protecting Children from Abuse" in the Safety Member Certification program and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.[1][2]

From the Bible

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off ... And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off ... And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out … (Mark 9:43, 45, 47).

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off ... And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off ... And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out … (Mark 9:43, 45, 47).
* Note: What this means is this: If what you do leads you to sin, stop doing it; if where you go leads you to sin, don't go there; and if what you look at leads you to sin, stop looking.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6).

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:14).
* Note: Don’t blame the victim. The offender has to learn to control his or her own desires and impulses.

... let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us ... (Hebrews 12:1).
* Note: We should avoid our strongest temptations if and when we can. For sex offenders, this means separation from those they prey upon.

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
* Note: Sex offenders need to take responsibility for their actions. That is the first step in conquering this sin.


We try to protect children from sexual abuse by keeping them separate from sex offenders. At the same time, keeping sex offenders away from children is a key step in ministering to them, since it answers the line in the Lord's Prayer that says, "Do not lead us into temptation" (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4).

There are ministries that work with sex offenders, bringing them to accept responsibility for their actions and holding them accountable. Hopefully, this spares some children from abuse. Meanwhile, we still need to protect children from active offenders, recognizing that separation is good for both.

On the Web

These news stories show the need to keep sex offenders separate from children in the church:

Fredericksburg, Texas, November 2009 to April 2016 - A daycare worker in a Fredericksburg church was arrested for sexual abuse of children. It turns out that during 6½ years at least 15 preschool children had been abused by the man (age 31). He was promptly fired.[3]

Haverhill, Massachusetts, July 13. 2022 - A man living in New Hampshire who was listed as the pastor of a church in nearby Haverhill, Massachusetts, was arraigned for not registering in MA since he was a registered sex offender in NH. Among his victims in NH were minors under the age of 13.[4]

Lake Worth, Texas, January 4, 2013 - The 19-year-old son of a church family was charged with sexual molestation of a child under 6 (a boy age 4). As of the date of the news article, no other victims were known. The congregation has since strengthened its security.[5]

There are ministries working with sex offenders:

Chicago, Illinois, prior to the COVID Pandemic - When church staff observed a visitor's fascination with children at a church event, they made their acquaintance and found out who he was and where he was from. Using this information, they found out he was a registered sex offender. Contacting the man, they referred him to a nearby church with no children that specifically ministers to sex offenders.[6]

Fresno, California, December 2009 - A program named "Circles of Support and Accountability" (COSA) has been in operation at a Mennonite church in Fresno. This program ministers to sex offenders, especially those who have been released from prison. On January 29, 2010, the Religion and Ethics program on NPR aired a report on this ministry's activity.

COSA began in Canadian Mennonite churches. Now it is used by several churches in the United States, including congregations other than Mennonite (Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist for example).[7]

There is advice for ministries on handling sex offenders:

Fort Wayne, Indiana - Brotherhood Mutual, an insurance provider for churches, has resources for churches and other ministries. Among the available resources is a White Paper, Registered Sex Offenders in Ministry Activities, and a Safety Library article, "Sex Offenders: Should They Be Allowed to Attend Church?" These are essentially parallel with some distinctions. A common point is that most churches will eventually be faced with the decision of how to respond to a registered sex offender who wants to attend, or discovers that one of its members or attenders is a sex offender. Among the considerations are the type of sexual offense(s) and the offender's openness and willingness to be accountable. They do say that ministries geared to help released prisoners and persons with addictions are better equipped to minister to sex offenders.[8][9]

Postwar Nuremberg, Germany, November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946, and Mequon, Wisconsin, Summer 2015 - During the World War II war crime trials in Nuremberg, U.S. Army Chaplain Henry Gerecke, a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister, was assigned to minister to Nazi prisoners awaiting trial and execution. The principles he followed and the lessons he learned were used by Victor I. Vieth in a Summer 2015 article in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly as examples for how to minister to sex offenders. This article is available on the website of the Julie Valentine Center, a Greenville, South Carolina, organization that supports survivors of sexual abuse.[10]

Videocast and Show Notes

The subject of this article is discussed and expounded on by Kris Moloney in a Sheepdog Church Security Academy videocast on YouTube - the audio is in a Church Security Roll Call podcast on SoundCloud. Beneath the video screen is a link to the Weekly Show Notes (an article summary). The one for this article is available until the next article is posted a week later. This downloadable PDF can be printed and/or attached to a message to share with others.

Separating Predator and Prey

While working in the garage, a blur caught my eye. The cat had just run in with a bird in her mouth. I reached down, took the cat, pulled open her jaw, and released the bird, which flew off. I had separated a predator from her prey. After this, the birds at the feeder were more cautious.

In our churches, we don't have to wait until there's a sexual abuse incident to separate predator and prey. By being cautious, we take measures to keep sex offenders away from the children, youth, and vulnerable adults in our congregation.

On the other hand, the ministerial heart of our churches wants the offenders to have their hearts and lives changed. We want them to be free from their addiction. At the same time, we need to be realistic. Since sexual abuse is an addiction, we need to keep an offender away from our children for their protection. The same measures should keep the offenders away from the temptation that most easily besets them (Heb. 12:1). For us the challenge is how to minister to the offenders while protecting our children.

Protecting Our Lambs

Safeguards and vigilance are how we protect our lambs.


Policies and procedures along with structure and technology constitute the safeguards for children and youth in the church.

Policies outline the goals and standards of child protection. This includes qualifications and disqualifiers for pastors, ministry leaders, and those who work with children and youth (both staff and volunteers). They also define proper behavior and relationships of church workers with children and youth. Other policies state that only certain persons can enter the childcare areas and take children out. Church leadership sets these policies with the advice of the Safety Committee and the Safety Director.

Procedures are how policies are carried out. The Safety Director works with ministry leaders in writing and adopting these procedures. A few examples of procedures are steps in the application process, children-to-worker ratios, check-in/check-out methods for childcare and nursery, and the Rule of Two.

Structural safeguards are design features of the church building, especially the childcare and children's education areas. Specifics depend of the overall design of the church itself. These are more easily included when designing a new structure. Some adaptation is needed when modifying an existing building. A few structural safeguards are:

Technological safeguards may include:


All the policies and procedures in the world will not work unless they are followed. Many lawsuits, even some criminal complaints, are based on the ministry not following its own policies and procedures. Logging all activity will document how well they are adhered to.

Everyone - including Safety Team members - practices situational awareness. For instance:

A Separate Ministry

Speaking of the Chicago church, there was a church in the city where sex offenders could worship without other attenders worrying about their children. More than just worship, Bible studies, and fellowship, there was also counseling, accountability, and discipleship. The news story did not name the program used by that church, but COSA[7] was already being used in the United States.

There are churches that have a separate ministry for sex offenders, including worship services at separate times and/or in a separate building. Larger congregations may also have separate pastors and staff who are trained and experienced in this type of ministry. This type also includes ministries in prisons, in rescue missions, to newly-released prison inmates, and to alcoholics and drug addicts. Sex offender ministries also deal with pornography addiction, since that's related to sexual abuse.

Ministering to sex offenders separately not only keeps the offenders separate from potential victims, but is better than just pushing them to the edge of society. There is the potential for change, as in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Transformed offenders will stop seeking children to exploit. Some even welcome the separation from temptation. Transformation of sex offenders is the work of the Holy Spirit. It includes the offender taking responsibility for his (or her) own actions, admitting the need for help, and willingness to be held accountable (see Proverbs 28:13). This will be a life-long struggle for many, as it is for alcoholics.

On the ministry side, this requires study, discipline, and prayer.

Online Resources

There are a number of resources online for community safety, separate ministries, and managing offenders.

Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website

This public website managed by the Department of Justice is more than a sex offender registry. It also has an educational function. Under the Safety and Education tab is the How to Prevent section with a Family and Community Safety subsection. The second and third chapters of this are "Safety in the Community" and "Safety in Schools." These are written as advice for parents, but can inform community entities, such as churches and church-affiliated schools and daycare centers. Each chapter ends with a list of resources, many with guidance for the institutions themselves, such as "Free resources to prevent sexual abuse in youth-serving organizations" from Gatekeepers for Kids, and "Overview of effective child sexual abuse prevention programs" from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.[2]

Christian Resources

Besides the Brotherhood Mutual articles[8][9] and the article in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly[10], there are other Christian resources for churches dealing with sex offenders:

Adventist Risk Management, by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, has a guide published in 2012, "Recognizing & Dealing with Sexual Predators." It has three sections: "Sex Offenders in the Church: A Legal Guide" by Karnik Doukmetzian, "Sex Offenders in Church" by Robert Burrow, and "Sex Offenders - the Struggle" by Victor Elliot. Just one quote from this PDF captures its essence:

"There is also an idea that springs from secular culture into church life, which impacts decisions on how to manage The Struggle. The idea is this: We should not judge the behavior of others. The reality is that while we cannot judge the heart of another, we do and must judge behavior."[11]

The Network, a site for ministers in the Christian Reformed Church in North America, has an article by Ron Knol, "Sex Offenders in the Church?" Knol addresses the situation of a sex offender released from prison asking to join or re-join the church. The lasting relevance of this question is evident in the original article of 2011 being updated in 2018. He says that "there is no ‘right' answer' to this question.[12]

There are other denominations and church fellowships that have posted advice for how pastors and church leaders should deal with sex offenders.

Advice from Lawyers

Several law firms around the nation advise churches on legal issues. One such firm is Simms Showers LLP (SSL), a partnership of J. Stephen Simms and Robert Showers, serving Northern Virginia, D.C., and Maryland. Their practice areas include, among others, Church Law, Non-Profit Law, and Family Law.

Their description of Church Law includes "Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Defense." An article on this topic is "Successful Church Assimilation of Sex Offenders." The need for this discussion is given in the first paragraph, which cites the results of a survey by Christianity Today International. In this survey, almost 80% of church leaders believed a sex offender should belong to a church. However, most churches have no policies on how to serve these offenders while keeping the congregation safe.

SSL goes on to list "a few critical points" for churches that do want to minister to sex offenders. We do not want to quote the article in more detail without permission, but reading it is highly recommended. We'll cite two items here.

I can summarize their advice as Proceed with caution.[13]


Do not consider this article as legal advice. Consult your church's attorney. For insurance questions, contact your church's insurance agent.


Most church leaders want to protect their children from sexual abuse. They also want to minister to sex offenders to help them overcome their addictions. The safest way to do both is to keep the children and the offenders separate.

Training Notes

Through the Safety Member Certification program a Church Safety Team can get all its members trained and certified. There are eight training modules (classes):

  1. "Safety Team Fundamentals"
  2. "Active Shooter Response"
  3. "Deescalating Disruptive Persons"
  4. "Protecting Children from Abuse"
  5. "Basic Use of Force Laws"
  6. "Arson and Fire Safety"
  7. "Storms and Disasters"
  8. "Mass Trauma Emergencies."

Taking each module and passing its test will qualify a student for two years as a Certified Safety Member.[1]

Three instruction formats are available:

Team Certification (church-hosted classes) is preferred for training a new Church Safety Team. All will train at once and have the advantage of group discussions, asking questions, and conversing with the instructor. Two years later, these classes can be used for re-certification.

By the way, some of the classes can be taught by Sheepdog Church Security's Certified Onsite Instructors. As of now, there are four individual instructors and a couple:

Each listing has contact information so you can find out what classes they teach and whether they are available in your area. This would be good for two or three smaller churches training together.

Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction) can get a new member into an already-trained team. It can also fill the gap for classes that a member is unable to attend.

Online Events (live Zoom classes) are held at 3:00 pm (Central Time) on Sunday afternoons with Kris Moloney as the instructor. It combines the advantages of both in-person classes and online instruction. One class (Mass Trauma Emergencies on November 6) is left in Quarter 1 of the 2022-2023 school year. Quarter 2 begins on November 13. "Protecting Children from Abuse" (highlighted in yellow) is scheduled for December 11, 2022 (Q2), February 19, 2023 (Q3), and April 23, 2023 (Q4).





Training Module


Sep 11

Nov 13

Jan 29

Mar 26

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 18

Nov 20

Feb 5

Apr 2

Active Shooter Response


Sep 25

Dec 4

Feb 12

Apr 16

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 2

Dec 11

Feb 19

Apr 23

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 9

Dec 18

Feb 26

Apr 30

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 16

Jan 8

Mar 5

May 7

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 23

Jan 13

Mar 12

May 21

Storms and Disasters


Nov 6

Jan 22

Mar 19

Jun 4

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Also This Month

This is the fourth of five articles for October, The other four are "1999 Temple Grounds Church Shooting" (Lesson Learned), "Do I Smell Smoke?" (In Case of Fire), "The Critical Choice" (To Shoot or Not Shoot), and "Blue Life Support" (The Cornelius Project).


  1. Kris Moloney, "Protecting Children from Abuse," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Staff Writers, "Safety and Education: How to Prevent: Family and Community Safety," Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice [].
  3. Tyler White, "Texas church day care worker charged with more than a dozen sex crimes against children," / San Antonio Express-News, May 28, 2016 [].
  4. Mike LaBella of The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Massachusetts, "Church pastor cited for failure to register as a sex offender," Yahoo! News, July 21, 2022 [].
  5. CBS DFW news staff, "Former Church Daycare Worker Accused Of Child Sex Abuse," CBS DFW, January 4, 2013 [].
  6. Megan Fowler, "Sex Offenders Can Find Hope in Christ but Not Necessarily a Place at Church," Christianity Today, July 23, 2020 [].
  7. Saul Gonzalez, " Ministering to Sex Offenders," Religion and Ethics, NPR, January 29, 2010 [].
  8. Anonymous, "Registered Sex Offenders in Ministry Activities: A White Paper," Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, © May 2018 [].
  9. Anonymous, "Sex Offenders: Should They Be Allowed to Attend Church?" Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, no date [].
  10. Victor I. Vieth, "Ministering to Adult Sex Offenders: Ten Lessons from Henry Gerecke," Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3 (Summer 2015), pp 208-223; accessed through the Julie Valentine Center [].
  11. Karnik Doukmetzian, Robert Burrow, and Victor Elliot, "Recognizing & Dealing with Sexual Predators," Adventist Risk Management,® Inc., © 2012 [].
  12. Ron Knol, "Sex Offenders in the Church?" Network, Christian Reformed Church in North America, July 19, 2011, Updated on June 7, 2018 [].
  13. Simms Showers Staff, "Successful Church Assimilation of Sex Offenders," Simms Showers LLP, August 3, 2016 [].