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Wolves and Lambs

Threats to Our Children

Sad little child boy hugging his mother at home
An article in the series Protecting Our Children, based on the training module “Protecting Children from Abuse v4”[1]


“Are our children safe?” That is the question many parents have when they leave their sons and daughters in the care of others. For a single parent, this can be the question almost anywhere they are if the other parent poses a likely threat of violence, abuse, or abduction. What threats do children face when in our church? How can we lessen these threats?

From the Bible

“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; See also Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2).

He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor (Psalm 72:4).

“Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3).

In the News

More than one kind of abuse of children occurs in churches, in schools, and in their communities.


Ripplemead, Virginia, May 3, 2021 - A woman and her boyfriend abducted a 2-year-old boy from a church in Ripplemead, Virginia. This was after failed attempts at two other churches, where she went to the nurseries and said that "Larry" was ill and she came to take his boy home. Both times they said nobody by that name was there. At the Ripplemead church she simply walked to the nursery door, pointed to the boy, and said she was there to take him home. Evidence at the couple's home indicated that they intended to kidnap other children. The prosecutor indicated the motive may have been illegal adoption. Surveillance images from inside the church helped identify the suspect and prove she took that boy out of the building. The church said it is considering measures to prevent future abductions.[2]

* This shows the danger of not having and following effective policies and procedures.

Carter County, Oklahoma, November 21, 2021 - A child was abducted from a rural church. Witnesses called 911 and gave them the license number of the kidnapper's vehicle along with a description. The suspect was stopped by deputies in the next county and the child was rescued. [3]

* No details were given on how or why the child was abducted, but quick action by those in the church enabled a quick law enforcement response.

Physical Abuse

Beavercreek, Ohio, October 8, 2021 - A student who showed up with bruises told classmates that she was being beaten at home. They told the teacher, who reported it to school administrators, who then reported it to authorities. After this, the mother decided to withdraw her daughter from school for homeschooling. The girl came back to school on her own, then ran to the woods when her mother came for her. That's where officers found her. She told them of the beatings by four adults. A warranted search of the home provided evidence of the beatings, including studded belts matching marks on her body.[4]

* This case shows an abused child coming to school (it could have been to church) and the abuse reported to the authorities as required by law.

Sexual Abuse

West Lafayette, Indiana, Spring 2019 to March 2020 - For almost a year, a teen boy sexually molested children of families in his church. When the pastor found out about one incident, he tried to resolve the issue between the families, but did not report it to the authorities as required by Indiana law. It turns out that the boy is related to the pastor.

Not only this, but when the Elders found out, they kept the whole incident confidential, even when other instances were reported to them. As many as 15 children and youth were molested through unwanted and inappropriate touching.

Eventually, this was reported, not only to the authorities, but to the presbytery and the synod. An investigation resulted in the denomination calling for the pastor and elders of the congregation to resign.[5]

* This was peer abuse. Early action and reporting would have stopped the abuse earlier and spared later victims.

Oklahoma City, September 22, 2021 - A nine-year-old boy told his father that a man came by where kids were waiting for the school bus and touched him inappropriately down the backside, and this was not the first time. The father decided to do something about it. He took the day off work, parked his car close to the bus stop, took out his camera, and waited.

Sure enough, when children had gathered, a man in jogging sweats ran past the bus stop and to the next corner. He turned and ran back. When he came to the bus stop, he stopped and approached the son from behind. He put his hand on the boy's back and moved it down past the waist.

The watching father began recording video and called 911 as soon as the man stopped by the kids. When his boy was touched, he got out of the car, ran to the bus stop and confronted the man. A fight ensued, and the molester went down, suffering head injuries.

The man, who was arrested and charged with sexual imposition and child endangerment, was the pastor of a church.[6]

* Some may question the appropriateness of a father staking out the bus stop on his own, but he did stop the molester, and his attack was in defense of his son. Church personnel do not always commit their abuses on church property.

Featured Resources

The featured resources for this month are a Safety Member Certification training module ("Protecting Children from Abuse v4"), a Church Security Guide article ("Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults"), a free download (A Code to Live By), and an affiliate resource organization (Protect My Ministry).

Protecting Children from Abuse v4

This is one of seven training modules (courses) in the Safety Member Certification program. It focuses on caring for the least among us (those most vulnerable). Why training in this area? For one thing, our protections should be effective - for the children's better good. For another thing, cases of child and vulnerable adult abuse in the church are fraught with both criminal and civil legal liability. Let's quote the instructor's guide on the purpose of training. It is:

All Church Safety Team members should take and pass all the modules in the Safety Member Certification program. Also, teachers, childcare workers, and youth leaders would benefit from this training module. If the pastoral team and elders took this course, they would at least be informed for writing policies and procedures concerning abuse.[1]

A Code to Live By: Childcare Code of Conduct

The core of this resource is a pledge for childcare workers, teachers, and youth leaders. All those working with children and youth should be required to read, understand, and sign it. The code itself is preceded by a one-page explanation.

Click *HERE* to get this resource. You will also be signed up for the monthly newsletter, The Church Guardian, and for weekly email updates.[7]

Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults

This article in the Church Security Guide covers a lot of ground. No wonder, for our children are threatened by those who would abuse and misuse them. A short list of perils is sexual and/or physical abuse, non-custodial parental abduction, and kidnapping by non-relatives for illegal adoption or child trafficking. The outline of "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults" is:

Protect My Ministry

How well and thoroughly do you think your church can screen volunteers and staff, especially those who will work with children? Perhaps not as well as you may think, even if you're in a large congregation. I've read stories about youth pastors and volunteers arrested for abuse where the offenders had passed the background checks.

The mission of Protect My Ministry (PMM) is to keep children in churches safe from abuse. They recognize that churches are not equipped to do more than initial screening and annual re-screening. A key feature of PMM is continuous monitoring. With constant gathering, searching, and verification of court and law enforcement records as they are posted, an arrest, indictment, warrant, restraining order, etc. of a church's childcare worker could be discovered and reported to the client ministry.

At the very least, finding out that a criminal works in your church can be very embarrassing. A case in point is the BTK serial killer who was finally arrested in 2005. He was an official in his church. Three intended victims he was stalking filed restraining orders against him.[9] This was in the 1980s and 1990s before the Internet, but today it would show up in a background check or continuous monitoring.

Your church, Christian school, or ministry can sign on with PMM as a Sheepdog Church Security affiliate.[10]

Perils of Childhood and Youth

Places of worship have long been generally considered sanctuaries, safe places. However, this has not always been true. Here are some examples:

Prevalence of Abuse

Today, murder is not the major threat to our children at church. It is abuse, mostly sexual, but sometimes physical abuse or kidnapping. We need to prevent this abuse in the church.

Most of the sexual and physical abuse is by childcare workers, teachers, group leaders, and even pastors, but sometimes it is from other children or youth, people attending church, and even by strangers/intruders. Studies and surveys show that tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused by clergy, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, and this is not counting other church staff and volunteers. Child sexual abuse also happens among members of other faiths, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and others, so it's not peculiar to the religion or sect, but is caused by corrupt human nature.

This is all the more reason to be alert to indications of child abuse in the church, work to prevent it, and hold people accountable for their actions. Jesus sees this kind of abuse as deadly serious, because it draws children into the adult's sin (Mt. 18:6; Mk. 9:42; Lk. 17:2). Studies also show the social, moral, and spiritual consequences of sexual abuse in those children's lives. Jesus' remark echoes commands in the Old Testament Law to eradicate evil in Israel, such as, "So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee" (Deuteronomy 13:5; see also Leviticus 20:14; Deut. 17:7, 12; 19:19, 20; 22:21, 22, 24).

Kidnapping is usually abduction by a non-custodial parent, but there are cases, such as in the first two news stories,[2][3] of strangers taking children out of the church.

In the third news story, a student came to school who was being beaten at home.[4] Not all the abuse happens at church or is by church staff or volunteers. Children who are being abused elsewhere - at home, at school, in the neighborhood, in youth activities, at community events, etc. - may come to church. If we are alert to signs of abuse, we may encounter some of these children and youth.

Forms of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes not only a sexual act, but also the attempt and sexual contact. Some accounts of this are in the Bible, including by the sons of Eli (1 Sam. 2:22) and Amnon's rape of his half-sister (2 Sam. 13:11-14). Any of us who have been reading or listening to the news are now very aware of many forms of sexual abuse. This abuse by a child's caregiver, a youth leader, a pastor, or an offender attending the church may be verbal stimulation that is not appropriate, inappropriate touching, and exposing the child to pornography, and could go as far as actual sexual contact.

Signs of Abuse

There are indications of sexual abuse, both visual and behavioral. Let's state a few of these as questions:

There are several other signs listed in the training module.[1]

Perils of Old Age, Infirmity, and Disabilities

You do not have to be young to be taken advantage of and be abused. Anyone who is dependent on others or is relatively defenseless may be in peril of abuse. The abusers may be caregivers, professionals, staff at various businesses, relatives or neighbors, and fraudsters. Vulnerable adults include the elderly (especially those with dementia), people who are ill, persons with developmental disabilities, and those with physical disabilities.

Some church members who are vulnerable adults may be experiencing abuse of one kind or another. Personally I have known vulnerable adults in churches I've attended. There have been local news stories of elder abuse by close relatives, a bank employee embezzling money from trust accounts, and older persons losing money to telephone, online, or door-to-door scams. Unfortunately, some scammers meet their victims in church.

Common forms of abuse of dependent adults are neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and financial abuse. Are we alert enough to sense that a vulnerable adult may be being abused?


Child abuse is real. It is present in our society, and it happens in churches and in church communities. Are we alert enough to be aware of abuse taking place?

There Is More

Two other articles in this three-part series are "Keeping the Door" (Guarding the Lambs) and "Screening Help" (Protect My Ministry).


  1. Kris Moloney, "Protecting Children from Abuse v4," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Associated Press Writers, "Authorities: Woman arrested for abducting 2-year-old from Virginia church misled investigators," WTVR, May 29, 2021 [].
  3. K. Querry-Thompson, "Oklahoma deputies: Child found safe after abduction from church," KFOR 4, November 23, 2021 [].
  4. WHIO Staff, "Beavercreek girl beaten with belt 'approximately 200 times;' 4 charged with suspected child abuse," WHIO TV, October 26, 2021 [].
  5. Holly V. Hays, "'No sanctuary': A boy sexually abused up to 15 kids. His pastor relative protected him," Indianapolis Star d.b.a. IndyStar, December 6, 2021 [].
  6. KWTX Staff, "Father beats up pastor allegedly caught on video touching boy at bus stop," KWTX 10, September 24, 2021 [].
  7. Kris Moloney, "A Code to Live By," Sheepdog Church Security, © Copyright 2018 [].
  8. Kris Moloney, "Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [].
  9. "Dennis Rader," Wikipedia []; cited source: "A&E Documentary Special - The BTK Killer Speaks," A&E Television, from Wolf Entertainment and Good Caper Content, [].
  10. Sheepdog Church Security sign-up link, Protect My Ministry, 2021 [].