Pastors, Guard Your Sheep from Sexual Predators

The elderly man visiting our church was a little odd, a little quirky to be sure, but he seemed harmless enough to me.  Nevertheless, multiple ladies in the church (including my wife) didn't quite feel right about him.

Their "discernment radar" was going off.  Primarily, he seemed to pay a little too much attention to the kids at church.  After conferring with our associate pastor, we determined we needed to visit with him in his home to get to know him better.  Our associate pastor was very good in situations like this, and he volunteered to take the lead in the conversation.  I gave him my blessing to guide the conversation as he saw fit, and I would be there to provide support.

After a period of small talk, our associate pastor very kindly, but very plainly, expressed to the man that the attention he was giving the children of our church was making their parents uncomfortable.  He explained we were not accusing him of anything, and he was welcome at our church, but he did need to keep his distance from the children.  It was obvious our associate pastor touched a nerve.

To make a long story short, the man became belligerent and told us to leave his house.  He never came back to church again.  Perhaps he was completely innocent, and justifiably angry to be having the conversation.  But the way he responded led me to believe in my heart that we had likely done the right and necessary thing.

Pastors, we are shepherds and have a responsibility to guard our sheep from wolves.  We typically think of this as spiritual predators, but this also includes sexual predators.  Sexual abuse can happen anywhere.  No church is immune.  Put policies in place to protect your kids.  Enforce them.  And if something (or someone) doesn't feel right, God gives you instincts for a reason.  Trust them.  

Much will be said in coming days about what our denomination can do to protect children in our churches.  And those conversations need to take place.  But it starts with shepherds guarding their sheep in the local church.

*The above story took place over a decade ago.  At the time, we had just hung a banner in front of our church advertising a new kids program with a stock photo of kids' faces on the banner.  I've always wondered if the banner drew the man to our church.