The participation of convicted sex offenders in normal society is difficult at best…both for the offender and society. They are under constant surveillance: authorities can check where they are through tracking devices. Local people can determine who they are by consulting registries to see if they are living in the neighborhood.
While this is all understandable and considered necessary…there are certain other things that should be included in the rehabilitation of sex offenders beside supervision…such as religious rehabilitation…that’s one of the main purposes of ministry…bringing others closer to God.
So how does a church respond when a prison ministry asks a church or congregation to take in a convicted sex offender as a member?
What issues does such a request raise for the church congregation?
The first issue is the church should not reject the request out of hand. That would defy the main purpose of ministry.
The second issue is that the church should not merely agree to have the released sex offender as a member without exercising due diligence.
So what is needed is a framework to evaluate a request for a sex offender to become a church member.
That means certain questions must be asked to see if the church’s risk management resources can accommodate such a new member.
Such questions would include:
1. Did the offense involve another human being or was it victimless (e.g. possession of pornography)?
2. Did the offense involve adults or minors?
3. Was there physical contact or not (e.g. stalking often does not include physical contact)?
4. Is the person a serial offender or was the offense a one time lapse in judgment?
And so forth.
The answers to these, and other, questions will help in the decision-making process of church authorities and elders as they evaluate potential risk… as well as the offender’s potential for religious rehabilitation.