BY JIMMY MEEKS
The sex scandal stories continue to surface. And anyone who monitors the news knows that such stories are not confined to Hollywood; the church has its share, too.
For YEARS we have been warning attendees at our Sheepdog Seminars of the dangers of sex crimes on their property, or at church-related functions. Such crimes far outnumber the church shootings. These crimes are often committed by a church volunteer or a staff member. Every week the stories pour into our inbox.
I recently revisited one such story. In 2016, at an Oklahoma Baptist Camp, a 36-year old man lured a 13-year old girl into his room. According to documents obtained from a news source, he then, "...closed the door to his bedroom, tied the girl’s hands behind her back with rope, and violently raped and sodomized her..."
And another such story surfaced in Pennsylvania, wherein a 20-year old woman faces sex crimes charges, stemming from an incident at a Lutheran Church Camp.
But the story that has grabbed world-wide attention centers on a minister in Tennessee who is accused of engaging in sexual relations with a female high-school student when he served at a Texas church 20 years ago (as a youth director).
His accuser says he took her home one night after church. On the way home, she writes, "...he passed the turn he should have made to go to my house. I asked him where he was going. I don't remember his exact response, but it was something along the lines of 'you'll see,' or 'it's a surprise.'"
Instead, he drove her to a deserted back road where he soon sexually assaulted her.
We often hire these youth ministers right out of seminary, and have no idea who they TRULY are. A background check, which is necessary, only tells us if there has been an actual arrest. Often, the offender has not yet been caught, thus there is no record (evidence shows that many offenders will strike over 150 times before getting caught).
But here's my question concerning this recent scenario: WHY WAS HE ALONE IN THE CAR WITH HER??? To be fair, it does appear that the church had rules in place that forbade this practice. But apparently that did not stop him.
Here is my point. You must make it clear to your youth workers that they are NEVER, NEVER, NEVER allowed to be alone with any of the youth. Furthermore, you must always have additional workers present until "no-one-but-no-one" is alone with the kids - and they are all safely on their way home. Put simply, someone has to be monitoring all the kids, all the time. In addition, those doing the monitoring must also monitor the monitors.
You must have these rules in place and enforce them.
Look your youth director in the eyes and say something along these lines: UNLESS HELL FREEZES OVER, you will never, never, never be alone with any of the youth. Do not allow him to counsel any youth by himself: do not allow him to go to their school and visit the kids by himself: do not allow him to have the youth over to his house (unless other adults are present.) Use the "Jesus-Rule," the practice of being sent out in twos.
You should also know this: such crimes as this are not because the actor "snapped." They are not the result of something that "popped" into their mind one night for the first time. More than likely, the perpetrator had planned out the attack. Anyone who has does their homework on this subject knows this to be true. They eagerly search for the opportunity to gratify their flesh. They wait patiently for the time when they can ISOLATE THEIR VICTIM - and then inject their venom.
Scripture tells us that after the devil tempted Jesus, he departed from him until "a more opportune time." This method of hell is employed by all predators (Luke 4).
Here's the deal, church staffs. You can continue in your naivety or, at some point, you can wake up and realize what you need to do - MAKE IT CLEAR TO ALL CHURCH STAFF PERSONNEL (and volunteers) THAT THEY ARE NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, TO BE ALONE WITH ANY OF THE YOUTH.
During our years conducting Sheepdog Seminars we have constantly warned of the dangers of sexual predators. Because of what has happened at churches in terms of shootings, churches have braced themselves to stop the shooters: but the truth is, the SEXUAL PREDATOR is a far greater threat to your congregation (insurance companies who cover churches will tell you the Number One reason for lawsuits are the sex crimes).
Many of our youth ministers (and pastors) are trapped in a web of sexual sin. I remember once receiving a call from a seminary student in Ft. Worth, Texas begging me for help. He had heard me on a radio show and thought I could assist. "I recently slept with a prostitute and I don't know what to do. Can you help me?"
Let's be honest: the sex crimes in church-related scenarios are not going to stop. There is no magic pill that will rid us of this plague. There is simply too much sex sin in the church. Consider this: about 52% of ministers view porn; and about 68% of church-going men are into porn. And porn feeds the sex crimes.
And finally, a word to both parties in the present scenario and a closing comment to the church...
Mr. Savage, I beg you to do everything in your power to help Ms. Woodson through this. Set an example for the world by displaying what true repentance looks like. Take full responsibility for what you did. I can't help but think that deep inside your heart you want to make things right. I know this has deeply affected you, your church, and certainly your immediate family. Fully cooperate with those who are committed to your restoration. In doing so you could show your fellow ministers that there is life after such a tragedy. Your doors of opportunity do not have to be permanently closed. Our God is One who delights in mercy.
And to Jules Woodson, the victim...
Ms. Woodson, I have a wife, five daughters, two granddaughters, and one daughter-in-law. These "little girls" are my world. This tragedy you have suffered could have happened to one of them. And if it had, I'm not sure what I would have done (I probably wouldn't be sitting here typing these words). A daughter who is wronged ignites a father's wrath.
Ms. Woodson, I type these words through tears. I am SO sorry for what you have endured. For 20 years you have been ignored by those who hurt you, all the while suffering silently. I can only imagine how many pillows you have drenched with your tears, longing to tell someone, but knowing that you might be blamed - and even shamed.
It wasn't your fault.
Your courage, your bravery, exhibited by your speaking out, has earned you a title: you are a HERO!
One more thing, Ms. Woodson. According to news reports, his congregation "broke into 25 seconds of applause" after he confessed to the incident in question.
I want to make you a promise, Ms. Woodson. Should you ever grace us with your presence at a Sheepdog Seminar, you will receive a standing ovation that shall never be forgotten - and it will far exceed 25 seconds.
Heroes such as you are worthy of such.
One final word. To the churches across this country that have provided opportunities to the predators: Wake up and put a stop to this crap! EVERYWHERE we conduct a seminar, someone will come up and tell us a story of a sexual predator that was in their church (usually on the staff).
When you search for someone to work with the youth, consider hiring someone in your congregation, as opposed to bringing in a stranger. Very, very few youth ministers have any intentions of staying long at any church that employs them. Find someone committed to your kids and give them the job. About 70% of youth quit going to church after they graduate high-school. Find you a man (or woman) who can stop this train wreck of faith amongst our youth.
And be sure to put the proper rules in place and enforce them. Let your church gain a reputation for protecting the children.
If we as a church do not get our act together concerning these sex scandals, we are going to be a living fulfillment of the judgment described in Jeremiah 13:26-27 ...
"I will pull up your skirts over your face
that your shame may be seen—
your adulteries and lustful neighings,
your shameless prostitution!
I have seen your detestable acts
on the hills and in the fields.
Woe to you, Jerusalem!
How long will you be unclean?”
On a side note here are some "announcements" you might be interested in -
- The best organization for learning how to protect your children from sexual predators is Ministry Safe. Click here to learn more.
- There are two things you can do to help the men in your church break their porn addiction. 1- Insist that the entire church staff join Covenant Eyes. 2- Take your men through The Conquer Series. It's the best stuff out there on this subject.
- For info on a company that provides background checks, we recommend Protect my Ministry.
- Charleston, South Carolina Police Chief Greg Mullen will speak at our Sheepdog Seminar in Greenville, South Carolina this month (Feb 23-24). He will be joined by Lt Colonel Dave Grossman. Many have registered, but there is room for more. Click here for info.