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Friday, November 18, 2011

The best thing I ever did

The best thing I ever did as a pastor was to kick a guy out of the church. Pastors are generally in the business of bringing in the sheep. It's what we do.

Bring 'em in and care for the flock.

So I did.

And, ironically, in this one case, caring for the people of God meant asking a young adult man to leave.

"Bud," (not his real name) I said, "you gotta go. Our church is not safe with you in it."

This is the thing. I watched him spending too much time with a couple of young boys, barely adolescent, from single-family households, vulnerable and isolated in a variety of ways.

I spent ten years working full-time professionally in the sexual abuse field. I knew what it looked like, as many of the experts you've heard this week on TV have testified. There is a pattern. Grooming. Setting up a situation where the person becomes even more isolated and dependent upon the predator. Flattery. Sometimes blackmail. Bud was already at work when I arrived on the scene. A couple of folks mentioned to me that it felt "off" -- the way he interacted with these boys. So I paid careful attention. And agreed.

"Bud," I told him, "you gotta go. And if I could, I'd call the police now." But there were no actionable crimes I could report. He told me he was moving to another state. A few weeks later I got a letter requesting his transfer of membership. I didn't sign it. But I wrote a letter. "Watch. Like a hawk."

Keep your eyes open. Watch. And, as they say, when you see something, say something. Ask a friend to watch with you. Don't prejudge but be wise. Be careful. You can save a child. You can save a child.

You are part of the team that our kids count on. You. Don't let them down.

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