Is It Possible
By Jeanette Harder, Dove's Nest Cofounder and Board President
Is it possible?
That’s a big question: is it possible to bring an individual with sex offense history into our church? After processing our emotional reaction to the question, it also spawns a lot more questions.
This is the topic two Dove’s Nest board members and two church leaders broached in a workshop at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando. Many people came to the workshop, as it’s a question many churches are grappling with. The stories that were shared were inspirational—stories of churches taking seriously their responsibility to keep everyone safe while also ministering to those who have hurt others.
Individuals with sex offense histories come in all shapes and sizes—all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds. We heard stories of some who grew up in churches and others who came from community outreach. We heard about a church that designated an entrance and certain pews for an individual to use, while being accompanied by a sponsor. We heard about a church who took a minor infraction of their child protection policy seriously, and were very thankful later. We heard about a church that wrote an agreement with an individual outlining acceptable behaviors; the agreement worked for a bit, but then it had to be modified when it wasn’t working well enough.
I was inspired by these churches taking the work of protecting children and youth very seriously while also ministering to people with brokenness and helping to bring them to wholeness. It’s not something all churches can or should do, but it is possible.
Dove’s Nest provides resources and training to help churches that are seeking to incorporate persons who have committed sexual offenses, while maintaining the congregation as a safe and healing community. Let us help you in your quest to decide if this is possible for your faith community.