When we start leading a Pure Desire Group, we really never expect to encounter men or women who are in the middle of legal proceedings. Yet, with the type of ministry we provide, it happens more often than you think.
We may encounter men and women who are involved in divorce proceedings, facing criminal charges, and currently on parole or probation. All these situations can be difficult to address when our hearts are focused on helping those who are struggling.
It is easy to overlook the best practices for these scenarios because we so deeply want to help. Yet, while wanting to help, we are putting our group leaders, members, and the church in a vulnerable position; any of whom could be subpoenaed to a court hearing.
To avoid any court involvement, and protect the church and group members alike, here are the Standard Operating Procedures for groups when dealing with legal situations:
Every person who attends a Pure Desire group MUST sign the Memo of Understanding. Make no exceptions! This document is your safeguard against 99% of the issues that could come up in group.
Any person who is going through a divorce, or facing legal charges of any kind, particularly if lawyers are involved, should not participate in a group until the legal proceedings are finalized. Group members could be subpoenaed to testify if the person stays in group.
Any person on parole or probation may participate in group, but only after their parole/probation officer (PO) has been contacted by the group leader or church staff and given clearance for participation. Their PO can inform the group or church leader of any issues their attendance may cause.
If a reportable offense is disclosed in group (sexual activity with or abuse of a minor, the elderly, or threat of violence against self or others), inform the group member that they have 24 hours to report the offense, before the group and/or church leader must do so for them. The participant should refrain from group participation until the reported offense has been dealt with by authorities.
The church must have a Reducing the Risk Policy in place, which clearly states how minors are protected, childcare workers appropriately vetted, and appropriate measures taken when anyone with a record of sexual offense is on the property. If this policy is not currently in place, please visit www.churchlawandtax.com for more information.
If anyone is threatening self-harm, a group leader should alert their ministry leader or staff pastor immediately. Pure Desire Ministries also recommends the following actions:
For legal issues not discussed on this blog or in the Memo of Understanding, please contact a legal professional in your state. Pure Desire Ministries is not qualified to give legal advice, nor do we recommend that a church or group ever attempt to give legal advice. When in doubt, error on the side of caution and contact a lawyer for further direction.
With Pure Desire groups growing rapidly around the country and beyond, dealing with legal issues is becoming more commonplace. If these steps are not followed, it can put strain on a group leader, members, and the church.
While our goal is to help bring healing to every man and woman who enters a Pure Desire group, there are limitations to what we can do when there are pending legal issues. We must protect the safety and confidentiality of the group, while showing love and support to group members in the midst of the legal process.
If you have further questions regarding legal issues, please contact Pure Desire at 503-489-0230 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help.
Rich is the International Men's Groups Coordinator (IGC) for Pure Desire. He has been involved with Pure Desire for over 20 years, and is a foundational piece to churches starting a Pure Desire group ministry. Rich is also the author of The Silent Battle: One Man's Fight for Freedom.