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Our Safety Team had to deal with another incident yesterday at our church. A young (23) very troubled young man has come into our church lately. We discovered that he has social/mental as well as addiction problems. Our leadership contacted his parents and they have kicked him out of their house because of his problems.

He was staying with one of our young men, in his apartment, and evidently they had problems so he asked him to leave. He came to church services yesterday morning, and as soon as services started he left the auditorium, and walked out into the entrance hall where one of our safety team members was on watch.

He walked over and took a church directory off it's table and proceeded to go outside with it. It has all the members pictures and info in it. The volunteer went and got another team member and they followed him outside and took the directory from him, as they were afraid he was seeking contact information on members for future contacts to ask for assistance, which he had done lately. By the way he has picked widows and women to ask for money.

I was not there as my wife and I were visiting another congregation yesterday morning. They filled me in when I arrived at church last evening. I talked to our church leaders and last evening they informed our congregation of the problems with this young man, and told them his problems were more than they, or our church, is capable of handling, They advised our members to not give this guy money or allow this young man into their homes. They also told the members that if he contacts them to refer him back to our church leadership.

I don't know if they told this young man to stay away, or not, however I would have. He has been a person of concern, to our safety team, since he has arrived into our midst, and a big source of distraction.

What would you guys do if this guy was come into your church? This is escalating into a bigger problem. Myself, I would tell him to get himself straight, and he would be welcomed back, but until then he needed to stay away because his actions was becoming a distraction to our church. By the way his parents told our eldership to steer clear of him.

This has turned out to be a bad situation for our church, because they wanted to help this guy, however it seems he has problems we can't help him with. It is a real dilemma we find ourselves in as, in our church, we desire to be open to all. What do you do when presented with this situation?  

One just don't know the background of strangers who visit your  this day in time. That is why we formed our Safety Team several years ago. Our leadership finally informed our members and told them we have people who are watching over them, as we meet every service, which is true, but kind of a false hope. As you all well know, we are individually responsible for our own families and our safety, when the rubber meets the road!

There are some really disturbed individuals out there guys. They seem to be coming into church congregations to get help. Help of this nature is beyond most churches ability to deal with. Just be careful!

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Can your deacons help find this young man some place where he could seek treatment?

It isn’t easy, but doesn’t seem Christlike to give up on someone seeking help.

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I don't know if that is possible, gregintenn.  I do know our eldership has had discussions with him and his parents. I am not privy to what they discussed. I think him not staying in drug treatment was part of why he was asked to leave his parents home.  On the mental side of this, our whole society is not handling that problem, so I am not sure our church can either.  

It is a big problem.  

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Tough question...with any number of imperfect answers...and the issue of future hindsight possibly showing any chosen solution to be...wrong.

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47 minutes ago, pop pop said:

 I do know our eldership has had discussions with him and his parents. I am not privy to what they discussed.

You better get privy and you better do it before you act. I’m not trying to sound like a hard azz, but I would do exactly whatever your Church leaders tell you to do. They have been made aware of the problem and apparently decided they are not equipped to deal with it; so ask them what they want you to do when he shows up or who they want you to call that is equipped to deal with him. You can’t guess. Don’t put yourself in a situation you don’t need to be in.

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23 minutes ago, owejia said:

Put it in Gods hands.

It already is, or that kid wouldn’t be at that church. But that doesn’t mean everyone stands on the sidelines and watches for a miracle to happen.

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Where's MacGyver when you need him? He's very good at this type thing.

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27 minutes ago, owejia said:

Put it in Gods hands.

Good advice, but also dont forget that God gave you eyes to see and a brain to think with...

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Find and put him in touch with resources that can get him the help he needs.  Without being there and interacting with the guy, I can't say if he's just a hoodlum trying to prey on the church or he's truly seeking help. 

And I agree that those most likely to interface with him directly absolutely need to be "in the know". 

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Yes, you need to know the whole story. Security needs to have all the details on a potential threat.  If he's seeking help, then by all means help him. However, if he refuses help, it needs to be made plain to him that he's not welcome. If he continues to come around after a warning, let the Police deal with him. There are some people you just can't save. 

Unfortunately in today's world, there are people who view churches and their membership solely as future victims. 

Edited by Grayfox54
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1 hour ago, gregintenn said:

Where's MacGyver when you need him? He's very good at this type thing.

I’ve got some thoughts.  I’ll put them together later today. 

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Thanks for the replies. This young man is not a member of our church. He just showed up a couple weeks ago and has been to our services 3 times(not regular) now. This is the first time he has done something like this. Dealing with this situation is not easy.  A church want to be open, and helpful, but! 

I intend to talk to the leaders on Wednesday night. 

Edited by pop pop
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First thing to do is stop publishing member directories with names, pictures and other personal information

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Just now, beebee233 said:

First thing to do is stop publishing member directories with names, pictures and other personal information

I know you are right, beebee233, 100%, and this ole world just keeps getting...shall we say, curiouser and curiouser.  This is off topic kinds but related.  There was a time not that long ago, maybe 20-30 years, when one neednt to think this way.  It was good enough that the shepherds thought that way and could protect the flock.  Nowadays, the flock is ever so much more vulnerable as well as targeted for attack, both by common criminals/hoods/hard cases, but even more importantly, by those that are philosophically  and diametrically opposed to the Christian way and American way of thinking.  Terrorism has already come here, but it has not come here the way its come to other parts of the world, but mark my words, its coming and coming sooner than you think.  Whats happening in Europe WILL happen here. Our open borders and passive 'refugee' immigration practices have actually encouraged it.  And once they are here in large numbers, it'll be almost impossible to stop, without a massive infringement on our civil liberties that the constitution guarantees us.

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As individuals and as a church do what you can but he must seek help before it will do him any good.

Stay safe and alert.

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22 hours ago, DaveTN said:

It already is, or that kid wouldn’t be at that church. But that doesn’t mean everyone stands on the sidelines and watches for a miracle to happen.

What is going to happen will happen, even though we believe we can change the course of. things. Only God knows what will happen

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If the young mans parents have given up on him it sounds like he has been a handful before coming to the Church. There is only so much help you can give anyone that does not want to help themselves and it sounds like this is one of those cases. He was living with his parents and would not continue his rehabilitation which is an indication he does not want help, he wants a handout. I don't know if the church leaders have notified the proper authorities such as local police and discussed their problem maybe they should at least make them aware of the issue. The police may already have him on their radar but if they don't they need to..............JMHO

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Asking this guy not to come back is not kicking him to the curb. Our city has free food and shelter for those seeking an hand up. Only free food for those asking a hand out.  It is my understanding they also have counselors for the mentally ill and homeless. I am not sure what this guy is after but for sure, he has no use for information about our members.  By the way that temptation has been removed as the book was taken out of public view. 

I agree the Police need to be made aware of him, however the church leaders does not want our church to become a problem church for the Police. I have been assured if this problem continues then we will call them.  Their hope is this will work itself out in time. We will see. 

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 I see it like this with what little has been discussed of his history. There will be a person victimized by this kid sooner or latter that "should" put him in jail. In a good jail, drugs are obviously not allowed AND the Officers need to be on point with their area searches and body frisking. Hopfully his conviction will get him enough time to cold turkey what ever crap he's on and only at the point of release you cal hope "he" desides to kick his habit and return to the world. untill then,  someone has to take his hit.

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1 hour ago, pop pop said:

I agree the Police need to be made aware of him, however the church leaders does not want our church to become a problem church for the Police. I have been assured if this problem continues then we will call them.  Their hope is this will work itself out in time. We will see. 

As a former Police Officer I can assure you that unless you start making unreasonable demands; you will not be seen as “problem” for the Police. Do you not have any cops in your congregation? If so you might want to fill them in on what’s going on and let them handle it.

If not, and the problem continues you can have an Officer come out and let them handle it however they think best. Keep in mind a couple of things though before you do that. Cops aren’t social workers like they have been in the past. If he hasn’t committed a crime there isn’t much they can do except maybe refer you to some agencies that can help you. If a crime is committed and there is probable cause to believe he did he; he will likely be thrown in jail.

Jail is not a good path to help….ever. Sure you will here stories about that happening, but most of them are BS, the real ones are very rare.

You would know better than anyone here if his actions indicate a possibility of violence. But it sounds like a good possibility your church or some of its members are about to be victims of property crimes.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that as a former cop I believe the pastor and the elders of your church are in a far better place to deal with this problem than the Police. The Police can’t fix broken people, all they can usually do is break then some more. I feel there is more to the story if they have given up??

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If he's been kicked out by his parents, I would presume he and the local police are already fairly well acquainted.  Depending on his disposition, actively engaging the police could do more immediate harm than good, but I do think it's a good idea to get his name, a photo, and have a conversation with the PD.  

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I will add one more post to this and then sit back and read. This young man has been put out of the home of his parents because of drug issues and other reasons. That alone should be a flashing light to draw attention to the fact the young man could very well cause problems to the church or worse some of the members. It is better to act before something happens than have to do something after there has been a more serious incident with possible injury or worse. Be Pro-active so you don't have to be re-active..........JMHO

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On 7/15/2019 at 10:48 AM, gregintenn said:

Can your deacons help find this young man some place where he could seek treatment?

It isn’t easy, but doesn’t seem Christlike to give up on someone seeking help.

The person needs to be willing to help himself - to change his situation and get out of the hole he's in.  Without that, money and effort is wasted.

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Okay, I’ve gotten some time to come up for air. I’ve reread everything here and will offer a few thoughts.

Upfront, there will certainly be folks who disagree with me.  Take these thoughts for what they are, and maybe use them to process your own church’s response. It sounds like you’ve got a good engaged leadership.  

First, this is absolutely Kingdom work.  

Scripture is concerned with three types of people over and over again - the sojourner, the widow, and the orphan. You might argue that a young drug addict doesn’t fall into any of these categories. But, he’s clearly an “other” who society has little use for.

Jesus would see this young man and engage with him. This young man is Jesus’s kind of person. 

Second, working with folks like this is a long effort. It’s dirty.  It’s personal.  It can be life changing - for the people doing the work as well as the person being helped. When you decide to help - it will change the way that you see things.  

Things are rarely as simple as we like to try to see them.  And working with folks with needs like these will change the way you see things.  We’re a small church (150 on a good Sunday) and have worked regularly with 3 or 4 folks who’ve struggled with addiction and homelessness for years now - literally 8 years in a couple of the cases.  There are rarely any clean breaks.  We work towards that - but there are definitely systemic issues that make it tough. Be prepared for the long haul. 

Third, there are going to be some people who will be quite vocal in opposing working with this young man.  The way I think about this is sort of like this - if this is Kingdom work - it’s very much at the border of the Kingdom. We’ve built our comfortable suburban churches to be at what we see as the center of the Kingdom. So, we rarely have to get our hands dirty if we don’t want to - and a lot of us don’t want to - so we’re really uncomfortable with it when we experience it. Think of a person who’s only ever bought meat neatly shrink wrapped at the grocery store suddenly having to slaughter their own meat. Many really aren’t going to like it.  

—-

File this next part under the thoughts of a church of Christ guy who is deeply skeptical of some of the ways we’ve organized our churches today.  What I’m about to say is likely to offend a lot of folks. Feel free to skip ahead. 

I’m deeply skeptical of the “security teams” that we’re organizing in a lot of our churches. We’ve organized these suburban churches that give us these curated experiences that make us feel good about our personal relationships with Jesus.  But, do we see the Gospel in our churches?

if we’re not careful - the illusion of security in our churches can become idolatrous.  I think we really need to struggle with this more than we do.  

To go back to my Kingdom language from earlier, I think we see ourselves as being close to the center of the Kingdom. But, in reality we’ve created these cloistered, walled off churches and don’t realize that we’re way more isolated than we think we are.  Jesus referred to folks like this as whitewashed tombs once upon a time - and I think It’s probably worth holding up  mirror every now and then and taking a good hard look. 

The irony of it is, we don’t realize it - but we’re not fully experiencing the Kingdom either. There’s a rich seven course meal waiting, but we’ve convinced ourselves that the stale sandwiches we’re eating are as good as it gets.

This young man is isolated in ways that are public. But, what we don’t realize is that a lot of us experience isolation in ways that are just as debilitating - but we suffer in private. 

One of the things that we’ve lost in the modern Western church is that historically  there was no idea of personal salvation.  Redemption and salvation was delivered through community.  

I’d offer for thought that by leaving our comfort and heading to the borders of the Kingdom, we might find that salvation comes to us all.  

Happy to discuss this further out of this thread.

—-

Back to this young man, I’d offer some pragmatic thoughts.  

1. Let your safety team operate as sort of “congregational concierges.” I think we see shootings and want to see the outsider as an opposition force.  But, in the Kingdom, everyone is welcome. This young man may in fact go to the front of the line at the proverbial wedding banquet.  We need people on these teams who default to being welcome and generous. 

2. This young man may not be in a place where he’s ready to accept help.  He may not know that he needs help.  But, if we figure that God brings people though our doors for a reason - then we need to see him and invite him into the Kingdom.  

3. But, it’s okay to set some ground rules. Sort of a framework like - we’re happy to help - but you can’t be high at services.  You cannot ask members for money.  Appoint a point of contact (maybe a deacon) and funnel through that person. 

4. Think about other resources in your congregation who might be able to help. For instance, you might have folks who would never volunteer for a “safety team” - but who work in other helpful spaces.  In our church, we have nurses, a mental health resource, people who work in non profits in housing, and social workers.  The value that they bring to the table is infinite. And, it’s great to see them use their professional talents for the Kingdom. 

5. Consider outside help.  We put something in place a while back where we basically subsidize counseling for our members. Specifically, any member of our church can go to counseling for $5 per session - which basically rounds to free.  We pay $70 as a church to make up the difference.  I see both the bills and the uptake in our church - and from a pastoral perspective, this is probably the best money we spend in a given year.  You’re in middle Tennessee - so I could put you in touch with resources that could set something like this up. 

6. Scaffold your help. This is a long effort and there is some fatigue that can go along with it.  Have that point person or persons - but check in regularly and have your elders keep up with what’s going on. 

7. Work towards reconciliation.  This young man needs healing - and his family needs to be a part of it. He and they may not be ready for it - but it’s worth looping back on. 

8. Know that the Holy Spirit certainly plays the long game and will work in ways that we cannot even fathom if we’ll just make room for it to happen.

That was a long answer to your question - but know you’re doing Kingdom work. Certainly my prayers are with you. 

Happy to talk further if it’s helpful. 

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