Pastors and church leaders should be biblically aware that predators will prey on their church. One of the biblical roles for the pastor is to shepherd and guard the lambs. What pastors generally miss is how the wolf thinks.
Knowing the inner thinking of a wolf helps pastors be aware of wolves in their church and stop the wolf’s hunt. The wolf will prey on your church in any way that suits their desires. We have all seen headlines such as these:
- Mega-church youth worker sexually molests kids during the church service.
- Small-church treasurer steals $484,000 with a variety of financial scams, in a church that desperately needed that money.
- Church leader entices and bullies staff into romantic relationships.
Church leaders know famous Bible verses about wolves:
Watch out for false prophets. They will come in sheep’s clothing but on the inside they are voracious wolves—Matthew 7:15
I send you as sheep among the wolves. Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves—Matthew 10:16
After I’m gone, fierce wolves will come and not spare the flock—Acts 20:29
Often pastors think of wolves as those who bring false teaching, as a false prophet might. That is true, but there is much more to the wolf. The wolf will try to steal money from your church. The wolf will try to sexually abuse those in your staff and congregation.
Pastors need to understand the mind of the criminal. That’s what wolves are—criminals. A wolf wants to bring crime into your church! Wolves are in your congregation with their own agenda, seeking to rob and sexually abuse.
Pastors need to be shrewd in detecting and preventing the wolf’s hunt. There are at least eight ways that predators demonstrate Wolf Thinking. Knowing these eight ways of thinking helps pastors and church leaders prevent the catastrophe of a wolf feasting on the lambs.
1. A Wolf Thinks Differently than a Pastor
Predators are often highly intelligent. Criminals are well educated in street smarts and less frequently in academia. They know right from wrong and may know the law better than their lawyer.
Church leaders are often not as well versed in street smarts. Pastors usually think that everyone has a moral compass that points to a true north of a general, biblical morality. Wolves have a moral compass but their true north points to self-aggrandizement. Church leaders need to see the wolf as sly, cunning and smart.
2. A Wolf Makes Crime a Way of Life
The predator considers that 9 to 5 jobs are for suckers. The wolf will take a job in your church or volunteer for the opportunity it offers to carry out criminal activity.
Pastors think that their employees work to receive a paycheck to support their family. Church leaders think that volunteers contribute in order to help others. The wolf has a different motive. He or she wants to use their position in your church as a springboard to rob or sexually abuse.
3. A Wolf has Self-Control and Logic
Pastors often think of crimes in the church as just happening. Church leaders reason that an impromptu crime occurred. This is not the case with a wolf.
The wolf carefully selects when and where to prey on others. Dr. Stanton Samenow says: The world is a chessboard which criminals want total control and perceive people as pawns to be pushed around at will.
The wolf will do generous service in your church but for a pernicious purpose. A wolf plans and calculates in order to carry out their abuse. A wolf carefully sets the stage for his or her crime, and then pounces on the victim.
4. A Wolf Can Come from Any Walk of Life
Pastors often say, we never suspected that person—their background, their education, their references are pristine. A wolf is not immediately recognizable by a social profile or other factors.
Criminals can hail from a poor inner-city barrio or a well-heeled neighborhood. Many kids come from poor backgrounds and often only one in a family will become a criminal. While more arrests are of males, there are many female wolves.
Church leaders need to look beyond a person’s presenting profile. They need to have safeguards in place to stop “good looking” people from carrying out evil.
5. A Wolf Will Justify His or Her Actions
When a wolf is first caught, the crime is minimized: Oh, I borrowed some money and will repay it. Oh, that minor was alone at my house, but we just watched some PG movies. Oh, it won’t happen again. The wolf also gives excuses: It’s the victim’s fault, or, They weren’t really hurt by my actions.
When the extent of the wolf’s crimes are discovered, he or she will try to elicit sympathy, justifying their actions based on personal hardship. Church leaders need to recognize that the acts of a wolf are based on choice. A wolf chooses and carefully plans the crimes. While rationalizing the crime, a wolf will make exceptions for themselves according to their own corrupted moral standards.
This is why church leaders need to engage law enforcement when a wolf is detected. Pastors are not equipped to investigate the crimes of a wolf. When you encounter a wolf, even with what first seems like a small crime, get professional help from law enforcement, an attorney, your insurance provider, and a CPA.
6. A Wolf Loves the Thrill of the Hunt
Church leaders are excited about spiritual growth and emotional healing. The wolf is excited about hunting and capturing prey. For the wolf, the conquest and control of others is more important than the product, which could be money or sexual intimacy.
Pastors need to consider that the motives of employees and volunteers may be quite different than altruistic gospel purposes. The wolf does not share the gospel vision for your church. The wolf wants to hunt for prey.
Your role as a church leader is to prevent that hunt for prey. Have solid policies and practices that apply to all staff and volunteers. Don’t make exceptions to your safety protocols. Prevent the wolf’s hunt for victims in your church.
7. A Wolf Easily Identifies Vulnerabilities in Your Church
Church leaders do not naturally think about vulnerabilities. You could have weaknesses in collecting and counting the offering. You could have weaknesses in your children’s and youth volunteer policies. Pastors don’t easily consider that a youth worker is only volunteering in order to sexually abuse kids.
A wolf targets the unsuspecting, those easily taken in, and the careless. The wolf may come to your church because they don’t see good safeguards in place. Volunteers may be minimally screened or can be very recent new attenders. The wolf quickly sees the opportunity, such as to steal church money and how to get away with it for years at a time. The average fraud is detected in a church four to six years after the fraudulent behavior started.
Your role is to publicize your safeguards. Let your church be known as one which is actively preventing the wolf’s hunt. Shore up any vulnerabilities in your church before abuse occurs, instead of reacting after the damage has been done.
8. A Wolf Is Secretive and Deceptive
Pastors generally live open lives. They endeavor to practice what they preach. When asked a question, they give straightforward answers.
The wolf does not announce themselves or their plans. Even the families of a wolf may be in the dark about the extent of their crimes. The wolf does not wear a pin that says, I’m a wolf, watch me carefully.
Church leaders need to accept people at face value but also look deeper. Probing questions need to be asked: Why does that person want to work or volunteer here? Do we have all the details of their background? Is there something missing that we haven’t heard about the person?
Protect the Flock
Some pastors say: It can’t happen here, in our church. Our people are different, mature in their faith and gospel oriented. While that makes for great preaching, it does not square with the Bible. There are plenty of verses that show that a wolf will come into your congregation.
No church is too big or too small for a wolf. Whether in an urban, suburban or rural setting, the wolf is waiting to pounce. It can happen in your church, regardless of ethnicity or location.
Be shrewd in your thinking. Understand how the wolf thinks and hunts. Look for the wolf. Take preventative measures to avert the wolf’s hunt. Use these eight ways of wolf thinking to prevent the catastrophe of a wolf feasting on your lambs.
 Stanton Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind