Wisconsin church offers adults-only services for sex offenders

A Wisconsin church has started providing adults-only services so that sex offenders can worship without violating their parole.

The First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison started the biweekly services late last month as part of its prison ministry project, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

First Congregational's Rev. Jerry Hancock said the church was approached by a probation officer last year with the idea to provide a service for sex offenders who cannot be where children are present.

Local psychologist Jim Gerndt told the State Journal that the adults-only aspect eliminates an environment that could be problematic for the recovering sex offender and Hancock stressed it isn't a "sex-offender service."

"It's not designed to be therapeutic. It's not a support group. We are using the same text, the same order of worship and the same sermon topic that was used the previous Sunday," Hancock said.

The church initially did not widely publicize the services out of fears it may attract protesters. Instead it spread the work through other churches and religious groups, the State Journal reported.

The first adults-only service on Feb. 23 did not attract anyone from the target audience, but other parishioners turned up to be supportive. The church has since expanded its outreach efforts.