GOSHEN — After accusations were made, a church youth group leader reportedly admitted to police he molested a child in his care last summer.
Scott Christner, 44, of Goshen is charged with child molesting following his arrest by Goshen police last Thursday. The investigation is based on allegations stemming from his youth ministry role at First Baptist Church.
A boy younger than age 14 told police he was touched inappropriately by Christner three separate times — once at a movie theater and twice at Christner’s house, apparently between July 19 and July 27, according to details presented in the probable cause affidavit in the case.
One of the alleged incidents occurred while the victim and another child, with parental permission, spent the night at Christner’s house after the three volunteered to work at the church’s booth at the Elkhart County Fair, the affidavit shows.
During an interview with police, Christner admitted to touching the victim inappropriately at the theater and after the fair, but denied the third accusation occurred. He also told police he headed children’s ministries as a member of First Baptist Church, the affidavit shows.
First Baptist’s lead pastor Gregg Lanzen said Christner had served in youth ministries in some capacity at the church for the past several years. When he was arrested, Christner’s responsibilities there ceased.
“Within minutes, anything that he may have had, as far as responsibilities, were all removed from him at that point,” Lanzen said.
Christner had passed a background check before taking on roles with the church, Lanzen said. The check followed church policies that apply to anyone who works at the organization.
“We have established safety policies and procedures, and we follow those very diligently. Everybody that works in any capacity, not just with children, but in any capacity in our church, has to go through background checks,” Lanzen said.
He emphasized First Baptist places a priority on child safety. The church’s safety team as well as those in Christian education roles undergo regular training, and staff conduct discussions on safety issues.
“Children are safe at our church. They really are. We go out of our way to make sure that children are safe at our property,” he said. “We take every precaution we can to ensure any children who come to our church are absolutely safe.”
The church is also willing to offer assistance to the victim and the family to the best of its abilities, given the legalities involved.
Christner faces one Level 4 felony count of child molesting after the case was filed in Elkhart County Superior Court 3 Monday, court records show. He bonded out of the Elkhart County Jail Friday afternoon, the day after his arrest, police said.