The following is an update from two recent Lighthouse Trails articles: “Saddleback Church Youth Worker Arrested for Molesting 14-Year-Boys Brings Issue to Surface” and “Saddleback Church Statement Appears to Downplay Role of Alleged Molester Ruben Meulenberg.”
Ruben Meulenberg, the youth worker at Saddleback Church who was arrested for allegedly molesting two 14-year-old boys at Saddleback, has been charged with 5 felonies related to the molestation of the boys. At least one of the boys was 13 when the abuse began.
The following public information on the case has been released by the Orange County District Attorney’s office:
Case # 17HF0707
Date: May 30, 2017
YOUTH MINISTRY MENTOR CHARGED WITH COMMITTING LEWD ACTS ON TWO JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL BOYS
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A youth ministry mentor was charged today with committing lewd acts on two junior high school boys.
|Ruven Meulenberg, 32, Lake Forest||
Circumstances of the Case
* At the time of the crime, Meulenberg is accused of being a volunteer youth mentor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest in a position of trust with access to children.
* Between May 2016 and May 2017, Meulenberg is accused of committing lewd acts on 13-year-old boys John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, both on and off church property.
* Between May 18, 2017, and May 22, 2017, the defendant is again accused of sexually molesting the victims, who were then 14 years old.
* On May 24, 2017, a Saddleback Church representative reported suspected inappropriate conduct to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), who investigated this case.
* Meulenberg was arrested by OCSD on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Prosecutor: Deputy District Attorney Courtney Thom, Sexual Assault Unit
After Lighthouse Trails released its May 29th article questioning whether Saddleback was downplaying the role in which Ruben Meulenberg had at Saddleback, the Christian Post ( which calls itself “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website“) wrote an article titled “Was Saddleback Church Youth Mentor Who Was Charged With Molesting Boys a Volunteer?” in which they referenced the Lighthouse Trails article questioning Saddleback’s recent statement on Meulenberg being just a a volunteer. Interestingly, the Christian Post article revealed that as of yet Saddleback has not answered the question as to whether Ruben Meulenberg was on staff at Saddleback. While it may be true that he was a youth volunteer, certain indicators, as we pointed out in our previous article, suggest that Meulenberg may also have been on staff (see Appendix below), a claim that Saddleback has not yet denied or admitted.
The Christian Post article said that Rick Warren has not yet made a public statement about the case. According to the Christian Post’s website search engine, the online paper has featured Saddleback Church and/or Rick Warren in over one thousand articles since 2004, and most, if not all, praise and promote the work of the Purpose Driven pastor and his church.
While in the bigger picture of Ruben Meulenberg and his victims, it may not matter at all whether he was truly on staff at Saddleback or not; but if Saddleback Church is refusing to admit that he has been paid for any of his services, either as a contractor or a staff member, this should certainly raise questions as to how much can the mega-church be trusted to protect the children under its care. If facts about abuse at Saddleback are being kept in the dark, this will not produce the kind of environment where healing can take place for victims or where parents can feel secure about their children’s safety.
LinkedIn has the following information about Ruben Meulenberg:
Saddleback Church | TornadoTwins | Age of Edge (game development)
Age of Edge, Corp
Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences
Orange County, California Area
Media producer operating in 5 areas: videogames, film, books, music & curriculum.
– TheGameBible.com: in-house project, turning the Bible into a full videogame (www.TheGameBible.com).
– TornadoTwins.com: became the world’s largest game development youtube channel in 3 months.
– FPSControl.com: tool to help midsize game studios create multi-platform games
– GamePrefabs.com: game development store [sold to Unity Tech; world’s #1 game tech corp]
– Feature film: wrote, directed and co-produced Saddleback Kids’ first feature film with production staff & volunteers. Used by 700+ churches and given out to 3000 children at Saddleback Lake Forest.
– Curriculum: co-founded fastest growing children’s church curriculum organization in Holland. Trained Saddleback Church’s children’s production staff to use this format.
– Music: founded world’s largest youtube channel on dubstep development (reached in 2 weeks), reached most-votes in Newsboys remix competition, created dance album for Saddleback Church, scored Triumph motorcycle commercial (engine sounds as bass).
– Game Development: developed YouVersion’s Kid-Bible-App prototype in under two weeks. Co-organized web’s largest gamedevelopment competition with cgsociety.org, trained thousands of game developers worldwide (including Disney’s “where’s my water” app developers), developing “The Game Bible” (see above).
– Writing: Oversaw writing of 3 years worth of narrative video series for Saddleback Church Childrens’. Wrote “The Unplugged”, a book to help software developers create quickly and on as low a budget as possible.
– Marketing: helped triple attendance count on the annual online conference “The Twelve”, resulting in 10,000+ attendees. Redesigned Saddleback Kids’ summer outreach program, helping it rise from 4% new visitors in previous years to over 30% new visitors.
YouTube Comment from Lighthouse Trails author Gregory Reid regarding Saddleback and youth groups:
I had an associate that went to Saddleback to look for cool church ideas and loved the idea that the sign over the youth building said, “No adults allowed.” I was mortified. Creating an isolated youth subculture is deadly and creates a breeding ground for predators. I wrote a book called The Color of Pain that includes a checklist for identifying pedophiles, I think it’s a crucial book in this vulnerable time for youth. When I was a youth pastor I did extreme vetting on every single volunteer or person who showed interest in our youth ministry, even the older college volunteers, and I watched them like hawks. Had to remove two adults who were predators looking for a kill. (source)
Gregory Reid is a child sexual abuse survivor. He wrote about his childhood in his book Nobody’s Angel. His later book, The Color of Pain (published by LT) is a tribute to men who were sexually abused as boys.