LAKE FOREST, Calif. — A volunteer youth worker at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church has been arrested on allegations that he committed lewd acts with two teenage boys.
According to reports, officials at the church called police after being informed that mentor Ruven Meulenberg, 32, had engaged in indecent behavior with a 14-year-old boy. An investigation led to a second teen, who made the same claims.
“Both victims indicated they had engaged in inappropriate conduct with the suspect for the past year while he volunteered at the church,” Lt. Lane Lagaret of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department told the Orange County Register. “There have been several alleged incidents of lewd and inappropriate conduct, several of which have occurred on the church property.”
Saddleback’s website states that its junior high ministry is “designed specifically to help 7th-8th graders connect with Jesus, each other and a caring adult.” Meulenberg had been volunteering with the program for six years, and police are concerned that there might be additional victims.
Meulenberg was arrested on Thursday and is being held in the Orange County Jail on $100,000 bail.
Saddleback has since released a statement outlining that all volunteers are rigorously screened and trained, and that Meulenberg did not have a criminal past to cause concern.
“To be considered for volunteering with kids or students, we require fingerprinting, professional background checks, and personal interviews,” it explained. “We also use services that report any illegal activity to us immediately.”
“In this case, the accused volunteer had no record of arrest or criminal charges,” the statement continued. “Also, our church requires volunteers who work with students or children to complete an annual training regarding appropriate conduct. Our system of safeguards has safely served over 40,000 students and children for 38 years.”
However, Lighthouse Trails Research, in expressing concern that Saddleback might be downplaying Meulenberg’s involvement with the megachurch, notes that Meulenberg is not only a volunteer with Saddleback’s junior high program, but also served on staff in the “technology, communication and marketing ministries.”
In 2014, leader Rick Warren praised a video game series created by Meulenberg and his brother Efraim—known as the “tornado twins”—as being “an incredible way to experience the stories of the Bible,” and Meulenberg is also credited as having a hand in the Warren study guide “Transformed: How God Changes Us.”
In 2012, in outlining Warren’s efforts to build bridges with Muslims, the Orange County Register reported that Meulenberg’s father, Abraham Meulenberg, was “in charge of interfaith outreach” at Saddleback.
Video footage from the “Tornado Twins” YouTube page shows the brothers leading a club-like glow party for a “junior high party in Southern California,” most likely at Saddleback.