Former Saddleback Church youth mentor charged with molesting a 4th teen boy

Ruven Meulenberg
Ruven Meulenberg | (Photo: Orange County Sheriff's Department)

A former youth mentor at Saddleback Church in California has been charged with molesting a fourth teenage boy he met through the megachurch.

The Office of The District Attorney of Orange County announced Wednesday the victim accused Lake Forest resident Ruven Meulenberg, 39, of touching him inappropriately when he was 14 years old between June 2017 and June 2018 while the youth pastor drove him home from a church event.

Saddleback Church is a house of worship led by retired pastor and popular Christian author Rick Warren. It is one of the largest churches in America.   

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Meulenberg was previously convicted in 2018 of molesting twin brothers between the ages of 13 and 14 years old while they attended the Saddleback Church Youth Center.

He was accused of violating the twin boys between May 2016 and May 2017, which included occasions when he allegedly went to a local movie theater with them and in his car.

The DA's office reported that the convictions made by the twin boys had been "overturned after an appellate court ruled a juror had engaged in juror misconduct by sharing information with other jurors regarding psychiatric testing of subjects in criminal trials." 

However, Meulenberg still awaits retrial on the charges related to the twin boys, which include one felony count of a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 and two felony counts of a lewd act on a child 14-15 years old and at least 10 years younger than the defendant.  

With the retrial for his case involving the twins still pending, a third victim came forward with reports claiming Meulenberg molested him on several occasions after Meulenberg invited him to go to the movies and dinner between August 2016 and September 2017 — when the third victim was only 13. 

In the more recent charges, Meulenberg faces four felony counts of a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 and another felony count of a lewd act upon a child 14 or 15 years old who is at least 10 years younger than the defendant. 

"Strong mentors are meant to help our children navigate the difficulties of growing up and realize their full potential," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. 

"Instead of providing the spiritual guidance he pretended to provide, this youth pastor seized on the vulnerabilities of these children for his own sick sexual gratification. He has not only forever shaken their belief in anyone in a position of trust and authority; he has irreparably damaged their faith and the faith of countless other parishioners who believed their children were safe with him and youth pastors everywhere." 

Prosecutors stated in the complaint that Meulenberg allegedly molested multiple victims, which means he could face life in prison if found guilty. 

Meulenberg remains released on GPS monitoring as he awaits his trial on both criminal cases. 

In May 2017, the church released a statement confirming that Meulenberg was only a "student ministry volunteer" who worked closely with youth. In the past, some have questioned whether Meulenberg was on staff at Saddleback. 

A blog post for Lighthouse Trails, a Christian publishing company started by David and Deborah Dombrowski, points to a 2014 article by A. Larry Ross Communications, which handled public relations for Saddleback and Warren. Meulenberg and his twin brother, Efraim, were described as being "on staff" at the church in a September 2014 article about their video game endeavors on a YouTube channel dedicated to gaming and music production. 

When The Christian Post reached out to the public relations firm for clarification on Meulenberg's past and present roles at the church the publication was emailed the following response in June 2017: "We have confirmed with Saddleback Church colleagues that the May 26, 2017 statement about the student ministry volunteer is accurate."

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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