Former Southern Baptist Student Pastor Pleads Guilty to Sexting Teenage Girl

By Sarah Einselen
former student pastor Timothy Jeltema
Timothy Jeltema, former student pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church (North Klein) in Spring, Texas, has pleaded guilty to four criminal charges after being accused of sexting a teenage girl in his church. (Photo: Harris County Sheriff's Office)

A former Southern Baptist student pastor accused of sexting a girl in his church has pleaded guilty to four criminal charges, Texas court records show.

Timothy Jason Jeltema, 31, pleaded guilty Thursday to two charges of online solicitation of a minor, one charge of indecency with a child, and one charge of sexual performance by a child, Harris County court records indicate. He is set to serve five years in state prison.

Jeltema was arrested in 2018 about a month after he was fired from his job as student pastor at the North Klein campus of Champion Forest Baptist Church in the Houston area.

In a statement released to The Roys Report (TRR), the church said it had fired Jeltema because he admitted to “improper contact via social media with an 18-year-old member of our church.”

When the church told congregants Jeltema had been fired, others Jeltema had been in contact with came forward, police told local media in 2018, leading to his criminal charges.

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A month after Jeltema’s termination, a teenage girl in the church reportedly accused Jeltema of sending her nude photos. Court documents reportedly showed she was under 17 years old.

The girl’s family and the church went to police on the same day, reports indicate. Jeltema was arrested a few days later.

Champion Forest Baptist’s pastor at the time, David Fleming, told KHOU the church’s policies barred pastors or volunteers from communicating electronically one-on-one with students, regardless of a student’s age.

“Though no laws were known to have been broken at that time, he was immediately dismissed for a clear violation” of church policies, Fleming told the TV station.

champion forest baptist church
Champion Forest Baptist Church – North Klein Campus in Spring, Texas, near Houston. (Photo via Facebook)

“We are extremely saddened by this heartbreaking situation,” the church said in its recent statement. “We are praying for healing and restoration for any victims, known and unknown. We always encourage anyone with information regarding potential criminal activity, especially any victims, to contact law enforcement immediately.”

Champion Forest Baptist is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Its current senior pastor, Jarrett Stephens, was named to the SBC’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force this past summer.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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14 thoughts on “Former Southern Baptist Student Pastor Pleads Guilty to Sexting Teenage Girl”

  1. This is exactly how these situations should be handled by churches. Immediately fire the pastor, immediately go public to try to identify other victims, immediately take all victims’ complaints seriously and go to police. Well done to Champion Forest Baptist, at least based on the characterization of their actions in this article

    1. Jennifer Sampson

      If you think the church handled it properly, then I’m sorry but you are clearly mistaken. They did not. And still have not. Even as of this morning standing in the pulpit!

    1. Rabindranath Ramcharan

      Whatever it is, it’s probably not a level of depravity any worse than paraded by ordained clergy in other denominations.
      The more interesting questions are, Why haven’t the good ones booted those guys out of the ministry already, and when do they plan to start?

  2. Rabindranath Ramcharan

    So, was the alleged recipient of the lewd messages 17, as shown in the court documents, or 18, as per the church statement?

    1. I read it as there being more than one person toward whom he behaved abusively. It states that the church fired him and reported that to the church regarding his behavior toward the 18-year-old. It says that a month after that, Jeltema was accused of sending nude photos to someone under 17, which was reported on the same day to the police and resulted in his arrest.
      It is terrible that this happened to these people and I am glad that the church responded as it did when faced with the issue.

    2. I understand the article to be saying there was more than one recipient. The initial recipient known about was 18 but others, who were underage, came forward after the first instance went public.

  3. Youth pastor role isn’t taken as seriously as the head pastor role.

    It should not be a stepping stone to a “higher” lead pastor role.

    1. Are you suggesting that Senior Pastors are less likely sexually offend? If so, I suspect it’s because they don’t have as much unrestricted access to easily manipulated children, not because we take their role more seriously.

  4. Whitney Roberson

    PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT!!
    Timothy Jeltema was charged with four felonies, not two.
    1. Online solicitation of a minor.
    2. Online solicitation of a minor.
    3. Sexual Performance of a child.
    4. Indecency with a Child.
    These are all second degree felonies. He plead guilty to all four. The judge sentenced him to fives years in prison. Trust me I know, I was the fourth felony.

    1. Hi Whitney, I’m so sorry that happened to you. We reported the four charges in this story, listing them as two charges of online solicitation of a minor, one charge of indecency with a child, and one charge of sexual performance by a child. I hope the conviction has brought you some closure.

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