A Minnesota man who works as an associate Lutheran pastor in Cottage Grove was charged Friday with possessing child pornography.

William Leonard Helker, 47, of Pine City, was charged in Pine County with six counts of possessing child pornography after investigators were tipped by Facebook and Instagram.

According to the criminal complaint, investigators found the pornographic images and videos of children who appeared to be between the ages of 5 and 10 when they searched Helker’s home Wednesday.

Helker told investigators that he took “innocent” images of children at church events and then would “Photoshop them” to create hundreds of pornographic works for himself. Forensic examiners with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said the images that appeared to have been taken by Helker focused on the buttocks of females.

During the search, Helker, who lists his occupation as associate/youth pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, told investigators that he had thousands of pornographic images and videos of children on his laptop and phone. He also admitted to sending images via social networking sites, the complaint said.

Helker was booked into jail immediately, in part because of the possibility that he might be in contact with minors during the investigation.

Learning of his arrest, the church placed Helker on administrative leave and posted a statement on its website.

“We are concerned and ask prayers for all affected and will cooperate fully with law enforcement,” the statement said. “We are committed to providing safe spaces for all children and youth at All Saints and in the community.”

Investigators said they discovered an internet conversation between Helker and a man in Helsinki, Finland, in which the pastor asked to trade images of preteen and teen girls, “like 10 and up.” They later exchanged those images, the criminal complaint stated.

Homeland Security officials informed the BCA that the man in Finland was arrested Oct. 24. Two minors were identified as victims of criminal sexual conduct and matched the images sent to Helker.