One of the pillars of American society are our faith-based communities. These communities are usually represented in churches that people attend weekly to receive spiritual guidance and support through varied aspects of their life and community with those of like-minded faith. Many of us have spent our whole lives attending a church of our own choosing. We have been significantly influenced by these environments from childhood, to raising our own children, to mentoring others as senior members.
I believe one basic presupposition of our faith-based communities is a spirit of love and care for those who are within our community. Responsively, many wonderful church members have opened their churches, their homes and their lives to care for those who are in great need within their communities. Churches are not only sources of spiritual care and growth but also a place where people come who have significant needs that are often related to trauma in their lives.
The challenging reality is that churches are places where individuals go for support for a diversity of needs. They may have financial, marriage, family, or interpersonal problems. The list could include addictions, mental health issues and many others. Most of the leadership of churches and congregants as well want to reach out to meet these needs by providing what they can to help. It can be seen as a transference of the love, grace and mercy that God has so freely given to all mankind. Yet the daily realities of meeting such diverse needs with lay people can be both perplexing and overwhelming. It can lead to a sense of desperation and inadequacy when a plethora of needs never seems to end and remain unmet.
In my experience as I have met with pastors and church leaders from varied denominations and faith-based communities, this overwhelming sense of meeting the many needs is a source of stress and great concern. Many of those leaders are feeling the toxic stress and responsibility of trying to meet those needs without sufficient resources to do so.
I strongly advocate for training for faith-based leaders and for any of those who are care-giving for the needs of those requesting help. A trauma-informed approach can help care-givers have a more accurate and less judgmental lens, with an better understanding of what happened to individuals who have had life trauma.
It is glaringly apparent that trauma is pervasive and complex in our society. Understanding what trauma is, how it effects our neurological processes, and hampers our ability to perceive our private worlds accurately and having regulation strategies in these spiritual communities can be life-giving to those in need.
These trauma-informed skills, concepts and principles can build confidence in caregivers to be attuned and clear about how to love, care and give grace and mercy to those who come into their faith-based fellowships. It is in that depth of understanding needs where the love and hope of God can be contextually applied to those seeking assistance from churches and faith-based communities.