Among many of the discussions about trauma-informed communities is the importance of including faith leaders and faith communities. They are usually engaged in their community in a much more significant way as they have regular touch (usually weekly) with families, children and community members. There is a bond there that is not only relational but spiritual and this is accompanied by a committed group of people who love and care about each other as a vibrant part of their faith and its outworking.
I have found that some church environments and faith-based leaders are somewhat skeptical about becoming trauma-informed. For some it has a sense of compromise to the ways they understand certain behavior. I have had the privilege of having constructive conversations with church leaders and one of the truths that I emphasize is the fact that the understanding of the impact of trauma really helps to sensitize us to the deeper needs of the individuals we minister to.
In some ways it is not too much different than physical disease or wounds. We describe trauma as an emotional wound that has neurological impact to the brain and its capacity to process information accurately. To put it simply, an understanding of the trauma narrative of an individual allows us to love them better and more effectively even in the spiritual sense. It removes some of the more intense blame and shame that drives so many individuals to depression, anxiety and hopelessness. The reality is that healing is possible which I think is the very work of God!
The other reality for faith-based communities is that they are inundated with need. Often people go to churches with a myriad of problems that are financial, emotional, relational, spiritual and often have expectations that the church has capacity to meet those needs. Yet we know that it takes some extensive training and constancy of support to help people who are deeply impacted by trauma or adversities in childhood.
Most ministry teams are overwhelmed with these requests. It is important that they are aware of appropriate and helpful approaches to help individuals with these complex demands. It is not in any way compromising to spiritual values but in fact, absolutely completes our understanding of the hope, love and power of God. Those in need must know they can seek help, comfort and guidance through the care and support of loving, sensitive and caring people committed to offer God’s attributes and truth.
I am pleased to see that in the State of Pa. we are attempting to embrace faith-based communities with the knowledge of being trauma informed. Below is a link to an article where my friend Rob Reed, Executive Deputy State Attorney General of Pa. is meeting with faith-based leaders in Pottstown, Pa. to speak to the value of these leaders becoming trauma-informed as community leaders.
We want everyone, including our faith-based communities, to be enriched by understanding the impact of trauma to those in their community. These communities are some of the best environments for love, safety, healing and hope. This knowledge and awareness has the potential to create the best sanctuaries for traumatized individuals to find stable support and eventual recovery.