Shock & horror is what I felt when I first started reading Jana’s blog! I had no idea that such abuse even existed in the Church. Too often those that have never experienced this sort of hurt find it hard to understand how real and damaging it is. Have a read of Jana’s blog and see for yourself the horrible abuse and control that she suffered. But please keep reading to the end where you see how God healed and restored her too. Yes some nasty things happen in Church but we need to move on, if we don’t the devil has won and destroyed the Church that Jesus died for.
… as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her
When you finally managed to “escape” the church that was so damaging to you did you immediately start attending another church or did you have a season of not attending church?
After we resigned we stayed in the area and actually attended the church periodically for a year in order to see things from a different perspective. It’s crazy because we were on staff for 4 years and during that time we knew the church and its leaders were causing more harm than good, but we could not figure out why. We kept thinking the issue was in our hearts…that it was purely our fault. Attending as a by-stander and feeling the freedom to disagree is what helped us to realize the underlying issues that harmed us. But, we did have weekends where we traveled, slept in and just took time to seek God without attending a church service.
How did you go about finding another church?
My husband received a job offer at a church with one of the pastors that hired him for his very first youth pastorate almost 10 years ago. We have stayed in touch with them through the years and knew that they did not operate in the same type of control that our former pastors did. So, I guess you could say the right church found us and accepted us just as we were. 🙂
After a time of having secular job how did you feel about going back into church work?
It was nerve racking at first. The thought of leaving a job that I had grown to love with employers that I admired was hard. But we spent a great deal of time praying about going back in to the ministry and the church that hired us allowed us to interview them as well. I was able to ask the tough questions of them (pastors and elders) and see their hearts first hand. That helped me to recognize that they operated in a completely different manner than our former church. I realized that they were just as excited about the dreams in our hearts as we were. That was so exciting for me and it helped me to welcome the idea of going back into full time ministry.
What advice would you give to someone who has been hurt and is too scared to go back to church?
Take it slow and be informed. You don’t have to jump right back into everything. Sit on the back row and observe…it’s okay to take time to heal. 🙂 For your peace of mind do some research on the church that you are interested in attending. What do they believe in, are they heavily associated with anything or anyone that has a bad reputation? You can find out a lot about a place and their leadership just by doing a search in the Internet.
What would you say are the top three things you need to look for when choosing a church?
Wow, this is a tough one…there are so many. Here’s my best answer, although it may not necessarily be the top three in general…it’s what is heavy on my heart right now for people that have been hurt. I’m sure that later on I will want to add more.
1. Do you feel safe when you walk in the doors? Once you take your seat and the service begins do you feel like you can kick your shoes off and just enjoy a Sunday morning in your Dad’s house (God’s house) or do you feel like you have act or dress a certain way in order to feel welcome. Is there anything about the service that distracts you from God…if so what is it and why?
2. Who are they connected with and what key phrases do you see repeated on their web-site or publications? This will give you a good idea of what is important to them and it will help you decide if you agree with how they operate. For instance our former church believed heavily in discipleship, but it was viewed through the lens of Spiritual Authority. Looking back on their old publications it is written in plain sight, but I didn’t take the time to research their foundational beliefs or the churches and ministers they were associated with. Although they didn’t come right out and say they were controlling, their materials, classes and teachings all filtered through this mindset.
3. Do the Healthy Church Test. Find out if they operate with integrity. If you wanted to see the churches financial records…could you? If you wanted to see the churches by-laws…could you? Most of the time if a church is trying to hide something, they will not allow you access to any of this information or they will make you feel guilty or awkward for even asking. If you get a sense that a church is hiding something…it’s probably not healthy.
Is there anything that you would like to say to the people out there who are hurting due to poor church leadership?
Every pastor and leader is human, so we are all going to get hurt by them at some point in time and that is never easy. But, most churches and their leadership are wonderful, so don’t give up on finding the right church for you and your family. But, at the same time don’t feel like you have to put your relationship with God on hold in the process. In the midst of searching for a church…search even more for God. Ask Him to heal your heart and guide you to a church where you can flourish, grow and participate in helping others do the same.