The Church is called to be a healing presence in the world.
But the reality is that the world is filled with so much suffering, so much pain, and so much suffering that it can be overwhelming to a church and its leaders. Where do we begin? What happens if we get in over our heads? These are all real and important questions.
The best way for the church to be this healing presence
in the world is to learn the realities of the suffering that
is all around them, both outside the church and inside of it.
This workshop has three primary objectives:
- To speak honestly and openly about the pervasiveness and consequences of trauma and suffering in our communities and in our churches. One of the biggest barriers to beginning the work of reconciliation and healing for those who have been through various kinds of trauma is the loneliness and secrecy that surround their experiences. This part of the workshop seeks to bring these realities to light in a non-threatening way for the purpose of enriching the church's capacity to respond appropriately to those who have had these experiences and will in the future.
- To speak honestly and openly about the ways that some of our language and practices have made life and faith more difficult or more painful for those who have experienced these kinds of trauma and suffering. Here we are able to think about and talk about the ways in which -- oftentimes unintentionally -- we wound those inside and outside of our congregation by the things we say and do (or fail to say and do). This part of the workshop will help us to identify some of those things and seek to build up practices of discernment and empathy for those who have been through these things.
- To explore a number of theological commitments and practices that can make congregations and church leaders more responsive and more helpful in ministering to people in the midst or aftermath of trauma and human suffering. Drawing on some of the historic wisdom of the Christian faith as well as contemporary work in conversation with leading edge trauma literature, this part of the workshop seeks to give churches and leaders the tangible tools necessary to begin to address these things in their congregation and community.
This workshop can be delivered in a number of different formats:
- A weekend workshop for elders, ministers, and church leaders (e.g., Friday evening and all day Saturday).
- A weekend workshop for the entire church (e.g., Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning).
- A four week Sunday morning series (Bible Class and Sermon)
Each workshop includes the following:
- Written Materials for Participants
- Online Access to Resources and Scholarship
- Ongoing Consultation and Resource Sharing
Important information about this workshop
Because this material deals with the difficult and painful realities of trauma and suffering there are a couple of things that churches need to do in order to prepare for this workshop:
- Make arrangements or be able to provide contact information for members of your congregation to the kinds of professional resources they made need in the event that they disclose or seek help for their own traumatic experiences (e.g., counselors, advocates, etc.). I am more than willing to assist in the identification of these resources.
- Due to the sensitive nature of some of this content, this material about the realities of trauma and suffering is not for children under the age of thirteen, and for those under eighteen it is at the discretion of the child's parents or guardians. This means that an alternative for at least that one 40-minute session must be provided by the church.
- Childcare for children under the age of twelve will enable parents and guardians to fully participate in the workshop.
- Provide a place for participants to "take a break" or step away if they need to. This material can be difficult to explore, particularly for those who have experiences of trauma and suffering in their background. Self-care at this workshop is a high priority.
Michael Hanegan has served churches in various ministry capacities including youth and preaching ministry and served as the Program Field Coordinator for Faith Engagement at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. During his time at OKDHS, Michael was asked to serve as the agency liaison in a collaborative program to address the insights of the CDC's groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, particularly in helping the multi-agency collaborative to think about how to engage faith communities in child maltreatment prevention. This work eventually led Michael to return to full-time graduate school to complete his second graduate degree, a Masters of Theological Studies from the Graduate School of Theology at Oklahoma Christian University. During his time there Michael did extensive work about the intersection of trauma, theological reflection, and the language and practices of church communities. This work culminated in his master's thesis, Let Light Shine Out of Darkness: A Trauma-Informed Theological Account of the Powers of Sin and Death and the Salvation of Human Persons.
Michael is especially passionate about helping church leaders and congregations to think about the best ways to respond to trauma and suffering that are deeply rooted in Christian faith and practices. His work seeks to enable the church to become what God has always intended it to be: the redemptive presence of God in a hurting world.