One year ago we made the difficult decision to leave the church we were attending.
We were weekly attendees, members of a small group, and active in the church.
This wasn’t a decision we made quickly or lightly. To be honest, it was one we didn’t want to make.
Over several months God revealed some red flags, but it wasn’t until I was badly wounded that we knew we had to leave.
I can see now that God knew it would take a 2×4 experience to get me to move on. And a 2×4 is what I got.
I knew even then that my hurt had a purpose and it was part of God’s plan.
As truly awful and hurtful as that experience was, I thank God for giving me a glimpse of what women who are hurt and wounded by the church experience.
I shed a lot of angry tears.
Aware that Satan wanted nothing more than to sideline us, we visited another church the following Sunday.
Despite my desire to move past what happened, for months I struggled to heal.
I was wary of others in the church and stumbled over what to say when asked what brought us to the church we now attend.
Ladies, there are women in your church who have been wounded by the church and are struggling to heal.
They’ve been hurt deeply and they don’t feel they can trust the church not to hurt them again.
Having walked in the shoes of a wounded woman, I have some advice for you as you seek to love on the women wounded by the church.
If you even sense she’s been wounded, trust the Holy Spirit and tread carefully.
1. Don’t ask her to volunteer the first time you meet her.
It will feel like pressure and she’ll likely flee.
2. Don’t make a big deal out of her presence – this goes for all guests.
Have every table or discussion group introduce themselves, but don’t ask guests to stand or point out their presence to the entire group. They will run from the spotlight.
3. Give her a warm, but not smothering, welcome.
She’s dipping her toe into the water to check and see if it’s warm. If it’s not, she going to back up. She might try again at a later date, but probably not.
4. Repeatedly encourage her participation, but expect baby steps.
In many ways, she’s like a wounded animal trying to figure out who she can trust, and who she can’t. It may take weeks or months before she takes a step or trusts a soul. Let her just observe and watch.
5. Encourage healing.
For many women, sharing about a hurtful experience just adds fuel to the fire. They feel vindicated when someone takes their side and becomes upset over the injustice too. Don’t participate in gossip. Let her know you are sorry she was hurt and that you’ll be praying for her as she seeks to move forward and heal. *If there was abuse of any kind, encourage her to report it and seek professional counseling.
6. Extend grace.
She’s nervous and she may try too hard. She may even say something that comes across as less than friendly. Like a porcupine, she may have her quills out and be ready for a fight. Don’t give her one.
7. Don’t expect her to respond immediately to your efforts.
Her heart may be hardened. Pray God will soften it. Trust that God is working even if you can’t see it.
Time has brought healing
God led us to a church where I’ve been able to plug in without pressure.
I’ve come a long way in the last year, but I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the pain and hurt…
I’ve written and re-written this blog post almost a dozen times as I’ve wrestled with what to share, when to share, and how to share it.
With each revision God’s had me pull out more of the details. Sharing them would not bring glory to God.
Writing and re-writing my story has helped me to work through the pain and find healing.
If you’ve been wounded by the church I pray you’ll find healing too.
Lord, help us to be a safe place where women can find healing from the wounds inflicted by the church.
You may also want to read:
How to Minister to Spiritually Mismatched Women
How to Minister to Angry Women
Lowering Our Women Through the Roof
Book Review: Leading Women Who Wound
Encouragement: Blessing Bags
8 Ways to Encourage One Another
One year ago: 10 Productivity Tips for Women’s Ministry Leaders
Two years ago: 13 Ideas for Sprinkling Your Event with Christmas Music
Three years ago: Before Your Next Event
Four years ago: Why I Don’t Do White Elephant Exchanges
Five years ago: 31 Christmas Fellowship Ideas