Guidance for leaving a traumatic church

Jesus said “Upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Any good geologist will tell you that rocks don’t miraculously appear overnight, rocks are the result of thousands of years of change as shaped by the elements. Sometimes they are the result of violent volcanic eruptions where molten lava cools in the cracks of disjointed earth. In light of this understanding we can guess that the rock Jesus spoke of is also shaped by time, human experience, and sometimes violent upheavals of history, what this means for the Church, like all of human experience is that there will be both good and bad that emerges. And just as God spoke the cosmos into existence out of the depths of chaos, I believe He is in the business of redeeming all of our experiences, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be wounded by this mixed bag of blessing and curse known as the Church.

Sadly, the Church in many of its expressions has become a place of hurt and trauma for many. Leaving a harmful or traumatic church can be a difficult and emotional process. It’s important to understand that you are not alone and that there are resources available to help you.

Here are some steps you can take to help you navigate this process:

  1. Seek support from a therapist or counselor who is trained to help individuals who have experienced trauma. They can help you process your experiences and provide you with tools to cope with the emotional fallout.
  2. Reach out to friends and family for support. It’s important to have a network of people who can offer you emotional and practical support as you navigate this process.
  3. Research other faith communities in your area that align with your beliefs. Look for churches that prioritize inclusivity, acceptance, and kindness.
  4. Be mindful of your self-care. Leaving a harmful church can be traumatic and it’s important to take care of yourself during this time. This might include things like exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, or other activities that bring you peace and relaxation.
  5. Educate yourself on the dynamics of cults and abuse. Understanding the patterns of abuse and manipulation that are often present in harmful churches can help you make sense of your experiences and empower you to move forward.
  6. Be patient with yourself. Healing from trauma takes time and it’s important to give yourself the space and time you need to process your experiences and move forward.
  7. If you feel unsafe or at risk, reach out to local authorities or organizations that can help you.

It’s important to remember that leaving a harmful church is not a failure or a weakness. It takes courage and strength to recognize that a church is not healthy for you and to take steps to protect yourself. You deserve to be in a community that supports, respects and values you.

If you are seeking to escape from a harmful or traumatic church, it’s important to reach out for support from professionals, friends, and family, research other faith communities, practice self-care, educate yourself on the dynamics of cults and abuse, be patient with yourself, and if you feel unsafe or at risk, reach out to local authorities or organizations that can help you. Always remember you aren’t alone, there are others who are experiencing the same process, and the Church was never intended to be a place but always a people. Even if you find yourself currently without a place, you never cease to be a part of His people.

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