Hope & Healing for Spiritual Abuse : Chuck DeGroat

Hope & Healing for Spiritual Abuse - Chuck DeGroat - 47 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

In an era of cynicism and cancel culture, how can our local churches provide hope and healing for those who’ve experienced emotional and spiritual abuse? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Chuck DeGroat, a licensed therapist and spiritual director, who serves as professor of Counseling and Christian Spirituality at Western Theological Seminary. Chuck has written a number of books, including When Narcissism Comes to Church. Together, Chuck and Jason begin by looking at how narcissism in churches and church leaders has been addressed in recent history, especially the past few years. Then, they explore how the local church can minister to survivors of emotional and spiritual abuse. 

Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!

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Audio Links

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Additional Resource Links

www.ChuckDeGroat.net – Chuck’s website where you can find additional resources, hundreds of blog posts, teaching videos, info on soul care intensives, and more

When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse – Chuck’s book, which we discuss during this episode. Chuck takes a close look at narcissism, not only in ministry leaders but also in church systems. He offers compassion and hope for those affected by its destructive power and imparts wise counsel for churches looking to heal from its systemic effects.

Western Theological Seminary – The seminary in Holland, Michigan, where Chuck serves as professor of counseling and Christian spirituality

The Allender Center – Offers online courses, workshops, and training for pastors, ministry leaders, therapists, and other practitioners to help them address harm and tragedy with informed care and holistic engagement, identifying the emotional, spiritual, and relational impacts of our core stories of neglect, loss, betrayal, or outright abuse and violence.

Connect with Chuck – Instagram | Twitter

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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide

Key Insights and Concepts

  • There are many faces and facets to narcissism… it does not always present in a grandiose, entitled personality
  • Narcissism can show up in churches of any size
  • Pastors and ministry leaders can be narcissistic, but so can church systems
  • Narcissism can evolve over time, especially as a leader gains more authority or a larger role or platform
  • Ministry leaders might grow more anxious as their authority and responsibilities grow. This can lead to isolated and self-protected behavior, including bullying.
  • Ministry leaders who are humble and curious about their own behaviors are more likely to avoid becoming narcissistic
  • Honest self-awareness is key for leaders to stay clear of behaviors that could be emotionally or spiritually abusive
  • Ministry leaders who provide a safe environment where those who serve alongside and under them can offer honest feedback are more likely to overcome narcissistic tendencies
  • A lot of pain is currently being expressed by those who have been wounded by emotionally and/or spiritually abusive ministry leaders or church systems. There is more freedom now for people to share their stories and be heard.
  • Big questions the Church must consider revolve around how to transition from this time of great pain and move in positive directions towards systems that are healthier and processes that are vetted and wise
  • Churches need to provide safe spaces for people to share their stories of emotional and spiritual abuse and a willingness to walk alongside them as they find healing
  • People who have been victimized need to not only consider seeking justice, but also do the work necessary to find healing and wholeness in themselves. Bringing perpetrators to justice does not mean true healing takes place within. The Church can help provide both.
  • Moving forward, the Church needs to provide resources in a focused and attentive way for training on clergy power and abuse in the church, including resources for mental health so that pastors and people within the church can get care
  • The Church needs to cultivate a culture where people can experience the kind of safety and relationship that they need to become whole

Questions for Reflection

  • As my authority, responsibilities, and influence has grown, have I adopted any types of narcissistic tendencies?
  • What would those who serve alongside and under me say about my leadership? My humility? My attitude?
  • Am I willing to create a safe environment for those serving alongside me to provide honest feedback? If so, what will that look like and when will I do it? If not, why not?
  • Do I see any self-protecting or isolating behaviors in my life and ministry?
  • How is our local church providing safe spaces for people to share their stories of emotional and/or spiritual abuse? What do these look like in our church? If we do not have these spaces, how can we intentionally create a culture where people feel safe and comfortable sharing? What will this take from our leadership?
  • What safeguards does our church have in place to help protect people from abusive authority? If we do not have any, what systems or processes can we establish to help create these safeguards?
  • How is our church helping people who have been traumatized become whole?
  • Have I personally experienced emotional or spiritual abuse? If so, have I shared my story with someone I trust? How am I processing what I have experienced? Am I doing it in a healthy way? Am I seeking justice for the way I have been wounded? Am I doing the hard work of healing within? What does that look like in my life?

Full-Text Transcript

In an era of cynicism and cancel culture, how can our local churches provide hope and healing for those who’ve experienced emotional and spiritual abuse?

Jason Daye
In this episode, I’m joined by Chuck DeGroat, a licensed therapist and spiritual director, who serves as professor of counseling and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary. Chuck has written a number of books, including When Narcissism Comes to Church. Together, Chuck and I begin by looking at how narcissism in churches and church leaders has been addressed in recent history, especially the past few years. Then, we explore how the local church can minister to survivors of emotional and spiritual abuse. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage. BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye, and it’s my honor, my privilege really, to have the opportunity to sit down each and every week, and dive into a conversation with a trusted ministry leader. We do this all to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy sustainable rhythm for both life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the PastorServe network. And each week, we don’t only have a conversation like this, but our team also creates an entire toolkit, a resource, to help you and your ministry team at your local church dig more deeply into the topic that we discuss. And you can find that PastorServe.org/network. There you’ll find lots of different resources, including a ministry leaders growth guide with questions for reflection that you and your team can go through to, again, really just kind of dive more deeply into the topic. So be sure to check that out at PastorServe.org/network. Then also, we love to bless pastors and ministry leaders here at PastorServe, and our coaches are offering a complimentary coaching session to any pastor or ministry leader, you can find more details at PastorServe.org/freesession. So be sure to avail yourself of that opportunity as well. Now if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up, and in the comments below, drop your name and the name of your church. We love the opportunity to get to know our audience better, and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. Whether you’re following us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take the time, take a moment just to subscribe or to follow us so you do not miss out on these great conversations. As I said, I’m excited about today’s conversation. At this time, I would like to welcome Chuck DeGroat. Chuck, welcome to FrontStageBackStage.

Chuck DeGroat
Really good to be with you, Jason.

Jason Daye
Yeah, man, it’s so good to to talk with you, again. I guess it was about three years ago now, almost, you released a new book entitled When Narcissism Comes to Church. And even in the midst of a global pandemic unfolding, Chuck, when that released, and that book was widely read, it helped launch a ton of conversations, a lot of discussion about narcissistic leaders, about emotional and spiritual abuse in the church, really a gift to the church in so many ways. And you and I had a great conversation when it first released. But needless to say, as we all know, a lot has happened in the past three years. And I want to get to what you’ve really witnessed since the book has released. But before we get there, first, for those who may not be familiar with this book, can you give us a snapshot of, Chuck, how did this book come about? And what does it touch upon?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah. Well, it’s good to be back. It’s it’s never fun to have this conversation. I should say that at the outset. And it’s, I’ve written some other things, and sometimes I want to say, let’s talk about wholeheartedness, or let’s talk about… but this has been a conversation that we’ve needed to have over the last number of years. And for me, it began way back in the late 1990s when I was in seminary in the midst of my own arrogance, my own pride, being called out by a seminary counseling professor, and then being invited to do a clinical mental health counselor program. And so I got I got trained as a therapist, and then I started doing the work as a pastor and as a therapist and I, I was seeing this, I was seeing this in my church. As I got involved with church planting, I was seeing these dynamics in church planters in particular. Oftentimes, I was the one doing sort of the psychological assessment side of things. And so it was my job to raise the flag and, and then about five or six years ago now, I was challenged by a couple of pastor colleague friends to write something on this. And so that’s, the book really emerged out of that. But I have to say, I didn’t know this and others didn’t know this at the time. But in that same year, Wade Mullen wrote a book, Diane Langberg wrote a book, Scot McKnight and Laura Behringer wrote a book. And so clearly there was something going on, there was something in the air and and we all sort of offered our unique perspectives and contributions to this larger conversation.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s interesting. Now talk to us a little bit about When Narcissism Comes to Church. What are you addressing in this book?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah, well, so I wanted to address the dynamic of narcissism, I wanted to provide some clarity to the churches, to leaders, to pastors, to lay people about what exactly this is, because I was seeing it pop up. That person is a narcissist. And I, and I happen to think and this is one of the things I was hopeful for, that that’s irresponsible at some level, simply use that language in a way that isn’t sort of founded in a clinical and even a trauma informed understanding of, of narcissism. And so I wanted to help people understand narcissism, but also, to broaden the the typical sort of psychological understanding of narcissism to show this sort of many faces or facets of narcissism. It doesn’t always just look grandiose and entitled. I wanted to talk about the pastoral face of narcissism and the ecclesial face of narcissism, what does it look like in pastors, but what does it also look like in church systems where it might not be the pastor or leader, but it might be the system that the pastor finds himself or herself in. And so and then I wanted to anchor it in sort of a biblical understanding of power and humility. In and through Philippians, chapter two, that Jesus being the very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or exploited, right, that and that we grasp for it and exploit power all the time, you know, and just sort of paints this different kind of picture of the way of the cross, the way of leadership, that I think we can learn from. And, and so that’s just a snap small snapshot of what the book tries to do.

Jason Daye
Yeah, thank you for that Chuck. And I really encourage, if you haven’t read the book, yet I really encourage our audience to pick it up and read it. Now, one of the things that we kind of wrestle with in the church world is that the role of a pastor can sometimes, and you’ve written about this extensively, almost be a magnet for narcissistic personalities. Can you talk to us a bit about that?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah, what’s interesting about that is that I think narcissism can evolve, you know, and so it’s not like, you know, you can you can take some sort of test in seminary and and that would tell that you’re not a narcissist or something like that, right. I mean, I’ve I’ve done a lot of work in and through not just pastoral ministry, but seminary education over the years, and I’ve worked with men in particular, where we’ll talk about these kinds of things, but then I’ll start to see over five or 10 years a platform grow, influence grow. I’ll, if I keep in touch, I’ll sort of start to notice some dynamics of them becoming more isolated, self-protective. And so in that sense, I think it’s really important to recognize that as you get into ministry, and as you’re elevated into positions of authority and power, as you experience the anxiety of authority and power, because it only grows… some of us think that if I climb the ladder, I won’t feel as anxious as I do when I’m making less money or I’m kind of down down here on the kind of pendulum but like, I think that as as you climb the ladder anxiety grows and with that, you become more self-protective and so and insulated, and, and you’re more apt in situations like that to bully out of your own anxiety. And so some of it is just being aware of how that dynamic plays out in a leader as he or she climbs the ladder or grows into positions of leadership or authority.

Jason Daye
Yeah, now Chuck, it seems that a pastor or ministry leader is not necessarily going to self-identify, raise their hand and say, “Yeah, I’m a narcissist,” right? So that’s kind of the challenge in this, right. It’s one of those things where it may exist, but in order for there to be some self awareness about it, that tends to be a huge challenge. So are there things and, as you just said it, this can be, these tendencies, narcissistic tendencies, can evolve over time. So, Chuck, how can a pastor and ministry leader kind of step back and enter into a way of identifying if there are these tendencies or if these tendencies are growing?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah. Well, it begins with with a curiosity, that that is just native to the person. I mean, I’ve had a lot of pastors reach out since the book came out. I’ll get DMs on Twitter. Hey, I want to know, is there something I could do? Is there a way of of self understanding that would help me identify narcissism in me? And so it begins with that kind of curiosity, which is accompanied by some humility. I mean, just to ask that question is, I think, really important in the first place, then after that, it doesn’t end there. I think there are ways of going about teasing this out. I do some more, I’m a therapist, and I’ll do individual sort of hourly work, weekly work, but also do these kinds of five-day intensives with pastors where we all ask them for feedback from 6, 7, 8 staff members. Or, in some cases, we’ll do interviews with those 6, 7, 8 staff members, and we’ll get feedback and we’ll ask specific questions to understand how this pastor relates. And that’s where it gets a little bit more challenging and personal, and it raises the anxiety level for a pastor. Right, because it’s one thing to DM someone and to ask, Am I a narcissist, you see some signs of it on Twitter? It’s another thing to say, how does, how does this look as I’m leading my staff. What does it look like on Sunday morning? How do I impact people? What are my blind spots? And that requires a process and and as I say, it’s more anxiety producing and challenging.

Jason Daye
Yet, that’s helpful, Chuck. Now, a lot of the… I shloud say this, a lot of the narcissistic church leaders that people are kind of familiar with are those who have pastored larger churches, you know, lead larger ministry organizations, because those are ones that make the headlines, but narcissism can occur in a small kind of family church just as easily as a mega church, right?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah. Yeah, I think so. And this is where it’s important to tease out the different phases of narcissism. And so you’ll see it in that grandiose narcissist, right that loves the big stage, needs the audience. But there, there’s also a kind of flip side of that, and then many iterations of it in between. But the flip side might look like the pastor and a very small church who says, we’re, we’re the only church that really honors the Word of God. We’re the only church that stands in truth, we’re the only church willing to take a stand against this and that and the other thing, and we are, you know, proud… 30 people at blankety blank Presbyterian Church or Methodist church, or nondenominational church, are the true church. And that too, is a form of narcissism, might not end up, might not occur on a big stage. But it, but it also that particular form of narcissism comes with a kind of martyr complex, I find sometimes, too. Like, we’re small, because people don’t get us and they don’t understand that we are standing in the truth. And so again, that and so many different iterations of it in between that, and that’s where it’s important not to just sort of get limited to our cultural understanding of narcissism, which is like big ego, ego, big personality, inspiring figure demands attention. There’s more to it than that.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s helpful, Chuck. Now, as I said, you released this book three years ago. And as you said, a lot was going on at that time. You know, in that same year, several other books kind of revolving around similar topics were released, great books as well. The past three years, a lot has happened. What have you seen? What have you witnessed, since releasing the book to where we sit today, in the church world around this topic?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think this is, this is understandable, but not merely, as I said, because of my book, but a number of other books and a conversation that had started before this to #metoo, and #churchtoo, podcasts that have come out, talking about these kinds of dynamics. People are feeling more free to name these realities. And what happens in times like this, as you see it in other kinds of conversations, as well as people start telling their stories with more freedom. You’ll see it if you follow particular kinds of social media threads, where where these realities are being named more honestly. And, and I think if you talk to denominational leaders or network leaders, they’re feeling the heat, too. There have been a rise in investigations, accusations and investigations because people are talking about this a bit more freely. There’s more anxiety in churches and and among leaders. I mean, I’ve talked to a number of leaders, a lot of leaders who look like me, by the way, white male, middle-aged leaders who are anxious about this moment. But what if someone accuses me of something? Right? I do think that there is this kind of pendulum swing sometimes where we didn’t talk about it at all, and pastors were getting away, churches were getting away, not just merely pastors, churches, were getting away with things for a long, long time. And we we swung to the other side where just a lot of pain and I’ve sort of called it like wartime triage is going on where a lot of us who do this work and talk to one another are, see the blood and the carnage all around us, right. And we’re, we’re doing as much as we can, but I can’t do any more than I’m doing and others who are doing like Wade Mullen doing investigations, his time is limited and Boz Tchividjian, and others who are involved in this work. So it does feel like a time where there’s just a lot of pain, a lot of woundedness, a lot of blood spilled, and not enough people to, to sort of care for the wounded. That’s the moment that we’re in, some of us are beginning to think about, but what about the next 10 years? What about the next 20 years, like what needs to happen for us to transition from this sort of moment of triage and great pain in order to move in positive directions towards systems that are more healthy, processes that are that are vetted and wise, etc?

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s good. Now, as we, as you said, we kind of find ourselves in this period right now, where there’s a greater freedom for survivors of spiritual abuse to kind of voice you know, hey, this is what I’ve experienced. And that’s, it’s an interesting time, you know, because the #metoo movement, that #churchtoo movement, this conversation, being, you know, almost permission given, in a way, to even have this conversation, that’s where we kind of find ourselves. And so, in the midst of that, there are lots of different feelings. One is there’s obvious heartbreak for those who have endured this sort of abuse, and how do we, you know, help come alongside of them and help them through healing. There’s also heightened distrust in ways of the church as an institution right, because the more stories you hear about this, the more people are saying, well, that’s not at all Jesus. So, you know, forget it, and they’re kind of jettisoning church altogether. There’s conversation around even, and this is the nuances and the challenge, I think, we’re navigating because there are conversations around being there for those who have survived abuse like this. But then there are also people who are talking about well, this feels like a witch hunt. You know, or just recently, in an article I read just this past week, there was a term used, I think, cannibalistic Christians, you know, kind of turning on one another. So they are all these kind of pieces, muddled together in the midst of this. And yet Christ is calling us to healing and wholeness. So, not that you have all the answers in the world, but how can we as pastors and ministry leaders try to navigate this season that we find ourselves in, where it is kind of like wartime triage? But, it’s just kind of messy right now, right?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah, it is messy. And it’s, you know, at some, at some level, it’s understandable that it would be messy. And I mean, I think I understand people are frustrated by the critiques, right? This isn’t the first time in the history of the church where there’s been criticism of clergy, right, there was a Protestant Reformation. Or read Richard Baxter’s the Reformed Pastor, I mean, there there are historical precedents for these kinds of things. I do think that there are a number of us who like me, who was a pastor for a long time, and so I’m not, I’m not one to sort of sit on the sidelines and to throw bombs, right, in a sense, it’s for the sake of reform, for the sake of restoration, for the sake of greater honesty and transparency around these things. But, but I do think in the midst of this, I am wanting to sort of shift the conversation from I get that we’re pointing fingers and we’re naming realities. And and we’re kind of, in some ways, barely surviving. I want to do some writing right now on trauma. I want us to shift the places where we begin to do our own work so that those of us who are survivors of this kind of abuse can get healthy, right, it’s Gabor Mate, who writes a lot about trauma says “trauma is not what happened to you, but what happens within you in the absence of an empathetic witness.” And I think sometimes when we don’t shift to this is what’s happening within me, and we’re just sort of shadowboxing with all the stuff out there that happened to us, we can, we can remain in our pain. And that’s not a healthy place to be. And so we need to begin doing our own work. I also think that, I’ve been saying for a number of years now, we need to see the church come through with resources, the same way that churches resource church planting, for instance, in the last 20 years, can we begin to see resourcing for training on clergy power and abuse in the church, resources for mental health so that pastors and people within the church can get care, right, sabbatical and retreat resources, better resourcing around investigations and processes when accusations are made? I’d like to see the elimination of NDAs and churches like we’re, we’re beginning to think, you know, 5, 10 years down the road, what are positive developments that would represent the fruit of this? If this isn’t just bomb throwing, you know, or finger pointing at those really bad pastors, you know, how do we shift systems and denominations into more healthy places?

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. Because that’s gospel. Right, that’s Jesus is inviting us into a place of healing and wholeness, both both as individuals and His Church. Right. He’s refining his church. And so it’s important for us as ministry leaders to be sensitive to that. Chuck, I’m curious, as people are coming forward, as they’re sharing their stories, how can the church, and again, we’re talking about the local church. How can a local church pastor, how can they help minister to those who’ve experienced abuse, from a narcissistic pastor, ministry leader, church experience, something like that?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah. Well, so there are a lot of really good churches, and there are a lot of really good pastors who care deeply about these things. And, and what’s been encouraging for me to see is exactly what you just said, pastors stepping in saying, I believe you, I hear you, I want to take what you’re saying, seriously, I want to walk alongside you, our church is willing to help provide resources to you so that you can get the care and counseling you need? And so, you know, part of it is, Can pastors and churches create the kind of safety for a victim or survivor to come in and tell her story or his story? Will we believe them and honor their story. I know, there’s a lot to be teased out. That’s why we have processes and investigations and stuff like that. But when we say, take your story, seriously, I believe you, I’m going to walk with you, I’m gonna make sure you get the care that you need. I think that that’s what we’re looking for. Because for so long, people who experienced abuse within the church had to carry their pain quietly, silently, they had no one to go to. And when they said it out loud, they weren’t believed, their stories weren’t honored. And there’s a whole history of this, right. And we’ve seen these major scandals within multiple churches. Now, we’ve even seen I mean, one of my heroes, Jean Vanier, right, the founder of L’Arche ministries, that now there, there’s a recently released investigative report on Jean Vanier’s abuses, right? And so this has been going on for decades, going on for centuries. Now now, can we create the kind of safety and space for people to come and merely be able to tell their stories and be heard, to walk with a good trauma informed therapist? Can we help provide care in those kinds of ways? And then can we set up really good healthy processes, and not just move to peacemaking quickly, but really good processes that will sort of look at these things carefully. investigate carefully, so that we can come to some sort of resolution, maybe even some sort of restoration. That takes time, that takes resources, money, it’s really uncomfortable. And so, but I I’m always inviting pastors and churches into that. Let me tell you, after three years of talking about this and doing podcasts, there’s a lot of good to report. There are a lot of pastors, lot of churches, denominations that are talking about processes. It’s really slow. It’s too slow. It’s always too slow. But good things are happening.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s good. And that’s encouraging Chuck. I guess, if we’re looking at the local church, those are all great suggestions and recommendations, I think that’s important. But looking at the local church in a very practical way. A pastor who’s who’s watching right now, listening and saying, Hey, I know there are people that have been wounded in my church, in my community, what can a local church pastor begin to do in a very practical way to help, you know, bring about some healing?

Chuck DeGroat
Well, I mean, I think part of it right now is, it’s got to begin with some education for those local church pastors. Right. I think that’s where a number of us have written some books on this. There’s some really good trainings out there that if you want to learn more about spiritual abuse, emotional abuse in the church, the trainings out of the Allender Center, I know, training I did for Church for the Sake of Others, that diocese within the ACNA, that videos up there. There are organizations like Grace, netgrace.org, that have all kinds of really good resources on safeguarding initiatives that can happen within churches, and processes for taking abuse seriously. And so I, I, as a pastor, I would be resourced to learn more about these kinds of things. As a pastor, I would get your own therapy, I want to ask every pastor to look at his story or her story, and to take seriously what they’ve experienced in their lives and to grow in health and wholeness themselves. And then, and then, to create the kind of culture where we can talk about these kinds of things. And that there is a kind of culture setting that has to happen within churches where, for instance, pastors are, are are saying these things from the pulpit, right? Doesn’t mean that you have to preach on these kinds of things week in and week out. But pastors are saying, you know, these kinds of things happen in churches, I myself, go to counseling to look at my own life. Look at my own story. We’re a church that wants to create space for you, if you have experienced pain, if you do have a story that you need to tell, we want to hear it. And it’s not just me, maybe the white male pastor in the office, we’ve got women who are elders or deacons here, we’ve got leaders who are willing to listen to you. Or if there’s something about me, the pastor, here are others who you can talk to. And I want to know, because I’ve got blind spots, you know, like. One of the things I said as a pastor going back to the mid 2000s 2005-6, I began saying to people who were under me sort of in the org chart, right, people who are down the line, hey, I want to hear how you experienced me. So that’s another thing that pastors can do is to say to staff, no repercussions. I want to hear how I impact you, how you experience me, how I lead meetings, how we relate behind the scenes, what it’s like for me, for you to come into my office and talk to me. All of those kinds of things can be helpful. And I mean, that’s just, I’m just sort of scraping the surface now of what pastors and churches can do.

Jason Daye
Yeah, that’s, that’s really helpful. Chuck. I like those ideas, those thoughts. Chuck, you talked a little bit about that, you know, you’ve seen some great things happening in the church, some very positive things happening in the church, I was wondering if you could just share some of those things that you know, in this area of trauma, in this area of healing, that give you hope, that you’re witnessing now.

Chuck DeGroat
Well, you know, so there will always be pushback to this. And there will always be say that we’re cannibalizing, or we are critics are. But there are many, many pastors who have decided to step in and take this seriously. And so like I just said, there are many pastors who’ve reached out to me privately to say, what can I read? How can I learn? What are courses that I can take? And then how do I go about shifting my culture? How do I go about creating a safe culture within my church? And just even even over the last six months or so I’ve navigated my way to several different websites of pastors who I’ve had initial conversations with. And I’ve seen new things on their websites like safeguarding initiatives on their websites, to protect children, or to engage processes if there are claims of abuse or something like that. And so those are really important developments right there. I think part of this too, is we’re normalizing, we’re normalizing this at some level, we’re normalizing getting care for mental health kinds of issues, right? And so more and more, we’re talking about trauma and pain that we all experience and I’m seeing pastors go to therapy for the first time. They’ll reach out to me and they will be like, I finally have a therapist, I’ve been in ministry for 20 years. Praise God. Right. I think part of it too, is we’re seeing people who have power relinquish power to draw in women or people of color. To elevate people who, you know, so it’s one thing for someone like me to talk about this stuff. It’s another thing for people like me to say, How can I relinquish power in order to bring others into positions of, of voice or authority or power within the church? And I’m beginning to see, pastors, I know make really courageous decisions to do that. And that to me represents like, putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, you know, like, that’s, that’s the real fruit of this when, when it’s not just like a tweet, but it’s actually there are things happening behind the scenes. Or a woman will say to me, Hey, you know, I know you know, such and such a pastor, I want you to know that when I went to him, he received my story with such graciousness, and offered to pay for counseling, and made sure that, like, people walked with me to the point when I was ready. So there again, that’s just scraping the surface. But and there, there are also I can say, conversations happening that people don’t even know. But like, behind the scenes, there are people saying, How can I give resources? How can I be involved with larger conversations about NDAs? There’s lots of good stuff happening.

Jason Daye
Yeah, I love that. That’s very positive and hopeful. Chuck, as we wind down this conversation, very, very helpful conversation, as we wind down, I want to give you the opportunity to share, you talked a little bit about some of your writings that you’re working on, but just share some of the things that are coming up, some things that you’re excited about, you know, kind of moving forward and helping to resource the church, because I know that you’ve mentioned some programs and those types of things.

Chuck DeGroat
So yeah, I think, I mean, what I’m working on personally, right now is a couple of things. I mentioned these to you before we started recording, but I’ve developed, am developing a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at the seminary where I’m teaching. I think, right now we’re seeing a shortage in therapists and we need, we need really good, what I call relationally-oriented, trauma-informed therapists rooted in the Christian soul care tradition. There’s a lot of really bad training for therapists out there. There are programs that are degree mills that treat symptoms and don’t treat trauma. And so part of it is, how do we train more practitioners, better practitioners anchored, what I call hopeful and humble practitioners. And so there are these sort of systemic things that we need to do, right, that are important, just in terms of training and resourcing at a larger level. The writing I’m doing right now, as I discerned what was next. I mean, there were there were some publishers that were like, Hey, we need a part two of the narcissism book. And I really didn’t want to write on narcissism again. But I did want to provide a vision for restoration, recovery, transformation, healing and wholeness for people who have experienced abuse, who have been victimized, who are survivors, who have experienced trauma, and who need to make that shift like I did, after I experienced some pain 20 years ago, from a number of years, where I was like, justice for my, you know, for the person who hurt me, which is understandable, right? I mean, there are processes that we need to engage in order to, to sort of get justice. But I had to do the work of shifting to I’m really hurting. And even though some things have been resolved out here, it’s still unresolved within me. So what’s the work that I need to do to heal and to become whole? And so that’s, that’s the second part of this conversation, like there’s the work of, of reckoning that’s going on out here, right? And there can be investigative processes, and there can be accountability and even justice. And that doesn’t leave, in my experience, I was just, I was leading a retreat last week, with some therapists, and I was hearing this from them and from others who have experienced this kind of pain, where it’s like, I got the justice that I demanded, and I’m still in a lot of pain. And so what do I need to do to heal within me? And some of that is cultivating a vision for the Church of the Church that is it a church where people can experience the kind of safety and relationship that they need to become whole? And, and so for me, it’s not let’s burn it all down, you know, right. I think at times there, there needs to be. I mean, there needs to be some reckoning, that’s painful, right? But I do think that there in the midst of all the dying that’s going on, you might say there is a rising there is a I mean, Jesus is a God of resurrection, right. And so in the midst of the dying, there is a kind of, there’s a beautiful sort of rising, and we’re seeing churches say we want to walk alongside people. I just talked to a group of churches up in Traverse City, Michigan that were like, We want to give money to your counseling program so that we can have counselors come up here. And we can start church-based counseling centers, so that no one will ever be without a therapist if they need one. And it will become… it will cost and we will invest in the health of our people in meaningful ways. And as someone who started two church-based counseling centers that thrills my heart, because there’s a lot of good work that can be done within that space. And so yeah, so again, there are good things to report in the midst of all the the hard conversation.

Jason Daye
Yeah, I love that. I love that brother. And for your book, links to your book, and your website and the seminary and everything else, we will have all those available to our audience at PastorServe.org/network in the toolkit that goes with this episode. So you guys will have an opportunity at the different resources that Chuck mentioned in this conversation, because I know a lot of you probably listening to what he’s sharing are interested and intrigued. And we’ll have those available for you there. So be sure to check that out. Chuck, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you with us if people want to connect with you. What’s the best way for them to do that?

Chuck DeGroat
Yeah, most often it’s through my website at ChuckDeGroat.net. And there’s a there’s a way that you can connect with me through there. You could find me at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, too.

Jason Daye
Excellent brother. Well, thank you so much again, I appreciate all you are doing for the Kingdom. Appreciate your heart for pastors, for ministry leaders and for brothers and sisters in Christ. So thank you.

Chuck DeGroat
Thanks, Jason. God bless you.

Jason Daye
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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