Recognizing Trauma & Ministering Well : Evan Owens
Do we, as ministry leaders, struggle with recognizing trauma in our own lives, which can potentially hinder how we serve others in ministry? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Evan Owens. Evan and his wife Jenny are the founders of REBOOT Recovery, which combines clinical insights and Christian faith-based support for those who are recovering from trauma. They’re the authors of Healing What’s Hidden. Together, Evan and Jason look at how we, as ministry leaders, might respond to trauma in our lives. Evan then shares some hope-filled insights on how we can find healing from our own trauma and embrace the fullness of Christ, both in our life and our ministry.
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 to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
www.rebootrecovery.com – Explore Evan’s website now to find comprehensive information about his book, podcast, training sessions, blog, and other resources, all designed to support and enhance your spiritual journey.
Healing What’s Hidden: Practical Steps to Overcoming Trauma – Over the last decade, husband and wife team Evan and Jenny Owens have helped thousands of people overcome the trials, tragedies, and traumas of their past, and in this book, they show you how you can too. With empathy and insight, Healing What’s Hidden offers a practical, step-by-step process to help you acknowledge your trauma, heal your invisible wounds, and reclaim your future so you can live beyond the anxiety, depression, and shame trauma leaves behind.
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- A high-level, clinical definition of trauma is witnessing or experiencing a terrifying or extreme event.
- Trauma is really experienced as the personal intersection with the brokenness of the world. It can occur when one experiences something that one’s soul was not meant to experience, resulting in mental, physical, and emotional wounds.
- The majority of individuals share a common response to trauma crises, characterized by four actions: Deny, Cry, Numb, and Run.
- Denial often occurs when one’s version of the future changes without permission and when it’s incongruent with a person’s expectation of life. It leads to the Crying phase with intense emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, and sadness.
- The human response to strong emotions is to Numb them with activities and addictions. When numbing fails, they resort to Running as a distraction.
- An individual may come to a turning point as they recognize that help is needed in order to overcome and address these four trauma responses.
- When a person reaches out in humility and lets their guard down, the four trauma responses no longer hold any power.
- Many people in ministry have difficulty admitting to and dealing with trauma, expecting trauma to not affect them like it affects others.
- Due to increasing suicides and drug overdoses in the last four years, the life expectancy of Americans has decreased. As a spiritual, not just mental health, issue, it is time for pastors, ministry leaders, and Christ’s followers to recognize the voice they have in speaking about trauma.
- Historically speaking, trauma was viewed as a multidimensional wound, and because of this, it’s important for ministry leaders to come alongside mental health professionals to help treat trauma in individuals.
- Trauma wounds individuals in body, soul, and mind. It is not just a clinical issue, it is also a spiritual issue. Trauma will always catalyze a conversation about faith.
- Healing from trauma comes over time through safety, stability, and support. Safe people are essential in healing and leading with grace.
- Not dealing with trauma results in symptoms such as broken relationships, emotional regulation issues, loss of faith, and burnout. What may appear as a symptom is actually a result of a much greater issue.
- The greatest evangelical opportunity right now is to engage people on the subject of mental health.
Questions for Reflection
- What past mental, physical, or emotional trauma have I encountered? How has this influenced my well-being? How has this impacted the way I serve in ministry?
- Have I ever experienced moments where I felt the need to numb my emotions or thoughts in response to a traumatic event? What has that “numbing” looked like in my life?
- Have I ever found that allowing myself to experience the Cry phase was a necessary and healing process in dealing with a traumatic event or difficult emotions?
- Have I used activities or other distractions to avoid painful emotions? If so, what types of activities have I used? What are some healthier alternatives for managing strong emotions in such situations?
- Have I personally encountered challenges in acknowledging and addressing trauma in my life or ministry? How do I typically handle trauma when it arises?
- How can I use my voice as a Christ-follower to help those lost in the depths of a trauma crisis? What might that look like?
- In what way(s) do I see trauma manifesting as a spiritual issue?
- How has trauma affected my physical, emotional, and mental well-being in the past? Have I ever considered the spiritual aspects of trauma and how it might impact my faith or beliefs?
- Healing from trauma comes over time through safety, stability, and support. Who are the people in my life who have been “safe people” in times of need, offering support without judgment or advice?
- How can I be a “safe person” for people who are navigating trauma in their lives? How can I provide stability and support? How can our church be a safe place? How can we provide stability and support?
- How can our church engage people in compassionate and healthy ways related to mental health? What are some ways we can minister to those who are wrestling with mental health and well-being?
Do we, as ministry leaders, struggle with recognizing trauma in our own lives, which can potentially hinder how we serve others in ministry?
In this episode, I’m joined by Evan Owens. Evan and his wife Jenny are the founders of REBOOT Recovery, which combines clinical insights and Christian faith-based support for those who are recovering from trauma. They’re the authors of Healing What’s Hidden. Together, Evan and I look at how we, as ministry leaders, might respond to trauma in our lives. Evan then shares some hope-filled insights on how we can find healing from our own trauma and embrace the fullness of Christ, both in our life and our ministry. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hey, friends, and welcome to another episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye. Every single week, I have the privilege of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader and diving into a conversation on an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy, sustainable rhythm for both your life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the PastorServe network, and each week, not only do we dive into a conversation like this, but we also create an entire toolkit for you and for the team at your local church to use to dig more deeply into the conversation. And there, you’ll find lots of different resources, including a ministry leaders growth guide, and we encourage you to use that for your own personal growth and also for the development of your ministry leaders in your church and you can find that at PastorServe.org/network. Now at PastorServe, we love walking alongside of pastors and ministry leaders, and our team of trusted coaches are offering a complimentary coaching session for pastors and ministry leaders and you can find more details about that at PastorServe.org/freesession so be sure to check that out as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name, the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better, and we’ll be praying for you and your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please be sure to subscribe, to follow so that you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. I’m excited for today’s conversation, and this time, I’d like to welcome Evan Owens to FrontStage BackStage. Evan, welcome to the show.
Man, I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me. This is awesome. That was quite a solid intro. I’m pumped.
Thanks, Evan. Well, I’m excited to have you on the show as well. We’re gonna dive into a topic that is an important topic for everyone. And it’s a topic that I think has some unique impacts, perhaps consequences for those in ministry, and that is kind of understanding trauma, understanding really our own trauma, you know, if we’ve experienced trauma. And Evan, I think that most pastors and ministry leaders tend to probably ignore trauma in our own lives. To some degree, I think that we might be guilty of that, and that’s something that I hope we get to dig into, Evan, as we talk. But to kind of kick things off, I would love, Evan, for you to share kind of a definition of trauma so we’re all understanding what is it that we’re really talking about when we talk about trauma.
Yeah, that’s a great place to start because how can we talk about trauma if we don’t know what we’re talking about? I think that’s a good rule of thumb. So at a high level, the clinical definition, if you were to look up sort of the medical definition, it’s witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event or some type of extreme event. But I think maybe a different way of looking at it — and I kind of explain that — but a different way of definition that we’d like to use is this: It’s that trauma is your personal intersection with the brokenness of the world. It’s your personal intersection with the brokenness of the world. When your life now comes directly in conflict with the way things, you know, you experience something that says, “This is not the way it was meant to be,” your soul cries out in response to that. Out of that becomes wounds that are mental, physical, and spiritual in nature. So that’s sort of our definition of trauma that we’d like to work with.
Okay. And as we look at trauma… Evan, you and Jenny talked about that, as humans, we tend to have a handful of natural responses, maybe to trauma. Can you kind of walk through those for us as we’re kind of reflecting on our own lives and thinking about the possibility that there may be some trauma in our lives, and we may be responding in a way that is kind of hiding that trauma or suppressing that trauma?
Yeah, for sure. For sure. yes. So we actually have had — we run a nonprofit called REBOOT Recovery — and we’ve had now almost 20 something thousand people go through our courses which is amazing. Twenty two thousand, I think. But what is really is, we looked at all the data and we actually did what they call qualitative interviewing, right? And so we, from those datasets, began to really see patterns emerge of a handful of default responses that actually most of us as human beings, when faced with crisis, when faced with trauma, most of us will sort of “This is the direction that the current is going so we will go this direction”. And then we renamed them so they would rhyme because who doesn’t love a good rhyming list, right? So, it’s that we deny, then we cry, then we numb, and then we run. And those four actions are really what starts to happen, and I’ll touch on them. Can I touch on them to know what they are?
Yeah, please, yeah.
So denial… We’re not actually, when we say we deny — so deny, cry, numb, run — when we deny, we’re not actually saying that you’re saying that it didn’t happen. What we’re saying is that you’re denying that it will have any long term impact on your life. Denial happens when our new version of the future changes without our permission, and when it’s incongruent with the way that we saw our lives playing out. And it becomes too chaotic, too confusing to fit into our plan for our life. And so rather than deal with it, our natural response is to be like, “It’s gonna be fine. We’ll be able to just keep going, we’ll be able to just keep going on ahead.” And when we can’t, then we move on to cry which is eventually — we’ve pushed it down, we’ve stuffed it down — and eventually there’s this strong emotions that happen as a result and we can no longer keep these emotions at bay until we start having these like what I call bubbling moments over, you know, pop bubbling over moments of emotions where emotions are spilling out now in unhealthy ways. We’re becoming angry when normally we wouldn’t have. We’re depressed when we shouldn’t be. This is usually when clinical, sort of psychological terms, like anxiety and depression start to become diagnosis for us, right? It’s because we’re starting to have these emotional responses to stimulus in our life. And so the human response to any strong emotions is not necessarily to engage them, it’s to feel like, you know, to feel any of it would be to feel all of it and that feels overwhelming so let’s just go to step three, which is let’s try to find a way to numb it. Some of us become workaholics, some of us become ministryholics, some of us become drug addicts or alcoholics, some of us become porn addicts, some of us become sexaholics, some of us become, you know, it’s about wealth and, and power. I mean, whatever it is that we use to numb and to fill those voids, we turn to those painkillers to try and keep that emotional unrest at bay. And so then, when we can no longer deny, we can no longer manage the emotions through crying, we can no longer numb, then we’re forced to go to stronger or new numbing agents. And that’s when we run. We run from one thing to another, from one ministry focus to another, from one job to another, from one trip to another, from one story, whatever it is to another. And a lot of us, not just in ministry, a lot of us I think as human beings, we’re really good at running. Some of us are like marathon runners, we can run for long times and others of us are short sprinters, we just sprint from different things to different thing. So yeah, those are the four default responses. And I’ll just share, though, there was a fifth response, that actually was what we call the trajectory point or the turning point, the inflection point that when people would actually — the fastest way to begin to feed in those was actually to lead with humility. And so when people reached out and said, “I need help and there’s something wrong”, all of a sudden, those four default responses basically had no power anymore. And so that was the turning point for people is when they let down their guard, and only through that, could they fight back.
Wow. That’s fascinating actually. Because that’s not easy oftentimes to let down your guard especially when — I mean, depending on what the trauma is, but regardless, there’s this vulnerability that it requires — especially in ministry where oftentimes we feel, although we love the idea of authenticity and in being in community, when you have a ministry role, oftentimes you do feel guarded because you’re afraid for people to get to know the real you and the baggage that you’re carrying, or the trauma, you know, the different things. So that idea of vulnerability and humility as being kind of the key to helping us into this healing process, that probably has a huge impact. I’d love to hear, Evan, your thoughts on as ministry leaders and as pastors, those involved in ministry, do you find that it can be more challenging for those who are serving in ministry to kind of deal with their trauma, even to recognize it and to say, “Okay, there is something traumatic that has happened in the past.”, just by nature of being kind of in the ministry world and everything that comes along with that?
Yeah, I guess I feel like I don’t know that it’s more challenging for ministry people to deal with their trauma. I think maybe what’s a better way to maybe describe that would be, that it is more challenging to believe that it should affect us the same as it affects everyone else, right? Because we should know better. We should know that God is good so we shouldn’t have doubt. We should know that heaven exists so we shouldn’t find grief so hard. We should know that God is a friend, that He is the friend so we shouldn’t feel the sting of betrayal by church members, the betrayal by boards or the betrayal by institutions the same, right? And so I think that when we preach our way out of pain in our own lives, sometimes I think that’s helpful, sometimes I think that’s a bit of a numbing agent, right? That I’ll just tell myself, if I tell myself something often enough, maybe even I’ll start to buy it. And I think it’s one of the same reasons I think clinicians have such a hard time dealing with stuff sometimes. It’s because sometimes knowledge is not power. Sometimes knowledge is just chaos in that moment. And so… yeah, that might be how I answer that. It’s a good question.
Yeah, that’s great, Evan. I love the way that you shared there. I think it’s very insightful. As we’re serving in ministry and we think about this idea of trauma, oftentimes our minds go to some sort of magnified trauma, right?
Yeah, you have to be at war.
Right, exactly. But there are these different types of trauma. So can you kind of help us walk through because I think that oftentimes people will have challenges. They may be caught up in kind of crying or numbing, and not even know why, like they haven’t identified their trauma. So talk to us a little bit about the different types of trauma and maybe the impact of those things, and how sometimes we can just be dismissive of stuff that’s really traumatic.
Yeah, I think — let me take a step. Yeah, I think it’s amazing question. If I can, let me take a little bit of liberty. So, how many people listening remember this, that you were told some time in leadership when someone comes to you and they’re having a mental health problem, the question that we were taught to ask is, “Have you talked to someone about this yet?” Right? “Are you talking to someone about this?” And I remember, actually, in early days of ministry for myself being actually taught like that’s the proper way to handle that — to ask that question that connect them with the professional. And sort of the subtext of that was, let the experts handle it. You’re just going to say something dumb and cause more harm, right? That was really the subtext of that. And we’ve now been doing that for about 30 years. And the data has actually shown that suicides, depression, anxiety, medication abuse, substance abuse, death by overdose, all of these deaths of despair rates that you want to look at are the worst they’ve ever been. And even more so, you can look at the data and show that for the first time in human history, for the past four years, the average life expectancy of us as Americans has decreased. Not because we’re dying as babies, and not because we’re not living as long we are. Those are both doing fine. It’s because we’re dying in the middle due to overdose and suicide is such a high rate. it’s changing the entire outlaw, the entire curve, the entire average curve. And so the first thing I would like to just… if I could, if people only take one thing from this is that you as a spiritual person — I don’t care if you’re a pastor or not — you as a person, as a follower of Christ, have a voice when it comes to this issue of trauma. You have a voice and God has given you something that you can share with people that will be beneficial to him with very minimal help. And I’ll give you some tools today to help you do that. So that’s the first thing. When we talk about trauma, we typically think of trauma as a mental health problem. That’s why there’s $180 billion industry focused on mental health and trauma now. But if you go back in history, it really wasn’t seen that way. Trauma was actually viewed as a multi dimensional wound. It was actually viewed just as much as a spiritual issue, as it was a mental health issue. And isn’t that interesting that an industry comes and says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about? Send it to the experts.” And I’m not anti mental health practitioners. I’m saying we need to come alongside and complement one another, that it’s . And I think that we’ve gotten so afraid that we’ve backed away from it. So if it’s true that we’re made up of mind, body and spirit or mind, body, soul and spirit, depending on the theological text you want to use — let’s just use soul for sake of clarity for today’s discussion — if it’s true your mind, body and soul, then we would all agree that trauma can wound you physically. It’s pretty easy to see an arm chopped off, right? We can all agree that it wounds you mentally. There’s tons of things that we can measure — serotonin levels, neuroendocrine, all these other levels. And then the last one is, can it wound you spiritually? Can it wound your soul? And if so, what were the symptoms of a wounded soul and how would we go about healing that soul? And right there is where we have something to say. And I’ve been doing trauma work now for almost 13, 14 years, and I can 100% say that trauma wounds us in all three ways. And so, that wound results in symptoms but it also… it’s really five wounds. It’s a wound of — I’ll shut up after this — but it’s a wound of a five parts of our souls. So it wounds us in loss, right? So we feel loss. It wounds us in that we feel betrayed, that wound is in that we feel guilt, shame and regret, that wound is in that we feel unforgiveness, that wound is in that we feel neglect and rejection. And so when we feel those five wounds, and we can actually go to the Garden of Eden and see where they went from feeling belong as per belonging, purpose, safe, they felt these words, and all of a sudden sin entered the world. And for the first time ever, their lives intersected with the brokenness of the world. First trauma occurred. And suddenly, instead of belonging, purpose and safety, they felt loss. They felt lack of purpose. They felt shame. Do you see that? You see how it’s marked? And we’ve been playing that same story ever since. And so, that’s really when we talk about trauma, it’s not just a clinical issue, it’s also a spiritual issue.
Yeah. That’s fascinating. It’s interesting Evan. As we’re talking there, that kind of makes sense and I think our world recognizes that in times of acute trauma, right? Because, think of it, if there’s like a school shooting for example, they often ask the pastors or the faith leaders, the rabbis or the pastors of whomever in that community to make themselves available and they invite them in, right? So there’s something about our society, as secular as it might be, that does recognize that trauma is more than just the body or the mind, that there is that soul component, right? So I think that’s fascinating.
Yeah. Trauma will always catalyze a conversation about faith, 100%.
Right, exactly. So as we’re reflecting on our own lives as pastors and ministry leaders, and maybe the trauma that we’ve experienced — the shame, the regret, the rejection. I think the rejection is probably a big one that pastors and ministry leaders feel, right? Because we pour our lives into this flock of people that God has entrusted us with, and at some point we get betrayed, or at some point someone doesn’t like how something goes and they get up and leave. And here we’ve been kind of doing life with these people. And so that rejection, or that betrayal can be so deep. So how can we, Evan, as pastors and ministry leaders begin to process through that? Like what are the healthy ways to approach these types of things when they pop up in our lives so we’re not just denying them and shoving it away and just trying to plow through, but that we can, in a healthy way, heal with it, grow from it, learn from it, and continue to minister well?
I’m glad you asked. My wife always teases me, she says, “Evan, you’ve got to get to like, the hopeful part of trauma sooner.” She’s like, “People feel like they’re just doomed to deny, cry, numb and run for eternity.” So there’s a thing we have, it’s called the healing equation. And the healing equation sounds like this: It’s a math equation — so it’s, (safety + stability +support) / time = healing. Safety plus Stability plus Support over Time. So time is the X factor that none of us control, right? None of us can know how long or short of a time it’s going to take us to heal. So that’s the one that — we’ll just set that aside for a minute. We can do a whole discussion on patience when it comes to healing but we’re not going to today. Instead, I want to talk about safety, stability and support really quickly. So safety — when a wound happens, like betrayal for example, we don’t feel safe. That’s actually the first feeling. Now, we could say we feel angry, we feel hurt, but really what makes us feel that way is that we thought we were safe and we aren’t. “I thought you were a safe person. You’re somebody I trusted. You’re somebody I thought would be there. You’re somebody this…” Right? Whatever it is. And also we don’t feel safe. Or I go to the pastors conference and I’m not at the cool kids table. And I’m not working all these jokers and their preacher sneakers and I’m not getting my big break. Why? Why is my church struggling? Well, it’s because I didn’t — you know what I mean? This bitterness can grow all these things, and I’m just getting real, right? These are real things. And so out of this, the first thing that we have to do if we’re going to start healing is find safety. And safety is found in God certainly. I think pastors get that one. But safety is found in other people who are safe people. Safe people are people that ask you how you’re doing. They stick around for the answer. Safe people are people that lead with grace, not advice. They don’t come in saying, “Here’s how you should fix your problem.” They come in and say, “Tell me about what’s going on” and they just listen. And that’s it. And again, this is why all of us have a role to play in this. Our world is so desperate for safe people that the vast majority of middle class Americans now have a counselor they pay just to listen to them. How did we get so busy as a Christian culture that we can’t slow down enough to bear one another’s burdens? That now it’s Jesus plus therapy as our way of saying, “Hey, I’m busy, go talk to somebody who cares?” How do we get there? And how do we slow down enough to be a safe person? How do we become a person that says, “You know what, whatever you say, here is going to stay here.” And so it starts by finding a few safe people. Because once you find that man, that’s like 80% of the battle. Number two is stability. One of the biggest things — like we’re working right now a lot in the hyena in Hawaii, in Maui. And when the fires first happen, everybody rushed in with tons of resources. But those resources were actually devised primarily to establish safety. And then Christians came in wanting to offer all these stability making resources, right? “Let me help you with your faith, let me help you with…” But when I think about this way, in the middle of an earthquake, you’re not worried about where the furniture is going to go, or how the paint in the walls is going to look, you’re just worried about one thing — finding safety. And so you can’t move on to stability until safety is built. And I think that’s what happens with a lot of us in ministry. We’re so smart, that we try to skip the safety stuff. We don’t actually feel safe, we don’t actually have a safe group of people yet. Truly, we don’t. And then we try to just jump straight into stability, which is “I’m going to get back into my routines. I’m going to start reading some books on the subject. I’m going to start growing. I’m going to start rearranging the furniture of my life to make it look really good, because I gotta I gotta get ready for Sunday.” The next one’s coming, you know? And so, that’s stability. Stability is about routine, but it can only exist through safety, if that makes sense. And I could go off on stability for… and then last — support, which is basically where now we’ve established safety and stability, and now we can actually only reach our last level of healing by using our story and our experiences to now help other people and that’s actually how we continue growing. And I think that another thing is vulnerability is something that is hard for a lot of people in ministry, because you don’t really know who’s safe and who’s not. And so we become less and less vulnerable, which means we become less support driven. That really it’s about referring and resourcing people than it is truly supporting people, and there’s a difference. And it becomes really, really, really difficult. Not to mention, you have compassion, fatigue and burnout on top of that, that sort of comes in as another layer of trauma that we could get into. And again, I know this is a lot but these are complex questions you’re asking, right? And this is heavy stuff. And I’m speaking to people who are leaders. So yeah, I would say start with safety. You do that, everything else will start to fall in place.
Yeah, that’s helpful, Evan. As we’re looking at these different types of trauma, what happens to us, Evan, if we tend to ignore the trauma? Like if we’d say, “You know, I’m just not going to deal with that. I’m just going to put my head down and move forward.” Like, I’m especially thinking in kind of ministry setting because I think that probably happens. So it’s one of those things where, “Okay, I’m just gonna set that aside, and I’m just gonna focus.” But what happens when we do that?
Well, I mean, let’s make it a little less personal, right? You’re on the battlefield — I work with a lot of combat veterans — you’re in a battlefield and something traumatic happens. Your buddy is shot next to you. You don’t get to stop and say, “Well, let’s wait until I feel safe and then let me process that, let me get stability and let me process this grief and this trauma, and then I’ll get back to fighting.” Right? And the same is true a lot of times in ministry to a less extreme level, where you have to stand up the next Sunday and put on the show, right? And I think there’s fundamentally a challenge there as well. I think that we’ve turned it into this performance-based preaching model that I think in and of itself is dangerous and risky. That it’s just.. it’s what it is, right? It’s the world we exist in today. But all that being said is I think, that if you don’t deal with the trauma, the trauma will always deal with you. It always will. It’ll come out in the form of illness. It’ll come out in the form of symptoms. It will come out in the form of broken relationships, emotional regulation issues, loss of faith altogether, massive burnout, you’ll quit, right? Because think about it, a lot of times people will manifest a symptom that they think is the problem, when really it’s just the manifestation of a deeper root issue. So they’ll feel anger, when really what they’re experiencing is they never grieve the loss of something. They’ll manifest the symptom of depression, when really they’ve never dealt with a grief or with a guilt or shame or regret in their life. They’ll manifest… you see, I’m getting that? And so, then they’ll go to mental health. Mental health will take care of the the top of the surface issue. If they have enough money, they can maybe start getting down into the root issue because it takes a long time with all these appointments, right? And so, I would argue that it will always metastasize and spread. And trauma has a way of dictating and limiting your potential. It will start telling you what you will and won’t do. And pretty soon you’ll miss out on the greatest gift God has given us which is life. And what a shame that would be.
Yeah, that’s helpful, Evan. Ministry, we often talk, we help people process through pain and suffering, you know, what are these biblical principles around it, and so the biggest questions about life and faith center on, “If there’s a good God, then why is there pain and suffering in our world?” We all know this. And as pastors and ministry leaders, we kind of live in that world. How does our understanding of kind of biblical concepts around pain and suffering help us process through trauma either for ourselves or helping others? Navigate that as well.
Yeah, man, I think that is such a huge fundamental benefit, right? It’s that we have a playbook on how to grieve well and what healthy grief looks like. We have a playbook on how to process unforgiveness of ourselves and others, right? And that’s seen in the character of Jesus. And that’s most of our ministry is working with non-believers, non-Christian people, showing them, “Hey, here’s the ideal mental health model found in the character of Christ, of how we can process things.” And even He was safe with a group of people and then He got betrayed. Now with this same — each of these soul wounds that I’ve described, He felt. Right? A man of such sorrows, and I think that’s the beautiful part of it. So I think first off, there’s comfort in just knowing that He is Emmanuel, right? that He has God with us. But I also think that — at least for me, maybe this is just for me — one of the things that actually hurts me the most time and time again, is when I pour my time, time away from my family, time away from my kids, time away from what I could be doing for hobbies, and I poured into other people, and then other people don’t manifest the fruit that I think they should. That is one of the hardest parts of ministry, I believe. Because time is such a precious commodity and people will take it without any thought. Those be like, “Thank you very much. We’re gonna have another hour… and another.” Right? And so, it helps me to — when I get into these zones — one, to look at how Jesus managed boundaries. How did He manage forgiveness, right? How did He… like so for example, we teach that forgiveness without boundaries goes by another name, which is called enablement, right? So when I’m working with people, if they always are showing up late to my one on ones, if they’re not doing their weekly homework assignments in between the meetings that I give them, I will literally say at the beginning the meeting, “I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to end this meeting early because I came prepared and you didn’t.” And that’s me setting a healthy boundary that I’m not going to work harder for your wellness than you are. I’m not going to become a full time gardener of your life. Right? I’m going to invest in the soil, I’m going to help you dig that hole to plant that tree and get those roots going. I hope you water it. I hope you do all that stuff. But I’m not gonna do it more than you do it. Because I can’t. I can’t. And I think for me seeing that model throughout Scripture and making it okay for me to say that, it’s changed everything for me. It’s changed everything for me.
Yeah, that’s huge actually. That’s golden right there, Evan. Evan, as we consider the trauma in our own lives, as we consider our role in ministry and in serving, I know that there are resources that you have. I know that you and Jenny wrote Healing What’s Hidden in a really helpful book that really helps in people processing through their trauma and those types of things. And then you have REBOOT Recovery which helps people. What are some tools that, as a pastor and ministry leader, if I’m looking for some tools and some resources, what are some that you would recommend? And feel free to recommend your own because I’m sure you’re not dedicating your entire life to this without believing in them. So feel free to tell us a little bit about what you’re doing. But as a ministry leader, thinking about not only the trauma in my own life but also serving others, the challenges that there are loved ones that we have, they’re wrestling through things, or people that we’re ministering to, they’re wrestling through those things. So, if we want to look at some resources that can be really, really helpful in this, please share.
Yeah. Well, there’s a great organization called Fresh Hope for Mental Health that a good dear friend of mine leads. You can check it out. It’s called Fresh Hope. It focuses on diagnosed mental health conditions. They do small groups, they’ve written a myriad of books, I highly recommend that nonprofit. Brad is a leader, that is the genuine article, he himself has dealt with bipolar disorder his entire life. And he — not his entire life, but his adult ministry life — and he’s pastored a large church. He’s lost it all because of his mental illness, and he shares that, and out of that has come an amazing ministry. So, dear friend of mine, amazing man of faith, so check out that organization. Yeah, REBOOT, we do two things — we offer 12-week trauma healing programs for churches. We have a program called Trauma Reboot that is used as a sort of a small group extension. Think of it like a financial peace. You know, you want your people to be financially well. Well, what about their mental health? What about their trauma? And Trauma Reboot, it’s in, I don’t know, about 180, 190 churches already across the US. It’s had, I don’t know, 6 or 7000 people graduate just in the last year and a half, 18, 19 months. So, it’s really caught on. And what’s been incredible is to see how 41% of people who graduate become volunteers and start leading in their communities and so multiplies. And so if you’re looking for a way to grow your church, which is maybe — let me just say this point blank — the greatest evangelical opportunity you have right now at your disposal is to start speaking to the subject of mental health. I’m telling you, people will flock to you because you’ll be one of the few places who’s not… you’re going to talk about the things that we don’t talk about. And that is fundamentally revolutionary, that they can find a safe place to process what they’ve been through and it’s in the name of Jesus. Okay, right? And then you’ll be able to transition. They come for therapeutic deism, right? And then they transition to learn about the character of Christ. That’s a beautiful place. So that’s what Reboot can do. But then we also have a program, if you go to our website rebootrecovery.com/training, we have a program called Overcome Academy and it’s actually a training for small group leaders and ministry people who want to… it’s either pre recorded, or I do live events all the time. I’m doing one on Thursday this week. That is a training on how do you help people, we call it “How do you run towards the fire without getting burned?” It’s what we call it. “How do you help people and yet not burn yourself?”, and some really practical tools. So those are some of the resources. The book Healing What’s Hidden, I’m trying to give other good books. Gosh, I probably got some back on my shelf.
That’s awesome. That’s super helpful. And for those of you who are watching or listening along, I will have links. We’ll be sure to have links to REBOOT Recovery, the ministries., the other things that Evan has suggested, as far as resources, in the toolkit for this episode, which you can find at PastorServe.org/network. So we’ll have links to all of that for you guys. Evan, if people want to connect with you, if they want to learn more not only about Reboot, what you’re doing, if they want to learn more about the ministry or — I know you’ve got some resources there that you point them to — but what’s the best way to connect with you?
I’m terrible at social media. I don’t..
I’m just not good at it. But if people want to follow REBOOT Recovery, it’s just @rebootrecovery on Facebook and Instagram. We have a pretty.. the ministry has a big following. But Jenny and I — you can follow us — it’s just Evan and Jenny Owens, we share a handle. I think, if you do you’ll be like the 18th follower. Not really, but it’s a small number. That’s a great place. Or you can just email me — firstname.lastname@example.org — and me and my team will get back to you. And just really we’d like to serve you and help you. And if you’re struggling today, you know, pastors, there’s a growing trend of pastors who are having suicidal ideations. And so I just don’t want to miss this chance to say that you don’t need to be ashamed of what you’re feeling. A lot of us have felt that and I know in my life when I got to my darkest moments, there were times I felt like Icarus, like I had flown too high next to the sun, and now I was being discovered for who I truly was, and I was so ashamed. And that’s I want you to hear me say that, you don’t need to be and we’re here for you.
I love that brother. Awesome, man. This has been such a rich conversation. Such a helpful conversation, Evan. Thank you for making time to hang out with us here on FrontStage BackStage.
Same time tomorrow, right?
There you go, exactly. All right, brother. God bless you. Thank you so much.
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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