Being a Trauma Informed Church

At our Trauma Informed training on June 26, 2019 held at Sanctuary Covenant Church, we looked into how Christian communities can heal unseen wounds.

The way trauma impacts people in our churches and communities is often misunderstood. The hidden influence of trauma can have a lifelong impact on our personalities and our direction in life. “Adverse Childhood Experiences are common and they tend to cluster together,” taught Tom Gonzalez, an expert in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a former long-time pastor. There are a total of 10 ACEs one can experience in childhood. One point is given for each of the 10 traumas a child experiences growing up between the ages of 0-18.

ACEs are highly interrelated. Where one ACE occurs, there are usually others.

ACEs are highly interrelated. Where one ACE occurs, there are usually others. 87% of one type of ACE occurs together with a second type of ACE. “Dysfunction breeds dysfunction,” said Tom Gonzales, who is the Self-Healing Communities Project co-coordinator at Bridges of Hope and has been in ministry for almost 20 years. “Our trauma doesn’t have to define us. Our ACE score is not a number that’s an indication of who I am or what I’m going to become. It is a way to measure the amount of accumulated trauma I experienced in my childhood. That’s all it is,” said Gonzales.

The Role of the Church

The Church is uniquely positioned to be a healing presence for the growing number of trauma survivors we serve in our communities.

1. Be a place of compassionate accountability.

Start with a different question, “What happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you.”

2. Build relationships.

Excuses: “It’s difficult, it takes time.”
Starting questions: “Would you like to talk?”

Be a caring competent person in the life of somebody who has a high ACE score. “Relationships with caring competent people are vital contributors to resilience and recovery,” said Gonzales.

3. Offer Tangible Help

Excuses: “What do I know about depression or trauma?”
Starting questions: “Can I take care of your kids for a couple of hours?”

Having two or more people who give concrete help when needed can dramatically reduce someone’s depression levels.

The following variables are considered in determining and ACE score:

  • Substance abuse
  • Parental separation / divorce
  • Mental illness
  • Battered mothers
  • Criminal behavior
  • Emotional neglect
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

July 8, 2019
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