1. When Death Intrudes
We have all heard of trauma. Now we hear about it every week—in sermons, from friends, in overheard conversations. If we haven’t identified it in our own lives, we suspect that we will. More and more churches are “trauma informed.” It all suggests that there is much work to be done. In this session, we’ll consider some of the ways to engage with trauma. At the top of the list is how God’s words can land meaningfully in the hearts of those who have been through trauma.
2. The Experience of Trauma
Julie Lowe & Darby Strickland | SLIDES
When trauma strikes, one is left feeling helpless, fearful, and often shame-filled, as such traumatic events can be tremendously overwhelming and disorienting. This session will provide a window into a sufferer’s world and how it shapes their emotions, self-perception, and perspective. We will strive to orient stories of trauma and the unique distress and anguish they cause in the pages of Scripture. Join us as we connect the brokenhearted to the Suffering Servant who walks with them in the valley and leads them through it.
3. Vigilance & the Invitation to Vulnerability
Darby Strickland | SLIDES
When touched by trauma, distorted truths often remain imprinted on a human heart. Fear and distrust enter in, sometimes loudly, other times creating a storm of confusion that is more subtle but equally disorienting, impacting relationships. Scripture instructs us to lean into God and fellow believers in seasons of deep anguish. But how can one do that when trauma has taught them to remain vigilant? In this session, we will consider Jesus' beautiful willingness to be vulnerable for his wounded people as both a gift and an invitation.
4. Trauma & the Body
Mike Emlet | OUTLINE
God created us as both spiritual and physical beings. Because of this, we should not be surprised that trauma impacts our bodies as well as our hearts. Bessel van der Kolk's landmark book, The Body Keeps the Score, highlights the impact of trauma on a person's bodily constitution. How should we as Christians think about his and others' observations about the ways trauma is experienced and healed? This session will provide a biblical understanding of the impact of trauma on embodied souls and will suggest practical implications that flow from this biblical framing, which neither overemphasizes nor underemphasizes the role of our bodies.
5. Growing in Hope
Profound loss, victimization, and suffering create a sorrow that threatens to swallow us. It can feel oppressive and hopeless. You long for reprieve; you pray for it. Yet it doesn’t seem to come. This may tempt you to doubt God’s goodness, perhaps even become angry at him. We are a people who yearn for deliverance. How can we give one another room to be weak, questioning, doubting, and hurting but hopeful, to be struggling but still faithful? In this session, we’ll discuss how only a deep foundational trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty will create that. We can yearn for deliverance and trust our Deliverer has come to abide with us.
6. The Church as a Place of Healing
It is a radical thought to believe that an ordinary church can be a place for trauma healing and help. But God is pleased to use people who are not experts, though they love well and wisely. The question we will consider is this: How can we, as the church of Christ, be a corporate refuge for souls who are on the run from a painful past?
7. Trauma Will Not Have the Last Word
We have looked at the pain and damage of trauma. We have looked at wise biblical responses. But what is the future of trauma? What is the ultimate hope for us when parts of us have been shattered by our sufferings? In our final session, we will reflect on—in fact, we will cling to—what it means that Jesus both breaks into our trauma and overcomes our trauma, refusing to release us until the day he has overcome all traumas forever.
Shame in the Aftermath of Trauma
Many people who live through the aftermath of trauma experience shame. Long after the traumatic experience, strugglers can experience intrusive thoughts and volatile emotions that can be debilitating to daily life. Pursuing intimacy in relationships can be filled with anxiety and turmoil. As strugglers navigate the aftereffects of trauma, it can be tempting for them to feel like damaged goods, abnormal, and less than. This breakout session will explore the compassion of Jesus and the resurrecting, redeeming power of Jesus—both which pave a hopeful path forward in the struggle with shame after trauma.
Trauma, Recovery & the Beauty of God
Todd Stryd | SLIDES
Healing and recovery from trauma is an important part of counseling ministry and Christian soul care, and an essential element in the recovery and healing process of those who are traumatized is an encounter with beauty. As the origin of everything beautiful, the beauty of God is the ultimate foundation of recovery and flourishing. This session will consider a biblical theological framework for how the beauty of God and the beauty of his creation play an essential role in the recovery from the inexplicable horrors and tragedies of life.
Impaired or Empowered? Trauma in the Lives of Christian Workers
Michael Gembola | OUTLINE
Pain, disillusionment, and secondary trauma stress can accumulate in ministry work that requires sustained proximity to human suffering and the many evils done under the sun. Any workplace can also bring suffering: conflict, job loss, or even profound mistreatment, all intensified when they occur in a ministry context of trust. This session offers a Christian framework for traumatic suffering and impairment and recommends proactive and reactive help. The goal is to offer a vision of thriving ministry, supported by connection to God and others and by life rhythms that recognize the goodness of creational limits.
The Importance of "Story" in the Healing of Childhood Sexual Abuse
If someone is sexually abused as a child, they can understandably build their identity around the horrific experience of abuse. Healing starts with taking their abuse seriously as a deeply wounding event that has potentially lifelong impact. But healing is also aided by the abused realizing that their personal story is much more than their abuse, and, most importantly, that they are part of a much larger story that holds a deeper sense of identity for them: Jesus' story of redemption at work in our broken world.
Unique Factors of Military-Related Trauma
Curtis Solomon | SLIDES
While certain threads are woven through the experiences of those who have been through trauma, there are particular threads that weave through the experiences of those who have suffered trauma in the military. This breakout will make counselors aware of unique elements of military trauma that will help them minister more effectively to the men and women who have served in the armed forces.
Betrayal Trauma: Understanding the Impact of Marital Sexual Infidelity
Marriages are suffering the devastation of sexual betrayal in staggering numbers. Bombs explode when pornography addictions, adultery through affairs or prostitution, and technology-mediated sexual sins come to light. Women and men are both susceptible to sexual unfaithfulness in marriage; it is vital to learn how to care for both wives and husbands who are on the receiving end of broken marriage vows. This breakout will give an overview of the impact of betrayal trauma and the vital first steps of care that counselors and churches can offer to the betrayed spouse. Aaron Sironi’s workshop, “Betrayal Trauma II: Marriage Counseling in the Aftermath of Infidelity," will build on this foundation to equip you for the long view of marriage counseling which is necessary for a couple to heal and grow forward.
Betrayal Trauma II: Marriage Counseling in the Aftermath of Infidelity
Aaron Sironi | OUTLINE
Infidelity is a marital tsunami—deeply traumatic and devastating for couples and their families. Many counselors and pastors feel ill-equipped to minister to couples in these painful crises. An affair creates serious problems even as it exacerbates a couple's pre-existing marital issues. Suddenly, the marriage is rendered unsafe and no longer a refuge. Core assumptions about trust and identity shatter. Secrecy and dishonesty erode a one-flesh union like nothing else. This session will delineate a process of caring for couples from the initial shock and disorientation through to reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing.
Coping Strategies: How Christ Fully Accomplishes What Our Flawed Strategies Imperfectly Attempt
The Lord has a history of using imperfect means to point to fuller things. In this session, we'll be thinking about how Scripture orients us to understand the imperfect strategies we use to navigate painful circumstances. For the sufferer, we'll consider the hope that this brings. And for the helper, we'll look at practical, gentle, and meaningful ways to walk with others towards this hope.
Contributive, Not Causative: Trauma-Informed Biblical Care for Those Who Have Abused Others
Chris Moles & Greg Wilson | SLIDES
Education and accountability are critical to confronting abusers, but what are we to do when the abuser has been a victim of abuse as well? Does the Bible offer hope and practical care for those who must wrestle with the complexities of the cruelty they have experienced, which they now perpetrate on others? In this breakout, we will consider a theologically-grounded approach to understanding and addressing past trauma that also calls abusers to own and repent of present acts of abuse.
Julie Lowe | SLIDES
The pain a parent experiences is like none other. It may come about from various traumatic experiences the child has suffered: significant behavioral issues, heartbreaking trauma, significant disabilities—hardships that cause anguish to the family. Whether it is watching a child go through tremendous suffering or cause tremendous suffering to others, the impact on a parent can be equally agonizing and lead to personal anguish. Parents need faithful companions, comfort, guidance, and hope. They need tangible reminders that the Lord is good, even in the midst of suffering—that the Lord is a very present help. This breakout will discuss ways we can walk with and encourage parents in the midst of their grief.
A Holistic Approach to Helping Families Impacted by Domestic Abuse
Joy Forrest | SLIDES
Domestic abuse is one of the most complex and challenging issues counselors and ministry leaders will ever face. The very nature of this trauma makes it counterintuitive and difficult to discern the best course of action. Families living with oppression in the home are impacted spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, and more. How can ministry leaders effectively help individuals facing so many challenges? This session will identify the numerous complex issues that arise from domestic abuse and explore holistic intervention strategies to address the myriad of issues these families face.
“Lord, See My Anguish! My Heart Is Broken”: Grieving with Faith after a Major Loss
Lauren Whitman | SLIDES
A sudden death. Divorce. A devastating physical injury. A move that tears us away from beloved community. When we endure a major loss like one of these, we are left in anguish. Where do we go from here when all we feel is unrelenting heartache? How do we move through a loss in ways that honor God but don’t discount the truth of our intense pain? This session delves into questions like these through an exploration of the book of Lamentations, which vividly portrays grief after the fall of Jerusalem and the horror of God’s people cast into exile. We will consider the book redemptive-historically, pondering how Jesus’ own losses and exile gives us hope and a path forward in the midst of our own. It’s a path where we will aim to say, in faith, “The Lord sees my anguish. He is the healer of my broken heart.”
A Biblical Framing of the DSM-5 Criteria for Trauma
Eamon Wilson | SLIDES
We are awash in psychological jargon and concepts in contemporary discussions of trauma. While these descriptions can be extremely helpful for identifying what a traumatized person is experiencing, they are often limited to symptom lists and medicalized language. However, spend time with someone who has experienced trauma, and they won’t share lists with you. They will talk about feeling disconnected from themselves and unable to commune with others. When speaking about their trauma, they will tell you it felt as if God wasn’t there, that they were alone during the most horrific experience of their lives. While we should be aware of how medical and mental health experts describe and treat trauma, we must be capable of understanding the stories and experiences of the traumatized in fully biblical terms and truths.
The Weaponization of Trauma
Darby Strickland | SLIDES
There is no doubt that experiencing relational trauma is overwhelming and devastating. But some people use their past trauma as a shield: “I do not need to take responsibility because I have been grievously harmed.” Worse, others use their past trauma as a weapon to justify their destructive or even horrific treatment of others. This session will help you be wise to these dynamics and showcase how Christ's suffering and gentle presence can create a new path toward healing so the sufferer does not duplicate and proliferate their traumatic experiences on others.
Adoption: The Brokenness of Family & the Mercy of Christ
Growing in understanding what adoptees experience in the brokenness of families can help enable those who provide care to better minister the mercy and love of our Father to them. All too often in well-intentioned ways, unhelpful clichés or stereotypes are given that prove more hurtful than helpful. In this breakout session, adoptees Jill Butler and Jonathan Holmes will share some of their personal story and offer biblical and helpful truths for adoptees, their families, and those who are offering care.
New Trauma for a New Generation: Giving Hope to Students Dealing with the Evils of Their Age
If you made it to adulthood, you survived the teen years. Even those of us who thrived as teenagers still faced the normal difficulties of growing up. And while it’s true that any adult once walked this earth as a teenager, we may know very little of what it’s like to be one today. More specifically, we are often unaware of the trauma many of today’s teenagers are carrying around. As adults, our Heavenly Father has given us the responsibility of passing the faith on to the next generation. An aspect of that stewardship comes from the effort we put into knowing who they are and the trauma they’re dealing with. In this session, we will dig more deeply into the lives of today’s teenagers: their schedules, their technology, their influences, the things they love and loath, their joys and fears, and how trauma can permeate every aspect of this. By doing so, we may be able to speak gospel truth in a way that students may actually hear.
Intergenerational Trauma & the Renewal of Family
Eamon Wilson | SLIDES
In this session, we will explore the effects of trauma through generations by exploring instances of intergenerational trauma and discussing how to identify and address how these patterns are typically expressed more generally. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many Christians who have overcome addiction and addressed the effects of their own exposure to domestic violence and neglect through their own conversions and growth in Christ. In this session, we will focus on themes of overcoming guilt and shame, forgiveness, and how to identify the underdeveloped skills needed when someone hasn’t learned them from their family of origin.
Can We Forgive Someone after a Traumatic Encounter?
Cecelia Bernhardt | SLIDES
Traumatic events sometimes include sinful acts perpetrated by someone against others in very personal ways. We know that God calls us to show forgiveness when others sin against us. Is it foolish to forgive those who have sinned grievously against us in acts of violence or aggression? What would such forgiveness entail? In this breakout, we will weigh how both love and wisdom need to guide us in the consideration of forgiveness after severe hurt and offense.
Cross-Cultural Counseling & Trauma: Embodying Sensitivity, Awareness & Christ’s Mercy
Jonathan Holmes | OUTLINE
To some degree, we will experience trauma at some point in our lives. Because trauma and suffering abound in our broken world, we might mistakenly believe that people experience those hardships and challenges in equal or similar ways. However, we know that is not always the case. In this breakout, we will aim to grow in understanding how to approach those of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds with sensitivity and mercy, which enables us to offer words of life, comfort, and healing.
Psalms 129, 130 & 131: A Framework for Considering Trauma & Caring for the Traumatized
Todd Stryd | SLIDES
Scripture is no stranger to either the impact of trauma or its resolution. A good example of this is the cohesive relationship of psalms 129, 130, and 131. These three psalms offer the saints an example movement from catastrophic suffering to God’s orienting and stabilizing presence. This session will walk through each of these psalms and consider how they speak to the nature of trauma, the components of care and recovery, and the God who is a stable and stabilizing refuge.
Morning Option 1: Complex Problems in Marriage Counseling
Aaron Sironi | OUTLINE
Working with problems in a couple's sexual relationship and counseling stepfamily couples can be two of the most difficult marriage counseling challenges. Increasingly, couples seek help in these areas, but counselors often feel ill-equipped to handle their needs. This breakout will develop the unique contours and methodological priorities as counselors care for couples through these difficult and delicate conversations.
Morning Option 2: “A Future for the Man of Peace”: Education & Accountability for the Abusive Heart
Chris Moles & Greg Wilson
Is there a biblically-grounded approach to helping those who perpetrate acts of abuse? Men of Peace groups and course materials have served hundreds of abusive men and their churches through facilitated group education and digital course materials. This breakout will offer biblical categories, tools, and approaches in working with abusive individuals. Emphasis will be given to group-oriented biblical care, specifically found in Men of Peace groups.
Afternoon Option 1: Weariness in Ministry: Conversations on How to Combat Burnout
Alasdair Groves, Darby Strickland & Robyn Huck | OUTLINE
Are you weary? Are you on your way to burnout? In this preconference session, we will address the spectrum of strains that counselors and ministry leaders face and the way Scripture reframes both the struggle of burnout and a biblical response to it. After introducing a biblical framework for burnout, we will delve into the challenge of stewarding your own soul wisely as you engage with the deeply painful stories and experiences of others. We will also share experiences of being affected by other people’s suffering, “secondary trauma,” and the means of grace God provides for us to care for ourselves and each other. Join us for a time of self-reflection and rejuvenation.
Afternoon Option 2: School Shootings: A Case Study in Responding to Traumatic Events in Your Church’s Community
Brad Hambrick | OUTLINE
We can pray these things never happen… and we should (Matt 6:10). But we should also prepare for when the school in the news is one where children in our church attend. Ask yourself, “What are the initial responses we would recommend to parents wanting to care for their children? What are the logical but unhelpful responses we would help them avoid? What does helpful communication with students sound like—content and tone—after a tragedy of this magnitude? What would you look for in students, parents, and teachers to discern when more acute care is needed?” If you realize you need clearer and more concrete answers, join us to learn how to minister well when a traumatic experience intrudes on the lives of parents and children in your congregation and community.