Final of a 4 part series examining the promise of faith communities as sources of healing and connection and GIFT coaches, Sally Ankerfelt and Susan David’s recent presentation at the 2015 ATTACh Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
To bring you up to speed in this 4 Part series:
Week 1 discussed the promise of faith communities as healers and connectors, perhaps even more than we think.
Week 2 noted that faith communities at their best – through worship services, rituals, community outreach, even the physical presence of the building -- are designed to improve areas of our lives and develop coherent healthy systems that foster emotional well-being.
Week 3 highlighted that despite the promise and potential of faith communities to heal and connect, it sometimes falls short because it seeks to influence its congregants. A paradigm shift from influence to integration is needed if congregants are to feel accepted and loved. This is especially true for those families dealing with inconsistency and trauma in their lives.
Today: How would it be for congregants to experience God’s love through our relationship with them, by focusing on acceptance and belonging rather than influence?
This week Susan and I offer some suggestions that can shift our faith communities away from influence and toward integration. These are specific integration adaptations that you can begin to discuss and work to implement with your own faith communities. This process may be a slow one but it need not happen overnight. Some suggestions may fit and others not but as coaches we know that even a small change can yield big results. In our opinion, continuing to educate the congregation on the need for acceptance and belonging as a way to heal and connect is vital. More importantly, a paradigm shift from influence to relationship will create a change that can take root and grow for years to come.
Faith Communities as a Source of Healing and Connection: What You Can Do list:
Examples: Confession and Forgiveness- Here we let go of our disappointments and failures of the week, trusting in God’s ability to ‘remember our sins no more’ so our here-and-now will not be clouded by our past and our future can be open to possibility.
Service of the Word – Hearing God’s love and guidance and listening to the Word, we find meaning in our experiences and move forward with faith and confidence.
Prayers- Together we lift up our joys and concerns. By doing so, we grow as a God-formed community and we are reminded that we are not alone.
Hymns- Singing Together reminds us that we all have a place in the choir; we all are important to the Body of Christ in our own, unique way. Christ’s body in this world is enhanced through our collective voices.
-Safe and healthy congregation training
-traditional Sunday school vs. relational Sunday school with an explicit emphasis on connection rather than curriculum
-base curriculum on the five Intelligences, providing a variety of learning styles (rotational Sunday school sometimes works well)
-Consider multigenerational Sunday school where children can receive more personal attention.
-Put something like a “Trauma Tidbits” article in each newsletter that begins to educate the general membership.
-Seek out as much information about a child as possible concerning learning and behavioral support needs, asking parent what is effective, what constitutes contacting them for support, etc. (i.e. screening interview)
-Have an “angel helper” or trained “floater” or “mediator” who is knowledgeable in trauma behaviors and can help.
-Special needs classes and rooms
-Have a leadership and Sunday school leader training on the basics of trauma and the congregation’s philosophy (based on the mission statement) on behaviors and responses.
-Create a plan for teachers so that they will feel both supported and equipped to respond to a behavior challenge.
Interested in speaking to Susan or Sally?
Call for a thirty-minute consultation.