Elevate Montana - Helena Affiliate and "trial run" of new trauma-informed curriculum for churches


To date, over 80 copies of the curriculum Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks: a six week study of trauma-informed ministry and compassionate care for children from hard places and situations have gone out around the country. Released this past spring, most have ordered it to preview the materials prior to utilization this coming fall. So, while feedback has been positive, there have been few users with specific comments related to how their teaching experience has gone (because, well... they haven't used it to teach, yet)!

As our local Helena-based Elevate Montana group met last week, I was giving them an update on the curriculum and sharing this small frustration about having little in terms of constructive criticism I could use to make the curriculum even better.

"Well, why don't you teach it to us?" they asked.

"Really?" I responded. I was struck by their enthusiasm to take an hour and a half of their work week to join me in a Bible study based on the ACEs science. "You know this is a six-week study, so this would be a six-week commitment... and, it's summer... right?" Only those from states like Montana, which experience five to six months of winter can appreciate the sacrifice  they would be making!

"Sure!" they said, and a half dozen committed to meet with me on Mondays at our local hospital in one of their meeting rooms to have the study. Our first gathering was the 17th, and it was wonderful to get to know my colleagues from other fields and disciplines within the context of how they saw their faith impacting their interpretation of ACEs in a community and faith-based setting.

I'd encourage others to get a hold of either a digital version of the curriculum (just $35) or a hard copy ($60, but includes a copy of Paper Tigers with a license to show to up to 250 in your church or school as well as a complimentary copy of the digital version of the study!) and gather a few folks together like we are here in Helena. It was such a blessing, and I am looking forward to our next five meetings.


For those who haven't seen previous posts on the curriculum, here is an overview:

  • Week One: Jesus and the children; key idea: Jesus welcomes ALL children, even those affected by trauma, toxic stress, or adversity (ACEs)
  • Week Two: Advocacy... what is this "trauma-informed" talk all about?; key idea: In order to advocate for children and families impacted by trauma, your church should consider trauma-informed ministry [a copy of the print portion of this lesson is linked below for those that want to 'get a feel' for the curriculum!]
  • Week Three: Was Jesus' ministry "trauma-informed?"; key idea: Jesus understood the devastating effects of trauma and adversity and his ministry was shaped in a way that responded to our needs.
  • Week Four: How the traumatized can look like they "have it all together." key idea: those that are dealing with trauma don't all look the same. Even leaders in your community have been touched by trauma... so everyone should be treated compassionately.
  • Week Five: Does being trauma-informed mean we avoid saying hard things? key idea: Jesus was compassionate, yet firm... being trauma-informed means you prepare for the strong reaction some topics may elicit, not that you avoid all issues that may elicit a strong reaction.
  • Week Six: Responding to trauma within the compassionate Kingdom of God; key idea: God's Kingdom stands apart from this world's kingdoms, bringing justice and mercy where trauma and heartache have prevailed.
  • BONUS MATERIALS: "Advocating for Rachel"--a case study from a licensed child and family therapist with suggestions for interventions that a church can appropriately implement to help hurting children and families!


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Thank you, Rene, for your advocacy!

Even if it's just a few churches that pilot the curriculum in the fall, it will be wonderful. If and when you identify those churches, I'd love to get in touch with them so I can make sure to address any feedback they might have.



We have now done two weeks of the curriculum, and have managed to get both sessions in within a 60 minute time period. Feedback today was along the lines of "there's a lot here to digest... maybe suggest that session 2 be a 90 minute session if possible?"

Attendees are appreciating the language around trauma and ACEs, and one remarked after session 2: "That was the most succinct yet comprehensive statement about trauma and it's impact I've ever heard! Great job!"

On the spiritual side of it, we've been meeting on Mondays in a meeting room at our local hospital. Several have remarked that it was a wonderful way to start their work week.

I've told them that they are letting me off too easy... that there must be something I could improve, so their homework is to come back next week with possible revisions to lesson two so it could be a little "tighter."

My observation was that we covered much of the same ground in the opening "get to know you" questions as we did after the initial investigation into the first scripture passage, all around the subject of advocacy. So, I might condense those discussion times a bit upon review.



I haven't forgotten about you. I have three churches now considering this study for the fall. The one in northern Kansas has a minister that has previously been very involved in child welfare (formerly a CASA director). She and I are working on a date in Sept. but are also trying to coordinate my going into the local school districts for professional development on the same topic while I'm there. So many moving parts. I'll email you with more info about this.

Dear Chris:

I am SO glad you share all you do, lead and learn. I hope you'll share feedback each week on how those classes go for those of us who are or wish to learn more about what works, helps, confuses, etc. And as a Mass. resident, I do know that a six-week summer commitment is serious!!! Cissy

I am very proud of you, Chris! Thank you for investing your time, energy and resources to create this important program. I believe all people in our nation (and our world) need a new understanding of each other. Beginning with understanding how (especially) adverse childhood experiences can (and do) have a significant negative impact and influence on our physical and social health throughout our lifetimes. This new understanding (starting with the person we see in the mirror every day) will change the way we think about people (even ourselves) and result in a more compassionate way of living. Compassion is the beginning of restoration... and our world needs restoration desperately.

Thank you, Sanghoon and Scott!

Sanghoon... I just had an order of the materials yesterday from someone in Scottsdale and I wondered if it was someone who had been to one of your gatherings? Thank you for mentioning my materials to those whom it might bless.