Within the next month, I will be making available a draft version of an adult Sunday School curriculum that will introduce the concept of trauma-informed ministry to churches. If there are members of ACEsConnection that would like to "test run" the curriculum, I'd be honored if you'd reach out to me in the comments section or via a direct message. Email works, too! Just send to email@example.com.
The curriculum just takes a look at the "slice" of trauma-informed ministry that I am most familiar with: interventions for children. I do hope, though, that it serves as a springboard for congregations to enter the larger trauma-informed ministry conversation.
I feel passionate about this work, because children’s mental health is an issue not just for Intermountain and other youth group homes that have answered the call to care for the most severe cases of abuse, neglect, or early childhood trauma. The prevalence of adversity in childhood, now firmly established through the ACE Study and subsequent research, should elicit the same response today that was expressed by Intermountain’s founder in 1909. Brother William Wesley Van Orsdel, a Methodist minister and circuit rider, answered those who wondered why the church should mobilize to care for vulnerable children:
“How could we possibly not do such a thing? Under God, brethren, we cannot continue to let the suffering of children go unchallenged.”
That statement launched the ministry that I serve as a chaplain, and that passion for the well-being of children is what fuels the ministry and mission of Intermountain today. I have experienced a disconnection between the need of hurting children in our communities and the Church’s professed concern for children in ministry. Often, the disconnection results from a lack of understanding that would lead to empathy and action. I have lived in this disconnected place most of my life, and seek to bridge the gap between the needs of children and youth and the expressed desires of the Church to meet those needs.
The study will serve as a first attempt on my part to frame the latest in science’s knowledge of the brain and human development, trauma’s effect of children, and the teachings of the Christian church and its founder, Jesus Christ.It will only be a starting point and will be by no means exhaustive. As I will attempt to show the connections between multiple disciplines (science of the brain, human development, theology, education, etc.) it will not delve too deeply into any of these areas and may appear simplified at times in its treatment for those familiar with any of those respective fields. For this necessary limitation, I apologize, and would encourage feedback that will inform further revisions of this study.
I hope that if you are reading this announcement and are willing to participate in a study within your faith community that you can bring your expertise to bear in group discussions and fill in your personal experience and knowledge for those omissions that the study undoubtedly will have. I hope you'll take the next step and reach out to me to let me know where I could improve the curriculum.
All that said, I do hope my efforts to develop a six-week study will prompt a much needed discussion on the Church’s approaches to trauma, children, and the role ministries might play meeting the challenges children and families face today as they desire healing and wholeness.
Chaplain Chris Haughee