Trauma in the Pews:

The Impact on Faith and Spiritual Practices

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TRAUMA IN THE PEWS is a practical and compassionate roadmap for spiritual leaders to effectively minister to those struggling with the effects of trauma. In spite of the challenges of our increasingly complex world, together we can create safer spaces  for authentic healing and a deeper connection with God.

What Endorsers Say . . . 

McConnaughey's book builds on the research of psychologists, neuroscientists, and theologians in the study of trauma and its impact on human persons. She addresses how trauma, which is often undetected, inhibits a person's ability to grow spiritually. She also addresses some of the deep wounds of guilt, shame, and failure of some Christian communities—communities intended to be safe places for healing—that have become places of spiritual trauma. Trauma in the Pews provides practical guidance to pastors and church leaders on how to break the cycle of perpetuating spiritual trauma and how to experience God and the church as a place of healing. 

- Mark A. Maddix, PhD, Dean, School of Theology & Christian Ministry:

Point Loma Nazarene University

Dr. McConnaughey takes us on an eloquent journey through a land of difficult, painful, and even taboo topics related to trauma. Everyone experiences and is affected by trauma differently—mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Sharing her own personal trauma narrative and those of other survivors, McConnaughey gives us glimpses of her expertise in everything from spiritual disciplines to medical science. In a society where the outward world and conscious cognitive sciences trump any and all things internal and subconscious, this book is a welcomed and cathartic treat. McConnaughey gives great insight into faith and spirituality as experienced by trauma survivors. But this book is not just for those who have suffered or even simply for ministry staff and laity. Trauma in the Pews will benefit anyone who works with survivors of trauma; pastors, teachers, foster parents, social workers, etc. This book is one of the first commentaries I have read regarding what it truly means for a church to be trauma responsive. In a sense, Dr. McConnaughey is gently inviting us into a more sensitive and informed worldview—as if she is saying, “Welcome. Come on in. View the world through a trauma lens. And do so safely—with no judgment or shame.” 

- David Stevens, EdD, Director: M.Ed. in Neuroscience and Trauma, Tabor College

 

In this important book, Janyne has given us three things that are needed more than ever in the moment in which we find ourselves: The willingness to do the hard work of healing, the capacity to acknowledge the complexity and precarity of the human experience, and the hope and imagination necessary to cultivate and sustain lives and communities that are nurturing, sustainable, and attainable. Trauma in the Pews is not an exercise in theory or a mere abstraction, but is, instead, a deeply grounded enactment of vulnerability, truth-telling, and possibility. 

- Michael Hanegan, Senior Fellow, The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute

 

Dr. Janyne McConnaughey wraps empathy around those who've experienced trauma, no matter on what side of the pulpit they stand.  Trauma in the Pews: The Impact on Faith and Spiritual Practices is filled with meaningful conversations written with love and acceptance—a type of opening up of the soul that honors the trauma survivor and strengthens the spirit of the reader. 

- Shana Lynn Schmidt, LPC, IMHS, Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist and award-winning author:

Over Our Hearts: A Mother's Journey Learning to Listen In

Trauma In the Pews broadens the definition of trauma from our standard diagnostic manual, which is valuable for many people who may not meet those specific criteria of life-threatening events. It also acknowledges the impact of trauma on our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Janyne describes her personal trauma history and how she navigated her own emotional and spiritual healing journey. She “gets it.”

The book focuses on a Christian perspective, but the principles apply to all Judeo-Christian traditions and encompasses the impact of trauma in any context. Recent research in trauma has identified the importance of Trauma Informed Healers—that Healers are not only mental health professionals, but the spiritual leaders that people trust and turn toward for guidance. Since most aspects of survivor’s lives are colored by their experience, including their physical and spiritual well-being, increasing trauma-informed, trauma-sensitive, and trauma-responsive clergy is a necessary step.

- Nancy Stella, PhD, PsyD, Award Winning Author, Fear Traps:

Escape the Triggers that Keep You Stuck

 

Given the current upsurge of interest in spiritual abuse and religious trauma, this is an essential and timely book for anyone in ministerial leadership as well as those whose own traumatic experiences have resulted in a belief that they are spiritual failures. The author’s vulnerability in sharing her own story makes the text highly accessible as she convincingly argues for the importance of spiritual practices being viewed through a trauma-informed, -sensitive, and -responsive lens. My hope and prayer is that this book will prevent further trauma from occurring while enabling deep healing to happen as spiritual communities such as churches become safe(r) places. After all, as the author quotes, “People need healing. The church needs healing. Nations need healing. We all need healing.” (page 217).

- Gillian Harvey, D.Psych, Therapeutic Counsellor/Psychotherapist,

Supervisor, Researcher & Trainer

As a therapist working with individuals in private practice, I have found an overwhelming number of people who are living with some form of significant trauma. Many who experience childhood traumatic events enter adulthood with hope that having a faith community will bring them relief and comfort. They very often find that their pain is minimized through rote spiritual practices, and often the view is that if those spiritual practices don't work, it’s because the person is living without faith. This creates a compounding effect on an already intolerable pain. What Janyne has accomplished in her marvelous work of Trauma in the Pews is a real compassionate response to both the faith community and to those who are continuing to be wounded by communities that don't know how to respond. Janyne has given a gift to the faith community. Let those who have ears hear its timely message. 

- Kiersten (Adkins) Moore, MA, LPC, Executive Director: Pathway to Hope

 

Many are becoming aware of the power trauma has in our lives and in the lives of those we love. But we're still learning how to deal with trauma in realistic and life-affirming ways. Janyne McConnaughey offers us wisdom and resources as both a professional and as one who has worked the through trauma in her own experience. This book is just what we as individuals, leaders, and churches need as we seek healing!

- Thomas Jay Oord, Director: Doctoral Program at Northwind Theological Seminary/

Center for Open and Relational Theology, author of

God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils

 

Janyne McConnaughey takes readers on a journey into the world of trauma, all while embracing various spiritual practices that will help readers lean into God for healing and strengthening of their faith. This book is full of important information for spiritual leaders, spiritual communities, and all those who long to better understand trauma and its impact on individuals and how to embrace the art of spiritual formation to gently walk alongside them. Janyne McConnaughey has written a must-read for anyone who desires to meet others right where they are in their healing journey and for those who have experienced their own trauma in the Church and are seeking a way to connect with God. As an LGBTQ+ Jesus-follower, and someone who works with LGBTQ+ young adults of faith who are being traumatized by the Church, I look forward to using the spiritual practices discussed in this book, and I pray this book will help the demographic God has invited me to encourage to hold on tightly to their faith.

- Jen Eckles, Spiritual Director and Founder/Owner of Saguaro Roots Spiritual Direction

To be honest with you, there is nothing more important in today’s world than getting a grasp on what trauma has done and is doing to millions of people. There are many places that should provide a safe environment for our children—for instance, home, school, and church. But, as we all know, these places often become the location where the trauma raises its ugly head and no longer feel safe to the traumatized. Our society needs to open their eyes to what is happening in our places of worship and fix this issue. What is the best way to get an understanding of this huge issue today? Education. Janyne’s latest book, “Trauma in the Pews: The Impact on Faith and Spiritual Practices,” is a great place to start. I have read this book multiple times already and she presents a perfect foundation of understanding while exposing the evil and addressing the problem head on. I highly recommend this book to each person in the hope that it begins a conversation that ultimately helps expose, educate, and heal those who have been hurt and help turn these victims into victors.

- Dr. Gregory Williams, Best-Selling Author, Counselor, Speaker/Trainer,

Radio Talk Show Host, Ordained Minister

This book is a bold and generous invitation to everyone in the pews and those preaching from the stage or the altar to understand trauma and its consequences. McConnaughey seamlessly weaves spiritual wisdom, neuroscientific acumen, and personal reflections that leave the reader hungry to participate in the trauma-informed transformation of the Body of Christ and the individual bodies of Christ.

-Ryan Kujah, Trauma therapist, spiritual director and

author of From the Inside Out: Reimagining the Mission, Recreating the World

Trauma In the Pews: The Impact on Faith and Spiritual Practices is a necessary read for the churches of today. Janyne McConnaughey, PhD, wisely and compassionately explains how faith supports the entire healing journey by utilizing techniques and exercises specific to those impacted by trauma. This book is a detailed manual for both clergy and faith community members on how to be sensitive to the needs of many who’ve lived to tell their story. An expert in the field of psychology, and a trauma survivor herself, Janyne recognizes the reality of suffering and identifies the importance of trauma-informed healing practices, demonstrating how well it all fits together to strengthen the church body and provide a safe sanctuary for survivors to develop emotionally and spiritually.

- Susan Frybort, Author of Look To The Clearing, Open Passages and Hope is a Traveler

In the last few years, we have seen waves of people boldly sharing their stories of spiritual abuse, church hurt, and religious trauma. But these stories are often met with ridicule, mockery, and shaming. Instead of listening with compassion and investigating culpability, Christian leadership most commonly deflects blame by accusing or ignoring the wounded and bypassing root issues. 

The intersection of faith and science has historically been fraught with conflict and disagreement resulting in vast division across faith communities. Religious trauma is one of the aftereffects of binary, dogmatic thinking. When a faith leader bristles to the idea of becoming trauma informed, they risk being the conduit of compound harm directed at those they claim to serve. But that need not be the case, as Dr. McConaughey so clearly helps readers acknowledge. 

McConaughey guides those who are willing to witness the marriage of faith and science into an expansive understanding of how becoming a trauma informed faith leader or individual can result in revolutionary healing. Readers will learn how to evolve from a reticent position on trauma in their lives and work toward becoming informed with vocabulary, sensitivity, and a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the human soul. 

- Rebekah Drumsta, MA, CPLC, Spiritual Abuse Advocate & Consultant,

Author of When Family Hurts: 30 Days to Finding Healing and Clarity

Wow! I feel on some soul level that this book is going to go viral—it's brilliant, insightful, inspired by the Holy Spirit, trauma-informed, and hope-filled. As a trauma-survivor turned trauma-warrior, and daughter of a theologian who spent eight years in the seminary, I send you heartfelt gratitude and applause. Thank you for offering us this guide, a trauma bible, really, and being a BRAVE soul, yet again, in sharing needed truth!

- Teri Wellbrock, Trauma-Warrior, Author, Speaker, Podcaster: The Healing Place

 

Every ministry leader needs this book. As a trauma survivor, my heart wept with hope for those suffering feelings of spiritual failure for reasons beyond their control. McConnaughey delivers a paradigm shift for real and honest change.

- Danielle Bernock, Founder 4F Media and Victorious Souls Podcast,

Author of Emerging With Wings and Because You Matter

Finally! Trauma in the Pews is a book that helps faithful and spiritual leaders and church communities understand the impact of trauma on development and spirituality. Becoming trauma informed, then trauma sensitive, and finally trauma responsive should not be optional for any organization in this day and age. Janyne’s explanation of the impact of trauma on our development as children and on our functioning as adults is clear and compassionate. It has been said that one of the most effective treatments for childhood trauma is connection with others. Where better to find connection with God and with our community members then in our houses of worship? Thank you, Janyne, for providing a roadmap to becoming trauma responsive for faith communities and faith leaders all over the world.

- Melissa Sadin, EDD, Author of Teachers Guide to Trauma: 20 Things

Kids with Trauma Wish Their Teachers Knew

 

Fostering and adopting play significant roles in the lives of many people of faith, so they have a genuine need to know about the critical issues facing the children they bring into their families through these processes. Trauma is unambiguously among the most critical of those issues, which is why this book is so important. It meets foster and adoptive parents—as well as their communities—“where they are,” providing the knowledge and resources they need to help every child heal and thrive.

- Adam Pertman, President of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP) and Author of Adoption Nation

I first heard about trauma-informed care in 2014 while working for the police department to reduce drug related and violent crime. This subject impacted me in a powerful way, not because I was working in the justice system, but because of my own life of faith. I saw it was a message that paralleled the Gospel. It is a message, for those who listen, to extend empathy and grace toward others.  As I began training a wide sector of professionals, one thing I did not foresee in this journey was the number of stories I would hear from people who experienced trauma within their houses of faith. Trauma In the Pews: The Impact on Faith and Spiritual Practices is an invaluable resource that has been missing in the trauma-informed conversation. Sadly, for many who turn to the religious system for help, they are met with an environment of judgement, messaging of missing the mark and not measuring up. In transparent fashion, Janyne eloquently shares how this system was a source of trauma in her own life. As you read, you will find she is sharing her heart and wisdom. This must-read for those in the faith community will provide you essential tools for transforming a retraumatizing environment into one of healing.  

- Becky Haas, International Trauma-Informed Care Author/Speaker/Trainer

In Trauma in the Pews, Dr. McConnaughey not only makes the case for why churches and their leaders should be trauma informed but shows how leaders can truly be trauma responsive. And she does this through an attachment-focused lens. We must recognize that reaching and healing a traumatized world requires us to truly see each person the way God does and put relationships first. 

- Julie Beem, MBA, Executive Director: Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc.

 

I highly respect Dr. Janyne McConnaughey, my dear colleague in the trauma-informed care movement, who wrote this resourceful book with her vulnerable but courageous sharing of her own personal stories and well-informed knowledge of traumatology. I highly recommend this book to those who seek to understand how trauma interplays with individual and communal faith tradition practices which will tremendously support building healthy trauma-informed faith communities and practices.

 - Rev. Dr. Sanghoon Yoo, Founder of The Faithful City and

Arizona Trauma Informed Faith Coalition 

Trauma in the Pews is the book that I needed when I was in seminary. My ministry training did not adequately prepare me to care for people who had experienced trauma. Most of my ability to listen, empathize, and walk slowly with people who had experienced profound suffering came on the fly. I wish that hadn't been the case. Janyne's book is a gift to a new generation of ministers who are primed and ready to be more equipped than I was. At the same time, to those of us who have been in ministry for a while, it provides a much-needed course correction. The only way God's church will relate to and serve vulnerable people in the coming decades is if we grow corporately in our understanding of trauma, how it affects people, and how to respond to it in compassionate, gentle, Jesus-like ways. Janyne's book will help you and your church do that.

- James Pruch, Director of Programs at Christian Heritage, Former Pastor

 

 

In this compassionately prophetic, spiritually therapeutic, and vulnerably powerful text, trauma survivor and lifelong educator Janyne McConnaughey both brilliantly and beautifully lays the groundwork for helping ministries become more trauma informed, trauma sensitive, and trauma responsive. We arguably cannot adequately understand or address the human condition without such awareness, sensitivity, and responsiveness. This is the book my clients’ churches have needed for years.

- Shane Moe, MA, MDiv, LMFT, Psychotherapist,

Certified EMDR Clinician and Consultant

                                                                                                                             

Little do we know the depths of trauma experienced by those in our pews. Too often that trauma has been caused by those that held sacred trust, who have abused their power, influence, and control as church leaders and clergy. Too often, the trauma has been compounded as we ineptly respond to those that have been harmed. Janyne's newest book echoes what my own doctoral research found among victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. We have a God that heals! God uses His people who live incarnationally and who practice spiritual disciplines to nurture that healing. However, to do this, we must be trauma informed and sensitive to the Spirit's leading. Janyne has provided an excellent resource to guide readers on how to view the pain of others through a trauma lens. Through this lens, we will witness the transformation process from trauma to triumph. I applaud Janyne for this much-needed book. I strongly encourage this book to be on the top of your reading list. 

- Melodie Bissell, MDiv, DMin, Victim Advocate

 

 

It was as if my current life reconnected to my childhood as I gripped every word in Trauma in the Pews. Having been raised in a church that filled my mind and heart with fear and shame, I continue to struggle with unpacking what I know about trauma and how it relates to the impact of my evangelical upbringing. McConnaughey took me through a facts-based science-focused journey of how to navigate the impact of my religious trauma throughout this book!  Trauma in the Pews will serve as a healing catalyst for those of us who did experience trauma in the pews while supporting faith-based leaders on how to transform truth into practice moving into the future.

- Mathew Portell, M.Ed, Founder of Trauma Informed Educators Network,

Director of Communities at PACEs Connection