For the audio interview regarding this study see:
It’s tough to reconcile that idea that if one and four women are affected by this with only 37 percent of pastors indicating they know somebody who is affected.
There is a need for the church to be a more welcoming place where victims of domestic violence can have a conversation. It is very difficult if you’re the one experiencing domestic violence to talk about it. For many victims, it’s embarrassing. It feels embarrassing. It feels shameful. It feels like something that you don’t want talk with others. It must get really bad for you to bring up that topic and to share that with somebody. We want that somebody to be those in the church who are ready to love that person and to help that person.
We asked the question, “If someone in your congregation files for divorce and cites domestic violence as the reason, what would your response likely be?” The lowest response out of all those options we gave them was to believe that domestic violence is not really present. We only saw one percent of pastors saying that, which is an encouraging sign that their initial reaction isn’t disbelief. There is compassion and empathy, sometimes then hopefully preparation as well to go along with that compassion and empathy.
Simple ways your church can be more prepared to help:
- Having finances ready to be able to help that person with some of the practical needs they’re going to have
- Locating a safe place for the victim to stay
- Having a referral list for legal help.
- Having someone available who can talk with that person who’s actually experienced it themselves.
The relative size of a need needs to impact our willingness to be involved. A need like this, every church needs to be prepared to help. That help may be a referral. It may be a handoff, but it is making sure that person gets the help they need. Being aware and having that plan in place, it should not be burdensome. It’s a very doable process to know counselors, to know where shelters are, and to be aware of those things. As we think of leading a ministry, in total, the relative size of a need is a very important piece of your strategic thinking.
As ministry leaders, we think we know the need, especially the need that our ministry exists to meet. The reality though is we probably don’t personally have that need. We need to hear from the people who do have that need. We also need to be partnering with people to meet that need. We need to hear from those partners what would it take to get them involved. This is a great example where research on needs and the context of that need is so helpful in making ministry decisions.