Sep 12

Trauma-Informed Ministry Interview with “The Catch” (9 mins)

Here are the written responses to the interview Chris Haughee had with Erik Cave of the Pacific NW Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The ECC is represented in Montana by two of Intermountain’s supporting Churches: LIFE Covenant and Headwaters Covenant Church, both located in Helena.

Quick Links:

Written Responses:

  • Who are you and what is your work/ministry setting?

My name is Chris Haughee (pronounced “Hoy”), and I am a part-time minister in two settings. First, I work for Intermountain in Church Relations. Intermountain is a family and mental health ministry that has served the children of Montana for 113 years. I served as chaplain to the residential program for 8 years, and since 2012 have served them exclusively in my current role that involves writing, advocacy, training, and friend/fundraising within faith-based settings. Thankfully, I can do most of that work remotely, because the pandemic brought a move for our family to Prosser, Washington. Since that move, I have also served part-time as a pastor for Desert Springs Covenant Church, where we are seeking God’s direction for a ministry post-pandemic, and revitalizing the church’s impact and growth through missional outreach and intentional evangelism. I find that both part-time ministries inform each other, and while there are certainly aspects of ministering in two different states and in two distinct roles that challenge my skills and capacity, it humbles me and keeps me dependent on the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance.

  • Why is trauma-sensitive ministry so important?

Jesus’ ministry was trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive. I am convinced of that! In fact, as part of my doctoral work, I wrote a series of articles under the title, “Was Jesus’ ministry trauma-informed.” That original article has been viewed over 4,000 times on the website pacesconnection.com and my definition for a trauma-informed ministry has been included in countless trainings across the country and world since I first suggested it in 2016. A trauma-informed ministry is one that:

  1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma–those deeply distressing and emotional experiences that leave lasting effects–and provides practical ministry interventions as well as support for ongoing mental health interventions.
  2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in the children, youth, men, and women it ministers to as well as the effects that living with a traumatized individual has on all relationships–marriage, family, work, and social.
  3. Responds to the need within its worshipping community and the needs of its neighbors by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into church and ministry policies, procedures, and ministry practices. And,
  4. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization that can occur when appropriate recognition and intervention is not wed with compassion and commitment to relationship and supportive structures that destigmatize mental health issues.

Trauma-informed or trauma-sensitive ministry does not demand that we all become mental health experts or therapists! It really isn’t much more complicated than making a commitment to understanding the challenges that have faced the people in your congregation and community and how traumas from their past may affect their receptivity to the gospel and the ministry of the church. I believe that being trauma-sensitive will help us be more effective in ministry and outreach!

My hope and dream is that EVERY ministry in the Covenant could embrace the concepts of a trauma-sensitive approach. I am happy to help any congregation, minister, youth group, or mission outreach that wants to walk through these concepts and see how they would apply to the unique calling God has for them.

  • What can churches and leaders do to grow in trauma-sensitive ministry?

First, exhibit a willingness to learn and grow. Humility is a key first step to leaning into trauma-sensitive ministry. Second, make use of the materials mentioned below and what can be found online. Third, reach out to me or other leaders who have experience in trauma-sensitive ministry. Finally, understand that trauma-sensitive ministry isn’t a program or extension of your ministry… it is a way of viewing your ministry through the lens of trauma and its very real impact on the hearts, minds, and souls of those in your church and community. You may even find healing and restoration for areas of deep hurt and pain in your own life!

  • What resources do you offer and how can our leaders engage with you?

I would encourage everyone to check out the curriculum I wrote called “Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks.” It’s an 8-week Bible study for small groups in trauma-informed ministry and compassionate outreach to individuals with adversity in childhood, available through Amazon, and you can find it HERE: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1733812318/

For the impact of mental health on the individual who longs to be a part of the church, I can think of no better resource than Amy Simpson’s book, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission.

A great “how-to” manual for getting started in mental health ministry is Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions. Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Grcevich, is a trusted friend and colleague.

Those that would be interested in the work and ministry of Intermountain may be interested in the 30-day devotional I wrote called Hope for Healing. Our own Greg Yee endorsed the book, saying, “Chris does a great job standing at the intersection of the text and context; the timeless truths of Scripture and the realities of this time and space God places us. Intermountain provides a unique yet universal window into our human experience. Hope for Healing is engaging and practical, but most of all it invites us to walk closer to Jesus.” It can be found HERE: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Healing-Gods-Work-Places/dp/1733812326