Good Intentions are not enough

Good Intentions are not enough

Frank talk about pastoral abuse of power

I usually don’t lose sleep at night after I see clients who talk to me about their struggle, grief and traumas–with one notable exception. When a client comes in to talk about being harmed by a spiritual/religious leader, it’s hard to hear. While abuse is never acceptable, there’s a special sort of harm done when it comes from someone who represents a sacred love, trust and safety. It messes with a person’s head, heart and soul in ways that are unspeakable. To witness the damage by a leader who, by their role, represents an all loving Creator is something that is a challenge for anybody, even a seasoned therapist.

Good Intentions are not enough: Frank talk about pastoral vulnerability and abuses of power

I’ve also, in a previous life, been married to a minister. I would see him struggling under the weight of ministry. I would see how lonely and isolating ministry was for him. I could see him carrying burdens that most of his congregants couldn’t know existed. I could see how folks in his church were unkind and hurtful–some unwittingly and others intentionally. In every church, there are a few who take license to be hurtful to spiritual leaders and not take responsibility or apologize for it.

Pastors bleed red too. Many are lonely and isolated in a way they know others wouldn’t understand. While the rest of the church might bring their struggles to friends, a pastor may not find themselves able to do so–because their friends are part of the very church that creates the burdens.

When pastors find themselves struggling under the weight of shame, discouragement, weariness and broken trust, they are in need of care. If pastors do not have adaptive means of seeking support and connection, there is a unacceptable statistical possibility they will find connection with someone through the abuse of power.

A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. Brene Brown We abuse power.

Abuse of power is simply not acceptable. But abuse of power is a possibility without awareness and without adaptive tools to deal with the inevitable stressors of ministry.

Carolyn Klassen has developed a seminar designed to have spiritual leaders contemplate their role, the challenges of being in spiritual leadership and the vulnerability to abuse power.

Feedback from these seminars has been incredibly positive, with leaders feeling encouraged and inspired and encouraged, as well as better equipped to deal with the inevitable challenges of spiritual leadership.

This workshop enables leaders to make better choices in the future, when the going gets rough and they are tempted to abuse power to shore up themselves. It is my prayer that this workshop:

  1. Prevents a person from being abused by a spiritual leader by coercion, manipulation, inappropriate physical touch, spiritual abuse and more. Preventing this abuse saves a victim from the trauma of a destructive and abusive experience that has ripple effects on others relationships, their own mental health, their spiritual health and more.
  2. Saves a church from the disillusionment, divisiveness and confusion that abuse of power by their spiritual leader creates.
  3. Creates a space to have a pastor/minister make choices that will not destroy their career, mental health and devastate their family.

A recent leader wrote to me: Please hear loud and clear that the workshop was amazing! I’m super grateful. Our Provincial Faith and Life Team were all in strong affirmation. Please continue to facilitate these types of conversations. I’ve never been in a workshop or received teaching, outside of a podcast or two, that asks the question ‘What do I do if I feel an intimate attraction to someone I’m working with or supporting?” This is real, but never spoken. You’re leading us with courage and grace!

Further information can be found here regarding format, content and options for length of seminar.

“It was a gift to have Carolyn Klassen guide seventy-five of our church leaders into a space of addressing vulnerability together. Beyond simply maintaining relational boundaries and maintaining one’s devotional life, Carolyn spoke to realities deep within our hearts. I’ve never before heard a public presenter address the inner realities of a leader with this degree of clarity and gracious invitation. We were inspired to seek the relational connections with God and others that are needed to survive and even thrive in the complex and beautiful role of a pastor. I believe that Carolyn’s work among us helped to shape a culture of openness  among our pastors that will have lasting effect.”

Ryan Jantzi, Ministry Director ONMB

I’m happy to recommend Carolyn and her seminar presentation called “Good Intentions are not Enough.” She highlights the central human need for “connection,” the beauty (and the ugliness) that can result from the pursuit of this need for connection, and ways to maximize the good and protect against harm. Carolyn has significant personal experience and professional expertise that has prepared her well to speak about this topic for leaders who are in caring professions.

Ken Esau, National Director CCMBC

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