Posted by: Botolff | January 28, 2009

Good intentions.

I just finished up a meeting with a pastor who oversees small groups at a church in my area.  I went to meet with him to let him know I am offering some services that I thought could be of some help to him and his congregation.  He was so excited about what I had to offer the students, adults and families he is connected to, until…

He asked me if I was a part of a local church in the area.  I told him I meet with a number of individuals who talk about God together, pray together and break bread together.  So, yes, I’m a part of the church, but not attending a traditional local church.  I told him I also see a lot of boundary issues around the kind of services I offer and being a part of a community that I offer them to, so I’m careful not to mix the two.  He then said, “You don’t have to answer this question if you don’t want to, but is it just the professional issues that keep you from being part of a community?”  First, there is never a clear dividing line between professional and personal.  Second, I would end up answering that question whether I actually said anything or not.  Because to say “Pass” would have been the answer.  So, I decided to tell him.

“I recently had a pretty rough ending to an experience with a church and I’m a little gun shy right now.”  Of course he followed up with the same precursor, and then asked, “Can I ask what happened?”  I said, “Well, I began to name the abuse and deception of some of the leaders in the church and they decided it was time to get rid of me.”  Then he said, “Well, I’m just asking because we believe it’s important that we practice what we preach, and was wondering if you would promote people being a part of a church community.” 

See what just happened?  He dropped me.  He didn’t ask me if I needed help or what he could do.  He wanted to know if I was going to go back to church and if I believed that “going to church” was vital for other people.  He dismissed what may have been best for me, and others, in order to tell me what’s most important for everyone according to his system of thought.  He put agenda over person.  A core theme of forced terminations.  He then went on to tell me a story about a friend of his who “innocently” got hurt in ministry by some Christian leader’s “good intentions.”  That’s when it was time to crack open the truth on a totally different level.  I told him that I’m not sure if he was trying to infer that what happened to me was an “innocent result of good intentions,” but I could assure him that there was nothing innocent about what was done to me.  I went on to tell him about the research that has been done about forcefully terminated pastors, and the story about one pastor who I talked to who told me that one night in the middle of his termination he was curled up half naked in the middle of his hardwood floor shaking uncontrollably.  When his wife asked him if he wanted her to take him to the hospital, he said no, because “they wouldn’t understand.” 

He went on to tell me that they don’t do specific referrals at their church, but that he would put me on their list in case someone is looking for options.  If someone sees me on there then maybe they will give me a call.  In our departure, he gave me a flyer for the men’s group that meets at their church and told me “There’s no pressure or anything, but I just wanted to give you this.  It’s got the dates that we meet.  You know, I just thought maybe you’d want it.”  I didn’t, and if he was listening to what I said, he would have known that handing me a flyer was like me telling people who have been traumatized in a local church that, it doesn’t matter what happened to them, it’s vital to go back.   

It is true that people get hurt through “good intentions” all the time.  Maybe the pastor I met with today had good intentions.  But until we can begin to take time to engage the pain in people’s voices, and learn to care for them according to their story and not our agenda, we will continue to re-traumatize them.  Part of listening to and caring for a number of people’s stories is realizing that there are a lot of individuals walking this earth who don’t have good intentions behind their decisions/actions.  People can be malicious, vindictive, deceptive, manipulative and otherwise downright mean.  And attending a typical men’s group isn’t likely to pave the way for us to deal with that.



  1. I have had way too many conversations like this. These people just don’t seem to get it. There is a difference between being task-oriented and being a jerk.


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