7 Ways to Know if a Church is Safe for Abuse Victims or Divorcees

 

Are you looking for a new church when you need a separation or divorce?

Did you know that nearly 6 in 10 churchgoing Christians switch churches when they go through a divorce or separation? That's surprising. But it is completely understandable: Sometimes you just feel awkward staying at your old church. And sometimes your Bible study friends give you the message they are uncomfortable having you there. Or sometimes you just want to avoid seeing your ex.

You have options! You can find another church without spending months driving around. You can find a church that doesn't treat all divorcees as second-class Christians. You want a church that takes your story seriously and empathizes. Anyone who got a life-saving divorce can hold their head high. It took courage, effort, and struggle to get away from that toxic environment.

Safe churches require some work to find. Some churches describe all divorcees as quitters who took the easy way out. That's not fair. You want empathetic leadership that knows how hard you tried, and doesn't accuse you of ignoring God's Word and not valuing the sanctity of marriage. You want a church that is supportive of life-saving divorces, and knows that sometimes they are necessary.

LifeWay Research (the research affiliate of the Southern Baptists) published this graph that shows nearly 6 in 10 churchgoers switch churches when they divorce. That means most divorced Christians switched churches!
This graph shows that nearly 6 in 10 churchgoing Christians switch churches when they divorce.
This graph shows that nearly 6 in 10 churchgoing Christians switch churches when they divorce.
Look for a Church Online!
Don't waste your time driving to a church and awkwardly walking in the door, when you can check it out in advance by listening to the pastors' sermons online.
You will learn a lot by seeing how pastors and leaders talk about marriage and divorce. I did this for a friend who moved to a new town. It took me about few hours, but it's less stressful than visiting each church in person. Who wants to drag their kids to a new church, worry about gossip and whispers, and just feel awkward again? Who wants to spend hours getting your family in the car, only to hear another church leader say, "When you walk away from your marriage, you're walking away from Jesus"?

 

7 Ways to Know

  • SERMONS. Go to the church's website. Look for a link to their sermons. Marriage is a common topic and many churches have at least one marriage sermon every year. Start looking through the sermon archives for any sermon on marriage or the family.  (If they have a sermon on abuse or domestic violence, you may have found a safe church! But listen anyway.)

 

  • ABUSE. In the marriage sermons, is abuse is ever mentioned? Are examples of abuse given? You're looking for specific examples such as intimidation, domination, striking, threatening, lying, deception, squandering the rent or grocery money, etc.

 

  • DIVORCE. When the topic of divorce comes up, how many "acceptable" biblical reasons for divorce are listed? Is physical and emotional abuse specifically mentioned as biblical grounds for divorce? See this chart on church views on divorce. Does the pastor give the impression that most divorces are frivolous and only a handful are really for serious reasons? (The truth is that about half of divorces in the U.S. are for life-saving reasons.) Does the sermon suggest that the person who files for divorce is the one who destroyed the marriage? Does the sermon suggest that all divorce can be avoided if just one person pray harder and sets a good example, regardless of the behavior of the other?
THREE CHRISTIAN VIEWS OF DIVORCE (3)

 

  • PUTTING THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE MARRIAGE ON ONE SPOUSE.  How does the sermon describe men and women? Does it generalize, saying that all or most men are one way and all or most women are another? Are men portrayed as clever and busy yet poor at communication? Or possibly as immature beings who need a good woman to straighten them out? Are women described as emotional and weak? Or possibly as nags and whiners who need a firm hand? Are all marriage problems blamed on the wife for not being submissive, cheerful, or agreeable enough?

 

  • PASTOR'S SPOUSE.  How does the pastor speak about his own spouse? Is there a hint of sarcasm or put-downs or giving too much information? Do ministers say anything about their spouse that makes you cringe?

 

  • SEX. Is sex portrayed as a man's right at any time, day or night—something that men need and women must give in order to keep them from cheating or doing porn? If so, this church likely doesn't take sexual immorality and sexual deviations seriously. Is sex-on-demand recommended from the pulpit?  If so, this church doesn't think sexual coercion and marital rape are a big deal. This is not a healthy message.

 

 

Next check the comparison chart of Christian denominations to learn their official policies on divorce for abuse. Obviously some pastors have their own views that diverge from their denomination. But you should know what that church's denomination believes up front.  Also, it's okay to call the pastor before visiting and ask if they accept physical and emotional abuse as valid grounds for divorce.
CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK TO THE CHURCH/DENOMINATION COMPARISON CHART

Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.


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