Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Crisis Counseling for Ministers: Thing to Consider with Cases Involving Sexual Misconduct

I've been working through James D. Berkley's Called into Crisis: The Nine Greatest Challenges of Pastoral Care (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas, TX: Christianity Today; Word Books, 1989). At the end of each chapter is a "Quick Scan" section where a minister can quickly consult some considerations when facing a pastoral crisis. Here are the considerations from the book when a minister is facing situations involving sexual misconduct in others (or even themselves).


Immediate concerns:

1. The emotional stability of victims and victimizers demands first attention. Deep pain, anger, or hurt are in play.

2. You may need to try to forestall permanent “solutions” (quick divorce, violence, rash acts) born in anger or despair.

Keep in mind:

1. Lies foster marriage dissolution. Truthfulness may hurt like an incision, but it begins the healing process.

2. Lust has its attraction. It needs to be replaced with something better rather than preached into submission. The shining possibilities of truly knowing God or deeply experiencing marital love offer hope.

3. Sexual deviations usually require more than volition to be healed. Much has brought the person to this place; much needs to be done to move him or her into proper relationships. Prayer, spiritual healing, and competent counseling will probably have to team up to effect a change.

Things to do or say:

1. Hear the story. Let it all come out. It’s probably been bottled up a long time.

2. Stand for righteousness, but in an inviting way that makes the right more compelling than the wrong.

3. In cases of infidelity, work with the couple if possible. If not, build up the will and emotional strength of the cooperative one to make that person prepared for the hard work of reconciliation, should it be possible.

4. Insist on the whole story being told to a spouse who knows any part of the infidelity. Buried secrets have a way of returning and destroying tentative new trust.

5. Use the power of prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, and great music to reach deeper than the intellect.

6. Radiate hope for the ability to make things right. Believe in the people even when they no longer believe in themselves.

Things not to do or say:

1. Do not denounce persons, only sin.

2. Do not neglect the seemingly strong party. Outward calm often masks seething internal emotions.

3. Do not allow confidences to be broken.

4. Do not expect easy resolution. Sexuality is a slippery creature difficult to capture and tame.