Most Protestant pastors (73%) believe they are “somewhat equipped” for trauma care ministry, but they feel less able to effectively minister to those who have experienced forms of abuse, according to a Barna Group report published Aug. 4.

For example, 88% feel prepared to minister to those facing the death of a loved one, 71% to those going through divorce and 65% to people dealing with the loss of a job.

However, only 25% feel equipped to care for those who experienced sexual abuse, 24% those who endured physical abuse and 21% those who experienced child abuse.

Presented another way, while only 3% feel unprepared to minister to those grieving a loved one’s death, 8% divorce and 9% job loss, 46% say they are not prepared to care for parishioners facing sexual abuse, 45% child abuse and 31% physical abuse.

Other areas where less than a quarter of Protestant ministers feel equipped are:

  • Racial discrimination (22% prepared; 35% unprepared)
  • Exposure to trauma through a job (17%; 32%)
  • Large-scale conflicts (12%; 53%)
  • Homicide (12%; 54%)

Barna explored factors contributing to respondents’ sense of being equipped to help care for parishioners facing the more than 20 expressions of trauma included in the survey.

“We see the biggest boost in pastors feeling prepared to handle trauma when they have preached on it in the past six months, when they have received a master’s degree program in therapy or counseling and when they have personally experienced or witnessed a traumatic event,” the report said.

“This finding indicates that a good deal of pastors’ preparation to handle trauma in their congregations comes from accumulated personal experience and professional training. It also suggests that pastors who have not thought much about trauma (whether via experience, training or teaching) may be at a disadvantage when a person with trauma comes to their church.”

Most respondents had training in counseling as part of a degree program (62%), but only 13% had received supervised clinical work and only 7% held a master’s degree in therapy or counseling.

The margin of error is plus-or-minus 4.2%. The full report is available here.

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