Why do we introduce non-believers to ‘church’?
What better way to introduce them to healing community than through the bride of Christ—the bride that God loved so much he gave his son for? That’s healing community! We would be remiss if we didn’t introduce them to that. However, the way we introduce them only shares the core of what church is—not the external trappings (including the vocabulary) that can cause undue stress or conflict.
The beauty of this design is that there is really no formal ‘introduction’ to church needed—as members of the group decide to continue meeting together, they already have the simple format they need to move forward successfully.
How is it that this doesn’t wrongly exploit the vulnerable?
This begins first with who is appropriate to come to a New Hope group – this material is not intended to be used with people who have been severely traumatized or who are significantly impaired in their day to day functioning.
Introducing the true source of healing never wrongly exploits the vulnerable. Forcing them to accept it does. We introduce the full story gradually through the redemptive theme of “Jesus: taking on our suffering and our sin.” By the time the trial, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is introduced, people have built a framework for understanding why God did what he did. At the “Taking your pain to Jesus” exercise, participants are invited to take their pain to Jesus, and if they would like, to also take their sin to be forgiven. This exercise happens not during the Crucifixion story, but at the Resurrection story so that participants receive the full story before making a decision. This one-session delay helps ensure they are not coerced by the high emotions of the crucifixion story when they make this decision. The facilitators do not ask what the participants have taken to Jesus—it is up to the participants to share if they would like. In this way, facilitators are in no way making an invitation, but simply giving an opportunity. It is also worth noting that New Hope is done in a group format – much of the conversation is between participants rather than one-on-one conversations with the facilitator, thus decreasing any perceived pressure for the participant to please the facilitator. Ultimately, the participant has full control over what they choose to share and their level of participation in New Hope activities.
Why do we challenge the participants share the stories with others between the sessions?
Three things are vital for those who have experienced trauma: 1) community, 2) sense of faith in God, 3) sense of purpose. Sharing the stories gives people a sense of purpose—they too can spread this good news and help someone else! In addition, in the storytelling world we say that someone doesn’t know a story well until she tells it to at least 5 people who have never heard it before. Participants need to allow these stories to seep into their core—and telling them to others is a great way to help that happen! Telling stories between sessions also gives them an opportunity to build community outside of the group with people of their own choosing. Often, people who are feeling hurt or sad will avoid interacting with people. Sharing these stories may help them to interact with others and to deepen relationships.
Why did we omit modern-day case studies?
We’d rather spend more time on the two most important aspects of the sessions: 1) being heard and practicing good listening,(we need to repeat practicing good listening to really learn how to do it) and 2) finding and internalizing healing biblical truths. The Word of God is powerful and active, and we must allow time for it to seep into the participants’ hearts. We do this by interacting deeply with the story through retelling it, discussing it, doing creative activities with it, and sharing it with people who have never heard it (this is key to learning the story, and it’s part of giving purpose!).
We’ve also found that the Joseph story feels modern to many people—and may help people open up. There may be some cases where people absolutely will not open up without modern-day stories (we haven’t yet found them but have been told that it happens in some parts of the world). In those cases, the facilitators should be prepared to share things from their own lives to provide the safe environment needed. In rare cases we can craft case studies, but we don’t want this to cause an unnecessary delay in implementing a trauma healing program, or cause inability to reproduce healing groups easily.
Why do we use stories even with literate participants?
Using stories in a trauma healing situation is not about literacy—it’s about 1) the ability (or lack thereof) of people who have experienced recent trauma to learn new things through reading or just being read to, and 2) the ability of hearing, learning, and verbalizing stories to be planted deeply into the hearts of people. Listening to a good, well-told story allows someone to really hear Truth. Learning the stories through re-telling, discussion, and creative activities helps to build a strong healing community, and verbalizing the stories to others implants the roots of the Truth of the story deeper into the heart of the teller. (It’s just like reciting Scripture verses out loud…there’s power in the spoken word.) In addition, well-learned stories begin to form new templates or structures of healthy actions and interactions in people. The stories we learn from childhood, whether read, told, or seen in movies, form a foundation on which we tend to build our actions. What goes in comes out. As we input Truth in forms that are easily understood and interacted with, Truth will begin to come out.
Keeping the material completely oral allows you to be better prepared to talk with someone. If you are having coffee with someone and they begin talking about their own heart wounds you already know the stories, listening “rules,” and some activities that you can do.
Storying in a simple structure is also the best way to ensure reproducibility to the next generation, whether or not they read. It allows for non-readers to become facilitators and train others to become facilitators also. It empowers facilitators and participants because most of our participants will be able to tell a story to someone else, even if they feel like they can’t ‘teach.’
Boal has found (Theatre of the Oppressed) that guided drama/theatre is one of the best ways to help oppressed people find a way forward…
Why isn’t there more trauma discussion in New Hope?
Although there’s less trauma discussion in NH, very basic skills are built before moving on to more ‘meaty’ trauma situations (in the follow up sets). Listening begins to become intuitive so that you can build on it in following sets. This is about walking someone through a journey of healing and learning HOW to walk alongside someone, so that we build life-skills as we live life together. It’s experiencing things together slowly, systematically, and progressively (step by step). We are not doing a curriculum as much as building up people to have the skills to deal with traumatic situations and people. Building up PEOPLE is the most important thing, and it takes time…
The bottom line is that people who have significant trauma should be under the care of a professional. Focusing on trauma rather than heart wounds may make people hesitate to help and we (as followers of Christ) will miss people who just need to be loved and listened to.
How do we stay accountable to maintaining a healthy balance of oral communication principles, best multiplication principles, and quality trauma healing?
New Hope’s advisory board is composed of experienced members from each of these disciplines. They receive reports and give feedback on directions for New Hope, new curriculum, and structural/training issues.