"We are interested in starting a safe house for SRA survivors and want to know if you could share with us some boundaries and guidelines about live-in SRA survivors. Any information would be greatly appreciated."
Ed Smith's response:
There are more and more people using this approach to help this segment of the church. Though I fully support ministry to these wounded people I do have some precautions that I believe should be considered. I share these from many hours of personal experience. I have walked this path and know both its joys and also deep pain and disappointment.
First, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines that I released last year. I have included them at the bottom of this email. These are very important and the result of many thousands of hours of experience. Consider modeling your policy and approach after what I have offered.
Second, decide ahead of time what you will expect and tolerate from those with whom you offer ministry. Have clear rules that you can live by and enforce. For example, what will you do with those who choose to self-mutilate? What will be your policy if a person is found to be participating in unacceptable behavior outside the house (or in the house?) Are you prepared to enforce the consequences?
Third, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Fourth, have a good networking relationship with the mental health community and law enforcement agencies in your area. Set up meetings to discuss what you will be doing and involve them to what degree they are willing to participate.
Fifth, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Sixth, have a medical doctor that is willing to see and treat as necessary those that you will be helping. You may encounter all manner of emotional and physical problems (such as eating disorders, panic, psychosis, etc.) You need help with this. Do not seek to go it alone. Make you circle as wide as you are able and keep what you are doing in the light.
Seventh, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Eighth, never place yourself in a position where what is happening is your word against his or hers. Do what you do in the presence of other witnesses. Protect yourself from being falsely accused at any level. Trust the hearts that are connected to Jesus but do not trust the minds that are deeply wounded. Betrayal is not uncommon in this area of ministry.
Ninth, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Tenth, accept that even after investing many long and hard hours of ministry that things may not turn out very well. The person you are ministering to may turn back from where they have come and choose to make very poor decisions. Keep your eyes fixed upon God and not on the end result or outcome. People are accountable for the choices they make and must be left to be accountable. Do not try to rescue anyone. The moment you do you will find yourself in a double-bind and have a hard time finding release.
Eleven, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Twelve, do not make any promises about what you may believe may or may not happen. Leave the outcome with the Lord. You really do not know how it will all turn out. Let the person take responsibility for their own journey just as you must for your own.
Thirteen, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Fourteen, consider investing in some high tech equipment to monitor what is happening when you are away and not watching. Inform all persons involved and staying in your place what you are doing and get a signed agreement from them that they are aware that you are doing this.
Fifteen, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Sixteen, I would not bring people reporting SRA memories into a home where
there are children present.
Seventeen, read and adhere to the SRA guidelines.
Eighteen, reconsider doing what you are proposing. However, you must seek the Lord in this. Only move in this direction if you have complete peace. Do not do so if you are operating from any level of anxiety, fear, etc. Limit the number of people you offer ministry to 2 and at most 3. Staff your operation where no one is having to do it all. I would not advise the person doing the ministry to live in the house. Let this person keep some emotional distance from those that he is ministering with. The people who live in the house can do the encouraging, general praying but probably should not do the ministry itself. There is the real possibility that you may be setting yourself up under the circumstances.
Nineteen, read the following guidelines very carefully.
Important guidelines for working with SRA
1. Take the time upfront before doing ministry with people reporting SRA to build a good infrastructure in your ministry to support the work you will be offering.
Only people who are spiritually mature and seasoned ministers need to enter into this area of ministry. Select your ministers carefully. Also, never hesitate to remove someone from a ministry role if they do not meet this requirement.
Only allow those who are equipped with the knowledge of this area to do this ministry. Train, train and retrain and then supervise those whom you train. Follow the Theophostic Prayer Ministry Guidelines to the letter. Hold every member accountable.
Work under the umbrella of either a church or an established ministry structure where there is some level of accountability.
Become networked with the mental and medical health community to the degree you are able. If you are a mental health professional, consider connecting with a church and/or lay ministry so that you can offer help and oversight. Know the laws of your area concerning ongoing abuse that may need to be reported, etc.
Use consent forms and "hold harmless agreements." Many of these are available in the book "Keeping Your Ministry Out of Court" by Wilder and Smith. See http://www.theophostic.com/
This point is important! When developing your infrastructure, make sure that each member of the team is doing only what they need to be doing and avoid one member doing it all. I would suggest that no single individual be doing both ministry (Theophostic prayer, counseling, memory work, etc.) and also the personal relationship/encouragement aspect of ministry. If one person is expected to be the person's friend/ emotional support in relationship and also do the ministry, this minister may find him or herself in a difficult position. I fully acknowledge that in some cases this is not so but I would strongly advise you to avoid mixing the two if at all possible. The minister needs to be able to be disconnected emotionally with the ministry recipient so that they are able to provide effective ministry and not be emotionally torn and distracted should the victim make poor choices (such as deceiving the minister, going back to the occult, betraying trust, etc.) The person doing the day-to-day encouragement, prayer times, bible studies etc. will bond emotionally with the person which is natural. This Christian bonding is a good and necessary thing but will cause difficulty when it is mixed with doing the ministry. Conversely, the one who is doing the relational role should avoid providing ministry and defer this to the designated party. In the psychology world this is called avoiding having a dual relationship. I realize that I have taught somewhat a different perspective in the past but I have also learned the hard way that spreading the ministry around is the better option. When I first began ministering with SRA people I had no other option but do it all. In the early days I could not find anyone willing to help. Today things are better.
2. Operate in the arena of tangible truth. This is by far the most important guideline that you MUST follow lest you quickly find yourself in a very bad place.
Live your life in the world of the tangible, not in the victim's reality. Trust in the Lord with all your heart but regard what the victim says as possible, but very likely, tainted reality.
As you are given information by the one reporting the SRA memory ask yourself this question, "Do I know without a doubt (based on hard core physical evidence) that what has been told me is indeed fact or is it only this person's reality?" Then live your life based upon what is tangible fact while doing ministry in the person's reality whatever it may be. If you try to live your life in the person's reported reality (which may or may not be valid) you will find yourself feeling, acting and governed by that which may or may not be entirely true. Avoid this at all cost. This does not mean that you cannot support and encourage the person who has reported non-verifiable information. But until you know something to be true then it has the potential for not being so. If you live in the supposed truth you will be emotionally influenced by this reality. Walk and live in that which you KNOW is the truth.
Never assume that the information surfacing in a victim's memory is totally accurate. Unless you have evidence of crimes committed that would hold up in court, do not take any action or even embrace as fact unless you know for certain. It is easy to be caught up in the victim's reality. Operate on tangible truth. Let your goal be to lead the wounded person to the presence of Jesus for His truth and peace. If it turns out that what they have reported is not totally accurate but is still infested with lie-based thinking and they find freedom this is still God's purpose. If the victim identifies others as victims, DO NOT seek to expose, rescue, inform etc. such people with this information. People move toward freedom by choice. If you run ahead you will create major problems. It is not your job to convince anyone of anything. In doing so you may very well be caught up in falsehood yourself. Let what is reported be what it is; the person's reality. There is a strong possibility that the identities that a person reports are not accurate and if there have been perpetrators involved this information may possibly have been implanted to discredit and create confusion.
3. Do not share information outside the circle of solution. (This principle is an absolute!) "Every person has at least one trusted friend that would never tell anyone else. but that friend does too. and so on." Never discuss what has been revealed in a session with ANYONE who is not a part of the ministry team working specifically with the victim and is a part of the circle of solution and certainly not without the permission of the ministry recipient. Should you share confidential information with another, go to this person with whom you shared the information and seek their forgiveness for a wrong committed and ask his or her commitment to maintain the information at all cost. KEEP THE INFORMATION THAT SURFACES WELL CONTAINED. If you fail to do this there is a good chance that you and your ministry will eventually be discredited.
4. Never make (or even suggest) an accusations of any person unless you have COURT PROOF evidence. You will have to provide evidence to back up any accusation you may make. If your evidence is limited to the report of the person you may find yourself and the person being discredited. Adopt a wait and see attitude. The Lord can expose what He chooses as He chooses. Remember, horrific as it is, the victim's suffering is temporal. The evil people will suffer for all eternity. Just because a victim says a person is bad does not make it so. It is possible that the evil people would like for you to take action, to come forward with seemingly bizarre and far-fetched accusations, in order to discredit you. Unless you have verifiable evidence there is little you can do but pray, minister and encourage. However, never forget the truth that the Lord has said that vengeance belongs to Him.
5. Avoid getting caught up in the "global conspiracies" and supposed "high ranking" position the victim believes they hold in the occult or other non-tangible beliefs reported by a victim. The person will find freedom when they choose to look at what they have hidden. The positional beliefs may all part of the deception to keep the person from ever revealing what they know. Truth and confession is the way out. Secrecy and denial maintains the bondage. The person must be responsible for the inner choices they are making to keep things hidden. It has been observed that these beliefs about position, rank and order often hide places that the person does not want to expose.
6. Do not ever stand between the victim and his or her reported abusers. Your futile attempts in protecting the victim will only cause you to be discredited at some point. It is impossible for you to protect a person from his or her own choices. When enough healing has occurred, the victim may make appropriate choices. The control the evil people are reported to hold over the victim is fear, intimidation and blackmail. When the victim stands in truth and perfect peace, the evil people believed to be involved should retreat.
7. Never assume that the person reporting the abuse is everything they are presenting themselves to be. I have worked with some people reporting SRA memories that I came to trust that later turned out to be completely untrustworthy. If what is being reported is true about some of these victims, then they are highly invested in protecting themselves from being exposed and may even be willing to betray you to keep things secret. I am NOT saying that all people who report SRA memory are untrustworthy. Every person's case must be evaluated on its own merit. However, if what is being reported is accurate to some degree then the potential for deception is great. There is a passage of Scripture in the Gospel of John that has helped me live in an untrusting world in a more balanced fashion. After Jesus had done ministry and brought healing into people's lives he still held a cautious distance. It says that "when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, ?observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for ?He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, ?for He Himself knew what was in man" (John 2:23-25). Jesus himself did not entrust himself to all people. He was selective in who He trusted and as I serve Him in this ministry, I have learned to be as well.
8. Avoid becoming the person's lifeline. You cannot rescue them from anything. They must rely upon the Lord and continually seek Him just as you do. The victim's captivity is completely held in place by his or her own belief and choice. If you find yourself believing that you are their hope, way out, protection etc. you have been deceived and are in a perpetual double-bind. The victim will either knowingly or unknowingly use this to keep from being responsible and looking at what they do not want to see.
9. Avoid being caught up in the lie that says, "You are the only one that can help me" or "You are the only person that I can trust." This is a falsehood and a double-bind that very well may be used to trap you and sabotage you and your ministry.
10. Inform the person receiving ministry of what you are required to report to authorities should they surface information that is self-incriminating. (e.g. Children being abused, crimes committed, etc). Unless you are an ordained minister and have verified that your state gives you "clergy-penitent" privileges, help the person to confess his or her sin with out giving you specific information that would require you to file a report. You do not need to know the details of the person's memories or sins committed. Help them to look at what they need to know and see without giving you incriminating information. Provide a disclaimer on your ministry intake forms and remind the person of this often. Example disclaimer might be:
"Should you reveal information that leads me to believe that children or the elderly have been hurt or other crimes have been committed I am required by law to report this to the proper authorities." As stated above, each state has different laws and requirements. For example; some do not require a licensed and/or ordained minister to report while others do. Know what your state requires. Remind the person from session to session the importance of avoiding statements of self-incrimination and your obligation to report such. You do not need to know the details; ages, identities, etc.
· If a person ever threatens to harm himself or others, report this to the proper authorities or agencies that are equipped to deal with this. Do not try to be the person's savior. Inform the person that if they ever threaten suicide, self-mutilation etc. that you will immediately take appropriate action and report it.
· It is a good idea for you to network with your local officials and inform them of the type of ministry that you are doing and to inform them of the nature of the reports that the SRA person is making. Seek the counsel of your local authorities as to what protocol they expect of you. This is good protection for you and for the one reporting the information.
11. Never place the victim or the ministry before your marriage or family. If the ministry or the victim ever hinders the health and vitality of your marriage/family relationships, you are being deceived! Know that God will use the victim to expose, test and help your marriage grow, but that Satan will also seek to use the victim to destroy it. If you have given your ministry to the SRA priority over your marriage, you have already been deceived and are very close to being "taken out." If you find yourself being drawn into a relationship with the victim that is less than righteous or one that creates any level of discord or tension in your marriage then you are being deceived. Once again, it is wise to offer care and ministry to people who report the unthinkable and leave the debate of the validity of SRA with others.
Ministering to people who report SRA memory
Things we do know about SRA:
There are people coming for help to counselors, pastors and lay ministers all across the country who are reporting horrific memories and living lives filled with pain and dysfunction. These same people believe that they have endured, and some say they are still enduring, torture and trauma from evil people. The people making such reports need ministry, love and encouragement whether what they report is true or not. We cannot prove (with court proof evidence) if these reports are valid however, the circumstantial evidence makes it difficult to deny its reality. If we wait until the validity of SRA is settled before we do anything for these hurting people, they will still be at the same place they were before the debate began. As we offer ministry to these people a portion of them are moving out of the emotional duress into the light of Christ and walking in more consistent victory and living transformed lives. This is what we are called to do as a church.
Several things to keep in mind as you enter into this area of ministry:
Be certain it is God's purpose that you do this area of ministry. Not everyone is called to do ministry with people who report SRA. There is also a number of people who are simply not at a level of spiritual maturity or emotional well being to do this work. Over the years I have consistently noticed a significant number of people at our trainings who are very deeply wounded themselves, even though they seem to have little self-awareness of it. I encourage you to stop and seriously look inside to see what is driving your desire to minister to others in emotional pain. You may be operating out of pain rather than peace. This area of ministry WILL probably expose your own lie-based pain in ways you have not experienced before. The danger is that some people never recognize their own need for ministry and thus operate out of pain, frustration, fear, stress, anxiety all the while blaming it on others and the situation. Secure a person who can offer you ministry on a regular basis. Unfortunate (and unnecessary) things tend to occur in the context of emotionally wounded facilitators who get exposed and are not in a position to seek ministry and/or be accountable to others. If you enter into ministry with a person reporting SRA memories and have not found resolution for your own deep pain you may be a disaster waiting to happen.
If you are certain that you have been called to minister with people reporting SRA memories or manifesting deep levels of emotional pain, equip yourself well to do the ministry. Do not limit your training in helping others to Theophostic Prayer Ministry alone. There are other avenues of training that can make you more balanced and equipped. Be cautious as you seek out other forms of ministry to be sure that they are balanced and Christ centered. Stay clear of the mystical and far-fetched aspects of teaching that abound. If SRA is real then the bottom line is, you have people who have been hurt very deeply who are choosing to hold to beliefs that are keeping them in bondage. Encouraging them to willfully look at what they have hidden and go to the traumatic places of pain that they have buried and therein find the truth of Christ. Freedom comes as they are willing to come clean and choose to expose all that is hidden no matter the cost.
If you are a pastor, do not allow people who are not spiritually mature, emotionally strong and well on their own healing journey to do this level of ministry. This area of ministry should not be done by the spiritually/emotionally immature or the new Christian. I encourage all pastors and church leaders to be slow in selecting who will do ministry and who will not. Often the ones most eager are the ones less ready to do it. Set up the ministry so that you are provided with ways of releasing people from ministry if they do not work out. Develop clear guidelines that must be followed and high standards that must be met. If people cannot operate within this structure deal with them in a loving but firm manner. It is better that you not have a ministry to wounded people than to have ill equipped people doing ministry.