Questionnaire Today we’re thinking and/or talking about The Great Church Exodus (more below)…. Barb started it. Barb Orlowski is in the D.Min. program at A.C.T.S. Seminary at TWU in Langley, B.C.. Speaking of Christians who have experienced the emotional and spiritual effects of authoritarian or controlling church leaders, Barb writes,

There are many Christians who have faced the untimely distress of this particular yet widespread phenomenon. Many have simply left the church, while others have made an effort to reintegrate into a local church setting. It has taken courage for them to desire to reconnect with a pastor and seek their assistance in processing their grief and disillusionment with previous church leaders.

She is looking for research participants to complete her dissertation on this subject — specifically, she needs people who have at one time or another left church (i.e., you have a CLB) following very negative experiences. She describes it this way:

Church Leavers:

  1. Christians who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress under authoritarian and controlling church leaders and who have ceased to be associated with those congregations;
  2. Christians who subsequently have recognized and processed their spiritual grief and pain and have experienced spiritual recovery;
  3. Christians who are willing to share how they have processed their negative experience and have recovered spiritual harmony; and
  4. those who can share what has happened since this painful episode: Christians who can answer the question, “What factors have helped you to restore your confidence in God and His people?”

Barb is also looking for pastors or leaders who have received such people back into a church setting and been able to provide spiritual guidance to such people. She’d like to hear “how you, as a pastor, have provided spiritual guidance and encouragement for individuals who have faced this type of emotional and spiritual pain at the hands of those that they had trusted as their spiritual leaders.”

I think she’s tackling an important subject here. It’s been written about quite widely and continues to be explored, but as far as I know, nothing so systematic as what Barb is undertaking — Barna‘s would be the closest. Many of those who have left are wondering when the church they left will wake up to what’s going on… and this kind of analysis is one method of educating the church in this area. Barb can be reached by email to obtain further details on the study including the questionnaire she has prepared and pertinent confidentiality information. I understand the amount of effort required is fairly minimal but I think the value of her work will increase with sample size, so drop her a note and be sure to mention my name.

The subject is on my brain today. In unrelated acts of linkage, Erin pointed out “Becoming Churchless 101”, a very good post by Kevin Shinn. And of course the latest BarnaBit (because I mentioned Barna above), which uses the phrase “Christianity’s slipping image” to introduce a book by Barna Group president David Kinnaman: unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters. I next stumbled upon Rob Woodrum who has a book on his journey out — and I think (hope) the book also explains how he later became a pastor. And cartoonist: great combination.

Mostly these days, I’m interested in people’s stories along these lines, so if you’re in that boat and want or need to connect with others in that situation or to share your experiences of finding such commonalities online, go at it in the comments. Also, if you know of studies or books on the topic, leave them in the comments as well. I had a beer with someone fitting this description last week… and of course I’ve been there (or am there) myself. What do you first recommend to folks in that situation? Books to read or actions to take?

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