When Your Family Has Been Hurt By Church

What do you do when your family has been hurt by church? I think it depends, but here is my answer. 

I have heard so many stories lately.

Stories from moms of unique little ones, just like mine.

Stories of pain, misunderstanding, harsh criticism, and sorrow.

Stories about church.

family hurt by church


Almost seven years ago, I had a post go viral for the very first time.

I wrote When Church Hurts, it was to describe the experience of church for my son, and to plead for a just a little bit more grace – to beg for a little bit more understanding.

The response shocked me.

So many families, so many moms, so many precious children – all feeling the tension and sorrow special needs families often associate with regular church attendance.

It is, by far, my most viewed post ever.

And, it’s the one that has generated the most questions.

Have you tried a liturgical service?

What are you doing now?

Why would you say these things? Are you talking about our church?

Did you ever a find a church that works for you guys?

You don’t just stay home on Sundays now, do you?

What Do I Do When Church Hurts?

It’s taken me three years to form a response.

Even now, I am a little hesitant.

I know we all feel strongly about our choices, our congregations, and our church communities. I don’t write about church in general, or my family’s experiences with it, lightly or in any way to indict.

I write about church because I want other families struggling with the exact same feelings of isolation, shame, judgment and stress to know they are not alone.

Sometimes, church hurts.

Sometimes, it physically hurts because of the sensory overload of crowds and smells and lighting.

Sometimes, it sears us emotionally, because of Sunday School tests and isolated special needs classrooms and a constant feeling of being assessed as a parent.

It hurts from judgment that comes without understanding our circumstances or even more importantly, our hearts.

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When Your Family Has Been Hurt By Church

For my family, church continues to be a complicated affair.

We still go off and on, to a church that we love and loves us well.

I know when we attend, my children will be received with love and accommodated with care. (Incidentally, this is the church with the gal in the lobby three years ago that so kindly helped my son.)

This church is 45 minutes away. An hour and a half round trip with two children who struggle with sensory processing disorder related motion sickness. We don’t make it more than a couple of times a year.

Sometimes, I sneak out for the five o’clock mass down the street on Sundays. Although I am not catholic, I love the bigness and the beauty of it.

Most of the time, church is a mix of podcasts, texts with scripture from friends, nature walks, moms that pray for me and my children, moms that pray with me for my children, and lots of Jesus Storybook Bible.

The truth is, we are still figuring this church thing out.

But there is one answer that I am sure of.

One answer to the question that I have been asked over and over again.

What do I do when my family has been hurt by church? It seems so unfair.

The answer is as simple and as complex as this life itself.

No matter what we decide about Sunday mornings, the only answer is this –

We abide in Jesus.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

If you are struggling to find a church scenario that works for your family, you are not alone.

But please don’t confuse struggling to find a church with struggling to find God.

God is already right here with us.

God is present in the way we serve our children and their complicated needs every single day.

If we want to find God, we don’t have to look very far, my sweet fellow momma.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

He is close to the brokenhearted.

By all accounts, that’s us.

God is near and present, right here in the messy and the sorrow.

He is rescuing us as we flail, as we weep, and as we watch our children suffer.

He is comforting us as we struggle, as we lose sleep, as we clean-up one more horrible mess, and as we bandage our wounds.

He is the only answer I have for all of this.

We love. We pray. We hope.

We abide.

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  1. Lynn Chalinder says:

    Thank you thank you thank you xxx

  2. Your “when church hurts” post was the one that led me to you, where I have happily stayed ever since. We aren’t attending right now, although when we do, noise-canceling headphones have been a literal godsend. Ethan wears them for the worship that is too loud, and then can listen to the sermon without them.

  3. Read this through tears. Thank you!

  4. Thank You for sharing such encouraging words. I work with families in early intervention and pass on many of your blogs and ideas to them. Thank you for being so open and transparent. You are a help and encouragement to so many people. You are so right – We Love, We Pray, We Hope, We Abide – In HIM! Keep up the great work and letting Him to use you to bless others.

    1. Thank you so much, Stephen! You made my day.

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