Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Communities of Healing

Written by: on April 10, 2023

With the help of Dr. Bessel Van Derk Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score,[1] the subject of trauma has gone from a topic mostly around military veterans to the vernacular of everyday life. For that, we are all indebted to Van Der Kolk. We have come to terms with our own trauma and received a map for how to grow from our trauma in The Body Keeps the Score. In this post, I will provide a summary of The Body Keeps the Score and then offer key takeaways for Christian leaders on the subject of trauma and leadership.

The Body Keeps the Score 

Van Der Kolk argues that trauma is far more prevalent and common than we imagined. And trauma is not merely “all in one’s head.”  Rather, according to Van Der Kolk, “trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain and body.”[2] And one’s traumatic memories, no matter how early in life they happened, follow one throughout one’s adult life.

But there is hope. Van Der Kolk provides tools for his readers on healing from trauma.[3] Tools like mindfulness, a network of safe and loving relationships, participating in the rhythmic movement with people, and EMDR to name a few.

Takeaways for Christian Leaders

Van Der Kolk’s content causes both trepidation and excitement when I think about the Church. Trepidation in that the Church is culpable for countless, horrific cases of spiritual abuse. In addition to this, I have trepidation because there is an immeasurable number of people who have trauma and are in need of healing, but I am fearful that the Church may choose comfort over love of neighbor, thus forfeiting the opportunity to be a part of the healing of people with trauma. However, with these is also an excitement. I wonder to myself “What if the Church could really be a place of healing for the traumatized? What if the Church were a major part of the solution?” I mean, the church is, theologically, the family of God engaged in the mission of God. Relationships and church go hand in hand (going to church without relationships within the church misses what church is all about). And loving, safe relationships aid in the trauma healing. I lament the Church not being a place of healing from trauma but a dispenser of trauma. May we do all we can to be the latter rather than the former.

With all this said, I want to close with three major takeaways from The Body Keeps the Score for Christian leaders:

  1. Deal with your own trauma. Leadership is painful. Leaders are the recipients of much trauma – whether it be great moments of hurt through sabotage and betrayal, or simply “death by paper cuts.”[4] When one belittles or ignores one’s trauma, the hidden trauma has more power and can manifest unexpectedly, causing great damage. But when we do the inner work of trauma discovery, management and healing, trauma loses much of its power and we are able to mitigate it.
  2. Recognize people may do what they do because of their trauma. As a pastor, I, admittedly, developed the habit of occasionally seeing some people as “too far gone” or simply “a pain.” They are the ones who may come to church but are high-maintenance, low-contributors to the mission, and must simply be ignored. But that is not the heart of Jesus. From Van Der Kolk, this question has come to mind: “What if, as a pastor, I actually started seeing the ‘difficult people’ as people who are broken, have hurt and a traumatic story of which I am unaware? What if I had far more grace for those who are traumatized?”
  3. Do what you can to create a community of trauma-healing. I believe the Church is uniquely situated to be a great source of healing for the traumatized. However, this means being brutally honest about our idolization of power via protecting power.[5] If we choose to prioritize truth and caring for people over protecting power and comfort, the church can become a community of trauma healing. There are all kinds of ways churches are already healing trauma. Through safe and loving networks of relationships, the gathering of worship with rhythmic music, serving others and playing, and practice of prayer (mindfulness) and Scripture meditation (a literal re-wiring of the neuropathways around the Scriptures). The possibilities for the Church to help people heal from trauma via innovative avenues are endless and exciting to think about.


We reflect Jesus to the world. And Jesus was traumatized. Yet, it was by his trauma we ultimately find healing. “By his [trauma] we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

May we be the kind of communities of healing our wounded, traumatized Healer envisioned us to become.


[1] Bessel A. Van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2015).

[2] Ibid. 21.

[3] Ibid. 208-221.

[4] I heard this from Rob Bell – Death by Paper Cuts – Poets/Prophets/Preachers #5, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm2kFxhjlpA. I do not know if this was original to him though.

[5] For a brilliant work on this, see Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer, A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020)

About the Author


David Beavis

David is Australian by birth, was raised in Southern California, and is the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at B4 Church in Beaverton, Oregon. David and his wife, Laura, live in Hillsboro with their dog, Coava (named after their favorite coffee shop). M.A. Theology - Talbot School of Theology B.A. Psychology - Vanguard University of Southern California

6 responses to “Communities of Healing”

  1. David,

    Great summary and points. Do you have a longshot in your group that you lead?

  2. Michael O'Neill says:

    Awesome post, David! I love the awareness in your takeaway #2. I think this is incredibly important and you are spot on! We are quick to judge sometimes and we really do not know everyone’s history. We need to love like Jesus and do our part by leading Christians to Him, not just the ones who are easy.

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Agreed! I think it is too easy for ministry to cause us to be “jaded” and bitter, and therefore not see people accurately. Rather, we see people not as broken, hurting, traumatized people, but as “annoying, crazy people to avoid.”

  3. Kristy Newport says:


    I think this is worthy of considering:

    “We reflect Jesus to the world. And Jesus was traumatized. Yet, it was by his trauma we ultimately find healing. “By his [trauma] we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).”

    Thank you for your challenge to the church (this program).
    I am curious how you might want this book to inform the curriculum you are creating for young ministers?

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Hi Kristy,

      It will play a part of the coaching curriculum, but I am not sure yet how – or how much of the specific content from Dr. Van Der Kolk we’ll engage with. It will fall in the “body” section of my coaching curriculum because, well, “The Body Keeps the Score.”

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