When Home Hurts: A Guide for Responding Wisely to Domestic Abuse in Your Church, Jeremy Pierre & Greg Wilson. Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2021. Softcover, 279 pages.
I hate talking about abuse. I hate writing about it. However, as long as it’s happening, we must continue to face up to it. The church that puts its head in the sand is doing irreparable damage to its members. This book is about the particular problem of domestic abuse. This is abuse happening in the home, often from a husband towards his wife.
The authors are experienced and well-qualified in the field of counselling for domestic abuse situations. Jeremy Pierre is a professor of counselling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a pastor. Greg Wilson is a licensed professional counsellor in Texas. Both of them share a commitment to the authority of God’s Word and an emphasis on the gospel. Theologically, there’s nothing in this book of concern.
The book is divided into three sections: How to Understand Abuse, How to Respond After the Initial Disclosure, and How to Care in the Long Term. In each section, the authors bring biblical and practical wisdom to bear on helping both victims and abusers. The last chapter is entitled “Leading Your Church to Respond with Wisdom and Compassion.” Pierre and Wilson give a template for communicating about domestic abuse situations. I’m unsure about how well this template would work in tightly-knit church communities, but it’s not meant to be the final word on the matter. The authors recommend using “the highest level of discretion and only bring in the parties that need to know” (p.213).
Many other books have been written on this topic, but this one stands out as being especially practical. Its usefulness is evident when you crack it open to page 11 and there’s a Quick Reference Guide. Let’s say you’re dealing with a situation and have a pressing question, perhaps: How do I determine if someone is being abusive? The QRG tells you to where to find an answer: chapter 3, page 65. Helpful, no?
When Home Hurts also has six helpful appendices:
- FAQs on Domestic Abuse Care
- FAQs on Separation, Divorce and Reunification After Abuse
- A Sample Church Domestic Abuse Policy
- A Sample Role Description for a Domestic Abuse Care Advocate
- When Wives Abuse Husbands
- National and State Domestic Violence Resources
The last appendix above is focussed on the United States. There are two resources mentioned from the UK and Australia, but nothing from Canada. If anyone in Canada is in immediate danger, they should call 911. Otherwise, text HOME to 741741 or call 1-800-668-6868.
To get the flavour of the book, check out these snippets:
- A woman alleging abuse “shouldn’t have to prove anything to be taken seriously and offered protection and guidance in the form of a safety plan” (p.66).
- “The impulse to ‘get both sides’ is the wrong impulse when it comes to an initial response to domestic abuse situations. Both sides will eventually come out. For now your focus should be on the immediate safety and welfare of the abused spouse and any children in the home” (p.83).
- “Sadly, most abusive men do not change…” (p.175).
- “…the goal is reconciliation [of the abuser] to the Lord, not reconciliation of the marriage” (p.208).
- “…you should not pressure an abused wife to trust her seemingly repentant husband” (p.244).
When Home Hurts is realistic, based on the counselling experiences of the authors. But it’s also informed by what the Bible teaches about human nature and the dynamics of change.
All church leaders ought to read this, both pastors and elders. In some churches, there are mentorship programs. Mentors too could benefit from When Home Hurts, as would anyone coming alongside victims of domestic abuse. Let’s make our churches safer and more supportive for those who’ve been hurt in these horrible ways. This book can definitely help in achieving that goal.
Originally published in Clarion 71.25 (2022 Year-end Issue).