Margie Bryce

Your leadership coach
and self-care advocate

108: Defining Sanctuary for Faith Communities

The Crabby Pastor
108: Defining Sanctuary for Faith Communities

Imagine stepping into a sanctuary that’s as safe and nurturing as it is spiritually enriching – this is the future we’re fashioning today on the Crabby Pastor podcast. I’m Margie Bryce, and alongside former private investigator Lori Morrison, we’re ripping off the veil on the urgent need for secure church environments. Through Lori’s unique lens, we grasp the tangible steps we can take to transform our worship spaces into bastions of safety that guard not only our physical well-being but also our emotional and spiritual lives. Together, we address the erosion of trust in religious institutions and prescribe actionable strategies to help churches rise as sanctuaries for seekers and believers alike.

Our conversation covers a lot of ground including the rise of sex trafficking preying on our youth.  We also shed light on the disturbing fact that sex offenders often target religious communities due to their forgiving nature, as highlighted by psychologist Dr. Anna Salter’s research. Our discussion is an essential guide to redefining love and freedom in a manner that shields our fledgling population.

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Margie: 0:01

Hey, there it’s Margie Bryce, your host of the Crabby Pastor podcast, where we talk about all things sustainability, whether it’s sustainability in ministry, or in your personal life and we acknowledge that the church is in a transitional time, so we hit topics there too that are going to stretch your mind and the way you lead, especially how you lead yourself, so that you don’t become the crabby pastor. So how do the pieces of your life fit together? Do they fit together well and things are humming along just fine, or are there some pieces that are tight or absent or just not fitting the bill? This is your invitation to join me in my glass workshop for a video series, where I am going to do a stained glass project while I talk to you about sustainability and building sustainability into your heart and into your life. So I am going to be doing my art, which is a form of self-care, and I’m going to invite you into that space with me and I’m going to chat. I’m going to chat about self-care and I’m going to show you how I create, and there’s a nifty, nifty analogy Stained glass seems to be a very good metaphor for what I want to talk about, so I’d love for you to join me to do that. To opt in, I’ll need you to email me at crabbypastor at gmail dot com. That’s crabbypastor at gmail dot com. So you won’t want to miss this. You definitely won’t want to miss this. So make a plan to join me in the glass workshop.

Margie: 2:03

And it’s time for another episode of the Crabby Pastor podcast, and I have a guest here today. We’re going to take a bit of a different tact self-care from the standpoint of making our environments in our churches especially safe. Now, you’re probably going to initially think you know security, people in the parking lot and all that kind of stuff, but we’re going to talk about the ethos, the environment in your church and how to make that be a little safer. And I’m here today with Lori Morrison, who has a very interesting background as a private investigator and an author, and she’s done a lot of interesting things. And I know you’re going to find this very helpful conversation because we’re going to talk about steps to make your church be a true sanctuary. So, lori, I’m going to toss this to you and ask you to introduce yourself to us.

Lori: 3:08

Oh, thank you, Margie. I’m happy to do that. Like you said, I have a background as a private investigator. I did recently retire my license to really focus more on consulting with churches on how to do just what you described Make your church safer, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually, for your congregants, your staff, your volunteers and really your community. Because when the community trusts us to hold them safe, then we are really earning the right to share the gospel with them.

Margie: 3:46

Hmm, yeah, and that is certainly a strong motivating factor for us. So, yeah, we you know, because I don’t know where this stands. I think you were quoting something to me earlier in our pre-interview chat that there are studies that say we aren’t so trustworthy. Is that correct?

Lori: 4:10

Unfortunately. Yes, I’ve seen it from different outlets, but Barna has said that I believe it’s hovering right around. A third of people say that they do not have a high degree of trust in their pastor in the church, and that’s people within the church. I’ve also seen things from Pew Research that says about 49% of people say that they really believe that our ability to be an influence in our communities is dropping and that they see that as a bad thing, which is good. The fact that we’re not doing as well as we should be can be an impetus for us to say okay, where do we need to make some tweaks? Right, right.

Margie: 5:00

And some of the tweaks can be ascribed to someone in leadership who can help to promote and emphasize ways that we can offer, as you say, a true sanctuary, and we can be a true sanctuary for ourselves, our staff and, ultimately, for those who don’t know Jesus quite yet. So can you give us kind of a working definition or paint a picture, whichever you prefer, whichever works best for you, of true sanctuary?

Lori: 5:40

For me, a true sanctuary is the place you go when you don’t know where else to go.

Lori: 5:45

For me a true sanctuary is the place you go when you don’t know where else to go. It’s that place where you know that you will be safe. You will be steps to make sure we are being that for people and, of course, as a woman, I think I have a little bit different perspective. You know, most of my colleagues in this space are men. A lot of times they’re ex-law enforcement, a former military, and so they are very honed in on physical safety. If we have some sort of medical disaster, big weather event, and you do need to be prepared for those types of situations as well. But I was doing a little noodling around the internet the other day and the big thing is the active shooter training. And while we do need to be prepared, we do need to have a plan, because the middle of a crisis is not the time to figure out your plan. You need to have one.

Lori: 6:56

But when you look at the statistics and I got these from, not in our churchcom In 2022, there were four fatal church shootings in the US. In 2021 and 2020, there were zero. So, yes, it does happen, yes, we need to be ready, but statistically speaking, there are so many other areas that we need to devote resources, time, money to, because they’re so much more likely to happen you know if you have women in your church which I’m assuming most of the churches out there do you probably have someone who is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence, and how are you ministering to her?Lori: 7:39

how are you communicating that that is a safe place for her to maybe disclose? And a super, super easy way you can do that is just in your women’s restrooms. Put up a poster, and just one that you’ve made that has resources for her phone number. She can call local places that she can go if you have a local shelter. And the reason I say put it up in the women’s restroom. That might be the only place she really gets to be by herself. If you just put it up in the hallway, she’s going to avoid it like the plague because she doesn’t want her abuser to see her looking at it

.Margie: 8:17

Right right, right. So you’re talking about some very practical steps instead of just being aspirational. That, oh, that’s what we want to be. We want to have some practical steps and ways of helping to create emotional safe space. And, by the way, I just want to mention, you know, you talked about the zero fatalities from shooters, fatalities from shooters and then there were four fatalities, just so we know, because this is how some things get portrayed to us. Somebody could come along and say, well, there’s a 400% increase in active shooters. You know what I’m saying. You got to really be on your toes when you say somebody’s doubled something.

Lori: 9:04

Maybe they only had one and now they have two, you know, and definitely I want to make sure that people understand I’m not saying to abandon preparation for those right. Just because it’s not very likely to happen. I mean, it’s not very likely that my house will burn down, but I still have fire insurance because if something does happen, the effect would be catastrophic. So we do have to be ready for physical violence in the churches because, even though it’s remote, those consequences would be catastrophic if they happened.

Margie: 9:39

Absolutely, absolutely and absolutely trauma-filled, but what we were going to talk about today, though, is that emotional safe space, and I’m glad you brought up women’s perspective of what that means, because we do see things differently. I mean, it is different to be the people that are generally not as physically strong. I might have a couple of friends that could take down a guy, but not too many on the whole, and so we are that, and how can we feel safe? And you provided me with some steps, actually, and maybe you could walk through a few of the ones that you think are most important to help us cultivate and nurture that kind of a safe space.

Lori: 10:31

Who would cross train your greeters with your safety people, because the more eyes you have being situationally aware, you know, just looking around do you know what to look for if someone is being maybe hyper controlled, because a lot of times we think of abuse as being a physical assault, a sexual assault, but sometimes people are just controlled to the point where their lives are not their own anymore, and we see that also in our youth groups. So we have to make sure that young women understand someone that is trying to, you know, separate you from time with your friends, distance you from family members, constantly check your phone calling you to see where you are, who you’re with, constantly check your phone calling you to see where you are who you’re with. That is not love and our young people don’t always understand that because of the way the media, the entertainment media, portrays you know, quote unquote, love A lot of what you see in movies I would call stalking not love.

Margie: 11:42

Yeah, that’s a lot of theory. That’s you know.

Lori: 11:46

But, you know, think back to when you and I would have been like youth group age. One of the big popular songs was by the police. Every Breath you Take, you know, think about some of those lyrics. Every move you make, I’ll be watching you. That’s not love, that’s a crime.

Lori: 12:05

So just educating our young people about things like that and people are also always shocked when I tell them that one of the fastest growing ways that girls usually are recruited into sex trafficking is through other girls, their age we have this thought in our mind that there’s this beat up, rusted, windowless van that’s trolling around and snatching people off of street corners and while that may happen again, statistically that’s not really the norm.

Lori: 12:38

You’ve got these men that are usually trafficking multiple women and girls and they’re sending those women and girls out to bring other women and girls in.

Lori: 12:53

And so it starts with you know, oh and this is an actual, true story that I featured on my podcast A young girl who met somebody at school, and this girl really spoke about how her lifestyle was freedom my parents don’t chase after me all the time, I don’t have all these rules and, of course, to someone who’s more rule bound, that sounds just wonderful. And this young girl she’d been brought up in church and loved going to church, but she’s hearing this competing narrative of what freedom really means. And then it’s well, here, you need to meet this guy, I know. Then he becomes her boyfriend, she thinks that she’s found the love of her life and then suddenly he says hey, we really need some money so we can run away together. I know how we can make some. You need to go do this for me. People need to understand that progression. Nobody wakes up and says, wow, I really think that I want to be a sex worker today.

Margie: 14:03

No, no, they generally don’t, but what you’re talking about, then, too, is about keeping our women safe, and especially the youngest ones that may. Maybe they’ve grown up in church and they’re potentially more trusting and maybe a little less savvy about the way things really work.

Lori: 14:30

Yes, a psychologist named Anna Salter. Dr Anna Salter did a study. She went into prisons and spoke to men who were in there for varying types of sex offenses, and one of the questions she asked them was if they had a specific type of victim that they favored. And they said, oh yeah, religious people, church people, which shocked her a little bit. I see that it shocks you a little bit too.

Margie: 14:57

Yeah, oh geez little bit. I see that it shocks you a little bit too.

Lori: 14:59

Yeah, oh geez. She said well, why. And I said well, they typically are quite naive and so it’s much easier to victimize them and if they do sort of catch on to what I’m doing, all they want to do is forgive me. So, yeah, that level of naivete, not just among the young people but among the adults who are shepherding the young people, that we really need to confront that and educate ourselves. And I know people say you know, we’re supposed to think on things that are lovely and wonderful and pure and true. And yes, under the best circumstances we’re supposed to. But if we’re shepherding our flock, if we’re protecting those under our care against predators that are out there, I think we need to revisit the story of Moses. And I want to say this was in Numbers. Email me if you’re out there and you know that I’m wrong, correct me.

Lori: 16:02

But the people had been as they had been, rebellious over and over, and the cycle kept repeating itself. And God sent as a judgment on them poisonous serpents. People were being bitten, people were dying, and Moses interceded, like he always did. And so God said fashion a serpent I believe it was brass raise it up on a pole and when people look upon it, they will be healed. So God could have said you know, make a butterfly, make a unicorn, make something very pretty for everybody to look at. But he didn’t. We have to look at what’s killing us in order to be healed from it.

Margie: 16:47

That’s yeah, and I think we have a better potential for learning these things and becoming a little more savvy than, say, back in the day. You know back. You know, when I was in my 20s or so, people didn’t talk about cycles of abuse and what that looks like, you know. I even had a pastor say to a young woman you know, go back to your abusive marriage. This is probably just Satan’s last ditch effort to, you know, to undermine your marriage. And, and what you know today about cycles of abuse is that they always get worse. Episodes get worse and worse and worse. They don’t just suddenly get better unless there is a very serious intervention. That happens. So you know. Then the question is how can we keep our women safe and how can we become more knowledgeable and more savvy? Because you were talking about the greeters, you know, have your greeters cross-trained with the safety people? You know, how would a greeter recognize or suspect that there’s an overly controlling situation going on?

Lori: 18:05

That’s a great, great question and it’s not always super black and white. So sometimes you have to observe. Over time, you know, do you have a couple that comes in and when you try to maybe speak to the woman, engage her in conversation, he always steps in, has to be there, has to be a part of it, or pulls her away. He doesn’t want her talking to people. I know one time I was in a church service and a few rows up a man had his arm around his wife, girlfriend, I don’t know what she was, I didn’t recognize them had his arm around her but it wasn’t in a loving way, he wasn’t, you know, kind of rubbing his thumb on her shoulder Like you might do. He was rubbing the side of her face as he pulled her toward him, just very awkward. And so just being aware of things like that and you also have to be very, very careful about how you would approach something like that you certainly don’t want to walk up to this woman and say, do you feel safe? She’s going to fly into a panic and worry. Did my partner hear that? Why is this woman doing this?

Lori: 19:15

Whether it’s being spoken from the pulpit, in small groups, posters on the walls, cultivating that idea that this is a safe place for any type of victim. Usually it is women if it’s children, young people if it’s a man, a young man, whoever it might be that this is a place that you can disclose things, they will not be shared unless there’s a legal obligation. If you’re a mandated reporter, especially when we’re talking about minors, don’t handle those things in-house. You’re not investigators. You’re not triers of fact. You need to call the authorities when that happens, just letting people know. You’ll be listened to, you’ll be encouraged you’ll be supported.

Margie: 20:07

But if you call the authorities, I’m putting on my newspaper reporter hat for a minute from years ago. If you call the authorities and they write a report, is that does that not come under freedom of information jurisdiction? And a reporter on the police beat could find and the church is named. And I’m just playing devil’s advocate.

Lori: 20:27

I guess, right, no, I understand and that you have to weigh, that you do want to protect the church, but the church exists for people. And so I think you just have to weigh that, and mostly I’m speaking about mandated reporters.

Lori: 20:45

You know, if a minor comes to you and says so-and-so did such and such, to me it’s not the church’s job to then try to discern if that is in fact true, and that’s what a lot of churches want to do. We don’t want to hurt this person’s reputation or whatever. Checking your jurisdiction If you’re a mandated reporter, you’re obligated to tell authorities come what may and honestly, even if you’re not legally obligated, I think we’re morally obligated. Let people who have the experience in looking into these types of situations let them do it. I know people get really hung up on oh well, it’s a false report. I’m going to tell you those are rare. I’ve seen several studies and most peg false reporting at about two to 4%. Several studies and most peg false reporting at about two to four percent. Most people agree that it’s closer to the two. So yes, it does happen.

Margie: 21:50

I’m not going to say it doesn’t, but it is exceedingly rare so you’re saying, don’t have the church sit back and assess and analyze and try to figure out whether it’s true or not. What would be their next step would be to go to the authorities. If there’s a minor involved, then pastors, leaders, are required by law to go to authorities and let that play out as it does. But meanwhile you know you worry about the church and the how they’re. You know how much confidence a community would have in a church and I guess that will be up to the leaders to say look, we’re just not tolerating this kind of behavior here and if we look at recent history, how has covering things up gone for churches?

Lori: 22:41

It has not gone well. Look at the Catholic church, look at the Southern Baptist convention. You know it’s like Watergate the coverup is always worse. So I think your community is going to have a lot more faith in you if they see you stepping up to handle something in a sensitive yet authoritative manner.Margie: 23:05

Okay, to protect and make it be a safe environment

.Lori: 23:13

Exactly, and I talked to someone just a few weeks ago that had a situation in their church. Talked to someone just a few weeks ago that had a situation in their church. Unfortunately, the perpetrator was the son of an elder or a deacon I can’t remember how their board worked. One thing you’ve got to do is put that elder or deacon or leader however you name your people, that elder or deacon or leader however you name your people put them on just kind of a leave. I’m not saying you have to kick them out of their leadership position, but when you try to explain to people, oh, anytime we’re talking about this, they step out of the meeting. Maybe that’s exactly what you’re doing. That’s not going to be believed, it’s just not.

Lori: 23:59

So, you need to have that person not serving in that capacity for a time and again over communicate. Just say this is out of an abundance of caution, to protect them, to protect this person that’s been accused, to protect the victims and to protect the church. Okay, I think, if people understand why you’re doing certain things, that really it just fosters a sense of trust as opposed to we’re going to handle this and we’ll let you know how it all turns out, and then you never let anybody know anything, which is typically things get handled yeah, yeah, that is because they feel like if they don’t talk about it anymore, it evaporates, it goes away, or right, but you’re actually doing the exact opposite of what you think you’re doing.

Lori: 24:54

you’re teaching people you cannot be trusted. I mean, is this seems like a little bit of a side note, but look at the entire circus around this poor princess Kate. When people are not given information, they start making things up, and then she was forced to talk about things she might not have been ready to talk about. And so you just I mean, obviously there can be privacy concerns. You can’t tell everybody everything, but as much as you can foster that sense of we are looking into this, here’s what we can tell you. We will be telling you more as it as it becomes available. If you have questions, please reach out to us. We may not be able to answer all of them, but we will do what we can. When people feel like they can’t ask questions, trust is completely eroded.

Margie: 25:52

Right, right. And on the other flip side of that, then if there is an issue with a staff person and it is a personnel related matter, the doors do kind of close in a different way and you can tell people that.

Lori: 26:08

This is why I can’t tell you.

Margie: 26:09


Lori: 26:11

Because that will make sense to people. It’s when they feel like they don’t Don’t have any idea at all of what’s going on that you really are not building a community that fosters sanctuary.

Margie: 26:29

Do you have any other practical things that leaders can institute to help grow and nurture this sanctuary? Safe sanctuary?

Lori: 26:43

I think, just being very mindful of how we say things. I was at a church years ago and they were talking about sexual purity. That’s fine. The Bible teaches that they focused exclusively on women who had not been sexually pure. They didn’t really mention men. So again, you’re. You’re setting up an inequality, you’re setting up a. You are the ones that are doing this, not us. And eventually he was trying to make the point that we’re trying to fill a void and we’re filling it in an unhealthy way, that that God has not designed us for. But the words he chose were we’re getting something out of it. You know, like a prostitute gets money oh and I told my husband.

Lori: 27:34

I said I will not embarrass you by stomping loudly out of the sanctuary, as I really want to in this moment I said but I’m never coming here again.

Lori: 27:44

We did and it it could have been handled so differently. He could have made the same point he was trying to make and it could have been building each other up. You know, let’s hold each other accountable because the standards God sets for us are for our good, and I think we do a real disservice to our youth in that same area when we don’t teach purity culture right, because a lot of times it’s. You know, girls don’t walk this way, don’t dress this way, don’t go to these places. We very rarely talk about how guys should be honoring the girls around them. They should be protecting them.

Margie: 28:34

That doesn’t get in the curriculum very often they should be seeing them as created in God’s image, exactly.L

ori: 28:44

So don’t say that joke in front of her.

Margie: 28:46

And if you can’t say it in front of her, you shouldn’t be saying it to your friends either.

Lori: 28:50

But we also talk about this culture in a way that the girls have to be held responsible because the guys just can’t help themselves. And that’s a horrific message to send our young men. We’re telling them you have no agency here. If she doesn’t follow the rules, then whatever happens it’s her fault. So we’re not going to hold you accountable. But then we also teach them that if you’re indwelt by the holy spirit, you should be displaying the fruit of the spirit in your life love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness. And what’s that last one? Self-control, self-control. And we’ve just taught them that when it comes to sex, they don’t have any.

Margie: 29:39

That is very interesting and a hotly debated kind of topic as well in the church culture right now. But it’s very interesting to listen to all this and you know, as I crawl up into the balcony here and, you know, think about big picture wise, of what we’ve talked about. Sometimes church culture kind of undermines itself when it comes to emotional safety and it’s not out of a sense of they’re clueless, I think, it’s just it hasn’t been well thought through. And I know sometimes you need to take the trek to a PR department. You know, and I used to. I used to work in healthcare and you know.

Margie: 30:24

So we wrote things like negative patient outcome instead of dead. You know, but sometimes you really have to stop and think about how you’re saying, what you’re saying and the impact. You know broadly who’s your audience, you know and what is your audience. And I think pastors are taught that when we preach we’re taught how to exegete the congregations. We’re well familiar with that kind of terminology. So this has been really great, really good stuff to kind of think about and think through how well our churches are being that safe sanctuary from an emotional perspective. So how well are we teaching that?

Lori: 31:12

And I love the church. I got to say that it sounds like I’ve just been constantly dogging on it, but you know, we are supposed to be reflecting the light of Jesus and so we. That’s a. That’s a high, high standard to be more intentional, because if people don’t feel safe with us, are they going to trust us? When we say you can have your entire eternity safe with Jesus, you might not be too terribly safe here with us, that’s just, that’s a conflicting message. So you know, out of the fact that I love the church, I want to challenge her that we can take what we’re doing and just make some common sense tweaks.

Lori: 32:10

You know, we don’t have to blow everything up and start over, but we can be so much more effective in spreading the gospel when people realize, yes, I can trust them.

Margie: 32:26

Well, thank you very much for everything that you have set out for us to kind of chew on, to think through and and all of that. I really appreciate what you have to offer here and we’re going to put information about you and your books and everything in our show notes so people can connect if they so desire to think through some more ways that you know we can offer that very safe sanctuary. So thank you very much, lori, for sharing with us today.

Lori: 32:59

Oh, it’s been an honor. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you.

Margie: 33:05

Are you wondering whether your fatigue, your lack of motivation, your lack of interest is burnout maybe? I just wanted to let you know that I have a resource on the website, margie bryce dot com that’s B-R-Y-C-E Margie Bryce dot com and it is a burnout questionnaire, free for you to download, and kind of self-assess and get a sense of where you’re at. There are questions that not only ask about what you’re going through but maybe how often you’re experiencing it and that’s kind of a key to where you might be, because you have to know where you are in order to chart a course forward. And most pastors who experience pastors and ministry leaders who experience burnout rarely know that that’s where they’re at until they’re well into it. And if you’re unsure about that little statistic, so far, everybody that I’ve interviewed on this podcast who has experienced burnout, when I asked that kind of question, they’re like, yeah, I didn’t know, that’s where I was at. So again, go to margie bryce dot com it’s on the homepage of the website and you can get your burnout questionnaire and kind of see where you’re at.

Margie: 34:43

Hey friends, the Crabby Pastor podcast is sponsored by Bryce Art Glass and you can find that on Facebook.

Margie: 34:52

I make stained glass as part of my self-care and also by Bryce Coaching, where I coach ministry leaders and business leaders, and so the funds that I generate from coaching and from making stained glass is what is supporting this podcast and I will have opportunities for you to be a part of sponsoring me and, as always, you can do the buy me a cup of coffee thing in the in the show notes.

But I will have some other ways that you can be a part of getting the word out about the importance self-care healthy for ministry leaders, of healthy self-care for ministry leaders. Hey, thanks for listening. It is my deep desire and passion to champion issues of sustainability in ministry and for your life, so I’m here to help. I stepped back from pastoral ministry and I feel called to help ministry leaders create and cultivate sustainability in their lives so that they can go the distance with God and whatever plans that God has for you. I would love to help, I would consider it an honor and, in all things, make sure you connect to these sustainability practices you know, so that you don’t become the Crabby Pastor.

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