Margie Bryce

Your leadership coach
and self-care advocate

109: Clergy and Trauma, Part 1 of 3

The Crabby Pastor
109: Clergy and Trauma, Part 1 of 3

When the calling you’ve devoted your heart to is stripped away, where do you turn? This episode features the courageous Kristen Humiston, who opens up about the often-concealed traumas of ministry leadership. Have you or anyone you know experienced forced termination and the trauma that it induced? Then this episode is for them, and YOU! This is part one of three conversations with Kristen where we delve deeper into trauma. that not only challenges the soul but also questions the essence of self-worth and divine connection within the sacred space of the church.

The episode culminates with a powerful message for ministry leaders and anyone on the journey to recovery: emotional expression and patterned, safe relationships are the keystones to rebuilding trust and reclaiming a life of resilience and hope. Join us in this profound exploration, where we provide a beacon of light for those navigating through the darkest of times.

Support the show

This is a GUILT-FREE zone! So here’s your friendly nudge about self-care and its importance for the sake of your family, friends, and those you serve in ministry.

Get your FREE Burnout Questionnaire to help you assess whether you are dealing with just general tiredness or something MORE. 

I love scouring around to find great content to share, and am always interested in feedback, if you are or know of someone willing to share their Back from Burnout story so we can all learn together, then 
CLICK HERE to email me.

And, if this is a reminder you wish to opt out of, that’s fine too.

Blessings on your journey!


🦀 🦀 🦀

Find regular support on my Facebook group by clicking HERE.

Connect with me about COACHING and Workshops on self-care HERE.


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, 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: 2:02

Hey there, Margie Bryce, host of the Crabby Pastor podcast, and we are here today. I am speaking with Kristen Humiston and we are going to talk trauma and give you some basic insights, some basic ideas of what trauma is, what trauma does. So I am really looking forward to this episode and actually we’re going to do a few episodes, a bit of a mini series here, and help you to understand what is wrong with everybody. Sort of okay, because you know, you say, well, there’s a few people who are traumatized and then there’s some who aren’t. But let me tell you, we all just came out of COVID, so that was like a mass trauma for everybody, and everybody always handles trauma differently. So there’s that. Anyway, Kristen, how about you tell us what drew you into this topic?

Kristen: 3:03

Yeah, thanks for having me on today. I am a certified coach and my passion point areas have been faith, mental health and ministry leadership. And I come at that because I grew up as a pastor’s kid. I became a pastor’s wife before I was even out of college and then we were in ministry almost 20 years when we experienced what’s called a forced termination, totally blindsided us, unexpected, overnight. You know, just called in one Saturday morning and said you no longer work here and there were no accusations, there were no reasons given. Was there any warning?

Kristen: 3:39

or anything. No warning, I mean some things. You know, there’s always like shifty things and you’re like huh, what’s going on? Um, so, but nothing that we could put our finger on. No, no, nothing direct at all. And there had been a review, had been done recently, and everything was great on the review. You know, pats on the back on Sunday mornings you’re doing a great job, pastor, and so yeah it. You know today’s conversation.

Margie: 4:09

You know, I mean, I think that’s a trauma right there that’s making my head explode as you say this, because I’m thinking oh my goodness, can we not do better than that?

Kristen: 4:18

Yeah, yeah, well, and that’s you know, that’s. That’s the one of the greatest reasons that I have been drawn into this work. I have the background of growing up as a pastor’s kid, right, and I that lens that, until that moment in time, all I had ever lived I was almost 40 at the time and all I had ever lived was in ministry life, where church defines your identity and your existence. So you go to church on Sunday mornings, you do the midweek things, you go back on Sunday mornings, your social circles are there. How you have been shaped and developed with your gifts and things that you enjoy is so integral to church life.

Kristen: 5:01

For me it was music things, and so, yeah, all of my relationships and who I was was so woven with church life that I didn’t know. I didn’t know who I was like, what. What do I do now and who am I now, without, without being a pastor’s wife, without going to church on Sundays, right, there’s so much of our calendar and our scheduling, the way we do or don’t do vacations that is embedded when you live ministry, and so to be suddenly out of that say nothing of like. Now, what do I do with God? Because I’ve given my whole life to pursuing serving his people, and I’ve just been yanked out and I’m not. What I learned very quickly is I’m not alone in that experience.

Margie: 5:56

Right and a lot of that.

Kristen: 5:57

you know yeah it’s about 40%, a little bit higher, but across denominations. 40% of pastors at least will experience one time forced termination or unjust termination Sometimes it’s called, and many experience more than one. So I don’t have stats on what that looks like, but that’s what’s brought me into the topic of trauma was my own healing journey from that and then becoming really passionate, and I can see the threads beginning early as five years old. There was a moment in my healing journey where I just it was one of those. I felt like God was right in front of me and I just heard him say you are a healer, and so I thought I don’t know what that means. But okay, I’m listening. Yeah.Margie: 6:48

And I think many well of the 40% that you have. You know sometimes you are working within the context of a church environment, but I think what really needs to be relearned and recaptured today are the entrepreneurial ministry leaders, who may or may not be pastoring, but they might be out and about in the marketplace and when you think about this you know it’s pretty exciting stuff. It’s not that you don’t want to come under submission to somebody else. It’s not that you don’t want to come under submission to somebody else, it’s not that you don’t want to whatever, but sometimes God has some different ideas for what you’re going to do and what you’re going to be about and where you’re going to serve and how you’re going to serve. And that’s part of why I advocate for a healthy self-care, so that you slow down long enough that you can hear and step into what God has for you.

Margie: 7:48

I’m thinking this is going to be the wave for many, as we go along here and we can sit back and cry all we want and it’s sad. It’s sad about you know the church and the challenges right now. If you are serving in pastoral ministries, it is challenging, but at the same time you know what is God doing? Because God’s not sleeping. To the best of my knowledge, god is not sleeping, and I think those who follow need to listen closely. Well, let’s go back to trauma. You know, as you outlined your own personal trauma, and you know that’s usually what drives us into doing what we do. I’m doing banging the drum about self-care because what I forgot to do, that and it just is not a fun thing. And so talk to us then about how you would define trauma.Kristen: 8:47

Yeah, trauma is a common buzzword out there right now. It’s being thrown around Every place wants to become trauma informed, which is great. It’s a piece of the puzzle, and then we need to become trauma responsive, and so it’s really important to understand what this is. Lots of different definitions. This is kind of a conglomeration of various places. My personal definition it is the lingering impact in the body, mind and spirit from any real or perceived danger, like intense, unexpected event or ongoing situation or relationship that overwhelms an individual’s nervous system so it pushes them outside of their ability to cope Right. And there’s some characteristic features which are fear, helplessness, lack of voice or choice and lack of safety and security. One of the trauma people out there, Gabor Mate. He also says trauma is not only what happens to us, but what doesn’t happen to us and should.

Margie: 9:57

Okay, so we see this lingering effect. I mean, how do you know? So we see this lingering effect. I mean, how do you know? Ooh, I’ve been traumatized Because there’s stuff happens down here in life. You know, how do you distinguish between? You know just the normal bundlings of people and trauma? Yeah, sure.

Kristen: 10:18

Well, I’m under the belief that we all have been traumatized in some place, way, shape or form. What Gabor Monte is referring to, there is kind of this piece of neglect, and it can be emotional neglect, so it can be from a child who didn’t have parents that for whatever reason, it’s not always intended, but just lacked connection and so that impacts their relationships for the rest of their life. But we often see it If we think about like the traumatized person you’re going to see hypervigilance, always thinking that the shoe is going to drop, like what’s next, a need to, it’s kind of like perceive and put out all these feelers to protect. So it’s high anxiety, maybe avoidance. So avoiding places, people, conversations it will look like some isolation and withdrawal.

Kristen: 11:17

Nightmares, flashbacks A lot of those are typical symptoms. It can be physical symptoms. It’s going to manifest if it’s not healed. It’s going to manifest in GI issues, headaches. Our bodies really do keep the score and so there’s there’s lots of ways and lots of scientific research out there that we have today that demonstrate how trauma impacts the body. So a lot of times we’re experiencing those impacts, but we don’t necessarily connect it to something that may be overwhelmed us at some point in life.

Margie: 11:57

And what kind of what I’ve come to understand is that and you can correct me, is that and you can correct me? You know feel free or add in, subtract or whatever that when you encounter a trauma, it messes with the storage system in your brain and your body doesn’t store it correctly. And if you pursue some avenues of healing, you have the opportunity to help the storage function better so that then at the end of the day, you’re less, as they say, triggered by something. You know, something sets you off and you don’t know why. If you can get to the place where healing occurs sufficiently so that you’re a little less reactive, or maybe you come to the place where healing occurs sufficiently so that you’re a little less reactive, or maybe you come to a place where you’re a little more self-aware about of that.

Kristen: 12:56

Yeah, absolutely so. I use brain spotting in my coaching and I’m in grad school, finishing up to become a trauma therapist. So a simplified version is to think about an event happening and our brain is made. Our brain and body is made so that we should be able to process that we should. You know we don’t have a lot of.

Kristen: 13:20

There is trauma in the in history, but part of what makes trauma difficult now is we don’t have a lot of movement going on. We don’t have a lot of being able to physically move through and and to really address. So, like when we study people who have experienced, let’s say, an entrapment where they are physically trapped, those that can do something to fix their situation usually are less traumatized six months down the road, as opposed to those who maybe have to stand by and watch. And there’s I’m thinking of a particular incident which I really don’t want to state just because of people who are listening. I don’t want to trigger, but if you’ve had to like, let’s say, dig your way out of being trapped, you have had a part of the solution of being able to do something, and so that in and of itself helps to process the trauma Because you had some power.

Kristen: 14:20

You had some choice. So if we go back to that definition of what is traumatic, it’s when we are helpless, when we don’t have any choice. And so sometimes those like family members that may be watching someone experience trauma and they absolutely cannot do anything, they become traumatized because, again, they are helpless, they can’t move through it, they can’t offer a solution. And we see this. You made a really key point in healing from trauma, which is slowing down long enough to even hear and feel. And most of us in our Western modern world, we are just go, go, go, go, go, go go. Everything’s flying at us and our brains don’t even have time to they just they don’t have any time to process anything, we just blow through is what we do and here in the United States and I know like for me.

Margie: 15:14

I think I’ve shared this on the podcast before, I think. Anyway, I was maybe four and I was hospitalized and I was sick and I think they had given me something to a sedative sort of and my parents were standing over me talking and I could hear them and they were debating about my younger sisters who were at home and what they should do and at the end of the day they said, well, she’s sleeping, we should just leave. But I was four, I was scared and I couldn’t say anything because of whatever it was that they had given me prevented me from saying. I couldn’t say anything but inside in my little head I was hollering, but I couldn’t holler out loud. So you know, you take that that would be in the category of abandonment and I didn’t ever think it was an issue because, you know, nobody did anything intentional, malicious or whatever.

Margie: 16:22

And I think quite a few years ago I recounted that to somebody who had some training and they said abandonment. And I was like what? I had no idea that something like that could resonate through your life. And here I am, you know years old, because you know it’s a state secret how old I am, you know I’d have to kill you. But you know, and I went through a healing process In that case EMDR and I can’t tell you what that stands for. Probably you can, but I went through that process and I was surprised at the level of emotion that unpacked itself and came out, because you know you’re like so that would be a case where you couldn’t do anything to fix your own.Kristen: 17:10

You couldn’t do anything and, like you said, you couldn’t use your voice so you couldn’t communicate anything to let your parents know, hey, I’m scared, like stay here with me, right? You couldn’t ask and make your request and so they just assumed you were sleeping and you were fine. There’s no ill intent there and oftentimes that’s that’s what we think of is when someone’s traumatized, that there has to have had been something malicious or ill intent done and that’s just not the case. A lot of times there is trauma that’s happening completely not intended at all.

Kristen: 17:45

And again, like we just think of basic phone use right now, that disconnection between parents and children, because parents are just sitting on their floor, sorry, on their phones, never looking at their children in the eyes. And we need that eye gaze with one another. That’s one of the God created things that to hold the baby and gaze in their eyes. This is essential for us building foundational blocks of trust, of connection and yeah, and so trauma. It impacts the way that we view ourselves, the way that we view the world, if it’s a good world or a bad world, the way we view others and the way we view god, and there’s lots of different ways that that can manifest itself. We’ve talked about some that are kind of more of the ptsd type symptoms, right, but we see these symptoms reverberate in relationships. Again, the way that we connect, even the way that we connect to God and our relationship with God, is impacted by those experiences.

Margie: 18:49

So sure and that you know. That is, you know, like I wonder why I think this way. You know I, and I think a lot of this is well. First, before I lose this thought, you know, two people can have encountered this very same trauma and deal with it very differently. I was always said I was oversensitive anyway. So I don’t know, maybe I am compared to I don’t know what, but but anyhow, you know, people can go through a similar experience in one person, it just doesn’t reverberate in their lives the way it does with some others, and it’s not. That’s not a good or a bad, it just, it just is the way it is.

Kristen: 19:32

Yeah, yeah, and we know that that is related to history of trauma. It’s related to attachments. So how many secure attachment relationships that they have with, initially a loving caregiver and then loving relationships around them, the way that we have either built or not built on a resiliency factor. So, just like you’re saying, yeah, we can experience. I have a good friend of mine. We both were in the same car accident when we were 17, a pretty horrendous accident and she walked away completely a different experience of that than I did and I struggled to drive, I struggled with a lot of things coming off of that and she just, you know, was kind of bounced back pretty easily. And when I look and compare what I would say our trauma histories are, they’re vastly different, vastly different. And so, and we just know that that’s across the board what we see in trauma.

Kristen: 20:34

So, and you related to like EMDR brain spotting trauma.

Kristen: 20:40

So, and you related to like EMDR brain spotting, what they do is they go into that traumatic memory.

Kristen: 20:42

They just really allow you don’t have to restate the memory because that can re traumatize someone, but opens up the processing and allows that instead of, um, if we think of, like, maybe two different, two different circles In one circle is like how your brain is when the traumatic event or ongoing again, like in cases of abuse, abusive relationships. This is like an ongoing traumatization and what happens is that trauma kind of bounces around in your brain. It’s not able to correctly process because your system is overwhelmed. And EMDR brain spotting opens up the ability to process that and then file it away in the correct place which, when we think back to, I’m thinking you know, 200, 300, 400 years ago that’s what was happening, because people were using their bodies, they were coming up with their own solutions, they were going through traumatic things but they were able to do something about it. Their processing was more accessible and then it was able to be stored without the emotional, intense emotional responses happening. So that’s what EMDR enables you to do.

Margie: 21:55

Yeah, Cause I think back. I think back in the church scenario and I’m sure I’ve shared this before here somewhere along the line, but about a gentleman, a senior citizen. That’s the one thing that used to get to me, you know, when I was pastoring, is if it was an older gentleman and he cried, that just really would get to me. But there would be this one gentleman would always go to the altar for any thing and he would just be up there crying and he would say I can’t get the victory, I can’t get the victory, no, okay. Well, I was mid-20s when I came to Christ, so I kind of had to have somebody translate what that meant Exactly. And I spoke to somebody and said what, what does he mean? What is going on there? And he was on the beaches of Normandy as a team and and he just, you know, I feel so bad. It’s like, you know, as, because we’re talking about really, basically, what is wrong.

Margie: 22:53

Congregation, or people that you know, love, care about, are struggling with something that they don’t even know how to deal with. You know, I should be able to pray through it. Just pray, give it to Jesus, and it’s good, and I don’t mean to say that that’s not helpful, healthy or a good idea. I’m not saying that that’s not the case, but when there are ongoing instances that just seem not to be able to be resolved, it’s okay to then look at.

Margie: 23:45

You know some advances that we have today in neuroscience. It’s pretty amazing how you know your brain makes ruts because you keep going up and down the same path. But maybe you need to go on a different direction, a different path, and you actually can reroute your brain by doing some things differently. And it’s pretty, pretty fascinating stuff actually. And I think EMDR is brain spotting. I’m not sure if they’re exactly the same, but these are potential. I mean, it’s almost like an antibiotic really that comes in and disrupts. You know an antibiotic either works. You know you’re either going to starve the little microbe or the little thing making you sick, or you stop it from being able to reproduce. That’s how antibiotics work. So this is almost like an antibiotic for your neurology, for your brain.

Kristen: 24:37

Yeah, and there are several ways of healing. And I even think about in scripture what did David do? Other people as well use lament Like lament is a gift and that’s the expressing. It’s actually complaint to god. How long? How long are you gonna hide your face from me? Right, the complaint is actually if I put it into a sentence, I feel like you’re hiding you. You know you’ve left. That’s the complaint. And then to express the emotions my eyes waste away with grief.

Kristen: 25:17

Psalm 6, 6 says this language that he is able to use to express the emotion so important. Where in our Western culture we suppress emotion and we’ve been told it’s not right, it’s not good. You know, david expresses anger in the Psalms and we’ve been told anger is off limits, that we can’t be angry as Christians. That’s just false. We see it all throughout scripture where anger is a right response to an in or unjust action. We should be angry about some things. Then what do we do with that anger? Right, but we need to express it. So we have to. We have to heal, sorry, we have to feel to heal. Somatic work, movement with the body is a great way to heal. And then, like we were talking about before, we hopped on and started recording. Today, healing begins with this consistent, repeated, patterned connection. It has to be consistent, repeated pattern. I should say safe connection. So say more about that.

Margie: 26:31


Kristen: 26:32

So this is part of in therapy we talk about this being part of the therapeutic alliance, a reason why we have people come in, you know, every week or every other week for one hour. What’s happening? Consistent, repeated, patterned safe connection. They’re relearning how to build trust. This is the basic blocks. From when you’re a baby, you should be having consistent, repeated, patterned safe connection, and so when that’s disrupted, it makes the nervous system go wait, can I trust you? What’s going on on here? Are my needs going to be met? And it brings this sense of insecurity to the nervous system. So to heal that we need we need that consistent, repeated, pattern safe connection. And when we think about that, like sometimes church leaders or faith leaders will think, well, well, you just need to be in church every Sunday, that’s good, it is good. Okay, what? What safe connection is happening there? Like you’ve got the consistent, repeated and maybe pattern, but is there a safe connection happening?

Kristen: 27:44

When they’re coming there, I’ll often say, like for myself, for me moving through healing, and what I recommend to my clients is to build something in. That has to be consistent, so maybe it’s. It doesn’t need to cost money, so maybe it’s. You know, you have one friend, one friend that you could call and just say, hey, can we meet every Tuesday, 8, 8 AM, or you know whatever works for your schedule. Maybe it’s once a month and you decide I can do something consistent once a month and it’s repeated and it’s patterned and it’s a safe connection so we can actually put this in our own lives to begin to heal, especially trust, issues. Right, how do I learn to trust again? It’s one of the most common questions I get, whether it’s been church trauma or it’s abusive relationship. How do I learn how to trust again? You need that consistent, repeated, patterned, safe connection and I am very aware that I’ve said it a lot of times.

Margie: 28:51

Oh, that’s fine, no, that’s fine.

Kristen: 28:54

The one thing to take away from this today. That’s what heals consistent, repeated, patterned, safe connection.

Margie: 29:01

Yes, and that that is.

Margie: 29:03

You know, one avenue for and I advocate for this as a part of your self-care is to don’t journey alone. Everyone needs a safe place where they can be totally honest, and that is one facet, whether you work with a spiritual director, you have a friend or you have a coach or you have something for ministry leaders, for sure. But then also ask ministry leaders and we need to think through how healing of an environment we are creating in our congregations and whether this pattern is being nurtured and upheld within those. So we are going to stop here, though, for today and leave it here, and we’re getting our primer here on trauma and what healing looks like, and then we’re going to toddle along into congregational life, pastoral life, and we will expand.

Margie: 30:05

And I will put Kristen’s her website in the show notes, for sure you can connect with her and we might even put some resources in there so that you can kind of dig in, because you know, as ministry leaders, we do look at our people and go what is wrong with them? And then, of course, you know we always have to ask and what is wrong with us as a level of growth for us, as a level of growth for us as a level of building our self-awareness, which is always a helpful tool. So, kristen, thank you so much for your insight. We appreciate this.

Kristen: 30:41

Thank you for having me.

Margie: 30:44

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, margiebricecom, that’s B-R-Y-C-E, margiebryce dot com, MargieBryce 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 margiebricecom it on the home page of the website and you can get your burnout questionnaire and kind of see where you’re at.

Margie: 32:22

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

Margie: 32:31

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 show notes. But I will have some other ways that you can be a part of getting the word out about the importance 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.

Let's Chat! GET Relief NOW

Are you chronically tired and overwhelmed?

Are you serving people and feeling so drained
that you are at risk for burnout?

Does serving people feel harder than you thought it would be?

Book a Free Discovery Call to have an honest conversation on how you can refocus and realign yourself to intentionally cultivate a sustainable lifestyle.

Get weekly reminders when a new episode goes live.


The Crabby Pastor podcast

Got a burnout story?

Got a situation or issue you’d like discussed on the podcast? Share with Margie using the form below. If used in a podcast episode, your situation will be handled anonymously UNLESS you are up for being a guest on the podcast.