At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

For The Pastors: What Pastors Can Do To Help Victims of Domestic Violence in the Church by Grant L. Martin, Ph.D

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When an abused wife comes to a Pastor seeking help, often the Pastor looks the other way. Ignoring a wife’s pain and plea for help just makes matters worse for her; ignoring the problem doesn’t make the problem go away. Refusing to listen to her does nothing to reduce the danger she is in or help her with her pain and confusion. It won’t protect her children. Downplaying her story makes her out the “bad guy”…a role her husband all too often, all too successfully, casts her in already. Usually a wife must be at the point of desperation before she asks for help. If she comes to her Pastor asking for prayer, for guidance, it is because she  desperately feels the need for it. Frequently Pastors do not want to get involved; they don’t want to believe that a situation is as bad as she says it is, don’t want to accept that the guy that everyone knows as such a “friendly fellow” has a dark and dangerous side. This is wrong. Whether the abuse she is facing is physical, spiritual, emotional, verbal, sexual or financial, if she has gotten up the courage to say, “Pastor, I need to talk to you”, then please, please take the time to listen, to pray…and to act. After all Pastors have a God-given responsibility to shepherd the sheep in their church and this, of course, includes any abused sheep.

So, what can you, a Pastor, do if a woman comes to you with “her story”?

You can…

  • Pray with her and for her but do not put her name on a prayer list (“Mrs. So-and-so is in an abusive situation….”) unless you have her permission (and then be careful with your wording)
  • Listen to her and believe her…believe her…believe her
  • Let her know that it isn’t her fault, it isn’t because she isn’t “submissive enough” (an excuse far too often fallen back on~usually an abused woman is far, far more submissive than other wives)
  • Let her know that you care and will listen both now and in the future
  • Help her take inventory of the situation so that she can access danger and make wise decisions
  • Become educated about resources that might help her (magistrate numbers, support groups, counseling, shelter program, and legal advocacy services, etc.)
  • Let her know that her husband needs treatment, that it isn’t “just that he gets too angry”; if there is an on-going pattern of over-the-top anger issues, it is abuse
  • Help her to press charges if need be; be there to support her as she sees it through to its logical conclusion
  • Do whatever it takes to keep her and her children safe
  • Help her think through her options
  • Let her know that, no matter what her husband says, she isn’t crazy (“crazy making” behavior by him might make her think she is)
  • Help her to deal with, and heal from, her damaged emotional state
  • Give her guidance as to what to say to her children, how to help them to heal, how to provide for them
  • Help her with ideas for coming up with income, getting training if needed, starting a home business, etc.; if you can’t, find someone who can
  • If there is immediate physical danger get her out today!
  • Be a spiritual rock for her; find godly men to mentor her boys and godly ladies to mentor her and her girls (very, very, very needed!)


  • Tell her what to do (rather help her to come to a decision)
  • Tell her she must leave (she first needs to be listened to and helped with plans)
  • Tell her she should never leave (especially if there is physical danger involved she needs to leave)
  • Blame her for the situation or tell her to “deal with it” or to “learn to please your husband so this doesn’t happen” or that “this abuse is to God’s glory” (her response may be, the abuse? NEVER) or that she “isn’t being submissive enough”
  • Offer to “talk” to her husband; he will either deny it or the situation will get worse (though being help accountable by the church is a good thing; remember: a truly abusive man isn’t a saved man no matter how much you might want to believe he is)
  • Recommend martial counseling; counseling isn’t useful in domestic abuse cases (this isn’t a couple’s problem; this is an abuse problem and thus is sin. The husband needs to be called to repentance that he might be saved)

You can also…

  • Enlighten yourself as to the issue of domestic abuse
  • Preach a sermon or series of sermons on domestic abuse
  • Work with the Elders to establish procedures to protect  and to minister to victims practical, spiritual and emotional needs
  • Make sure the abuser is held accountable for his actions

To read further on this, please go to


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