Training event for church leaders about how to help sexually struggling people

Helping the Sexual Strugglers

A training event for pastors, church staff, and lay ministry leaders

June 4, 2009

Changes in society and the advent of the Internet have led to an epidemic of sexual struggle around the world. All are vulnerable, huge numbers of people are struggling, and for many the struggle has developed into a full-blown addiction. Church leaders are looking for ways of helping people caught in the web of compulsive sexual behavior. Our vision at Recovery Remixed is to provide teaching and guidance not only to sexual strugglers, but also to the ministry leaders who seek to help them. So we are jointly sponsoring this training event with Faithful and True Ministries for pastors, church staff, and ministry leaders.

Many people needlessly suffer because the church leaders providing teaching and care to them have limited knowledge about sex addiction /compulsive behavior and inadequate approaches to dealing with it. We want to present the findings from the latest research and our experience in working with strugglers, in the hope that more can be done to stem the tide of this growing problem.

Register today for this important training event for pastors and church leaders.

What is it?
Helping the Sexual Strugglers is a one-day training event for pastors, church staff, and small group leaders. The primary facilitator of this workshop is Rev. Mark Brouwer, director of training for Faithful and True Ministries, and writer of the blog sexual-sanity.com. Dr. Mark Laaser will also teach for part of the day, presenting his learnings from over 20 years experience of helping addicts find recovery in hospitals, treatment facilities, and private practice.

When and where will it take place?
Date: June 4 (Thursday)
Time: 9am to 4pm
Location: Faithful and True Counseling Center, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

How much will it cost?
Cost for event is $59.

Who should come?

  • Senior Pastors who want to find ways of building church ministries to help a growing number of parishoners struggling with their sexual behaviors
  • Staff pastors who oversee men’s and women’s and recovery ministries
  • Shepherding pastors who oversee counseling, marriage ministries, or pastoral care in their churches
  • Youth pastors who want to learn more about this growing youth ministry trend
  • LIFE Group leaders, or Celebrate Recovery Leaders who want to learn more about addiction and how to lead others in recovery
  • Parachurch leaders and denominational executives who want to learn how to protect and care for leaders who struggle with addiction

What will I learn?

  • How to understand the nature of sexual struggle, and how it manifests itself in compulsive behaviors and addiction
  • Understanding the three different kinds of people in your church who are impacted by sexual challenges (sexually vulnerable, sexual strugglers, and sexually dependent), and how to minister to them
  • Why it’s so hard for churches to deal openly and honestly about sexual struggle … and what to do about it
  • Strategies for churches to protect themselves from predators and the moral failure of leaders, while at the same time dealing openly and gracefully with sexual struggle
  • Strategies for church leaders to protect themselves from getting sucked into compulsive sexual behavior, and how to go about recovery if they already are
  • Best practices for ministries and effective groups that deal with sexual struggle


For any questions, or information about registering for this event, contact Mark Brouwer at 952-746-3885, or email him at: mark(at)markbrouwer(dot)com.

Too many interruptions: more serious than it sounds

Just read a fascinating post in the wiredscience blog with the provocative title: Digital overload is frying our brains. It’s worth a look, in spite of the creepy photo-shopped picture they lead with. Let me start with en extended quote:

“Paying attention isn’t a simple act of self-discipline, but a cognitive ability with deep neurobiological roots — and these roots, says Maggie Jackson, are in danger of dying.

“In Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, Jackson explores the effects of “our high-speed, overloaded, split-focus and even cybercentric society” on attention. It’s not a pretty picture: a never-ending stream of phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, text messages and tweets is part of an institutionalized culture of interruption, and makes it hard to concentrate and think creatively.”

So begins the blog post, which is mostly an interview with Jackson. The question of attention and focus has become increasingly important, as technologies proliferate that allow us to be interrupted. Jackson says that information workers now switch tasks an average of three minutes throughout the day. This is a problem for pastors … it’s hard to write a sermon in three minute chunks!

Another fascinating connection here: continual interruption is correlated with stress, which is an epidemic today. Jackson again:

“This degree of interruption is correlated with stress and frustration and lowered creativity. That makes sense. When you’re scattered and diffuse, you’re less creative. When your times of reflection are always punctured, it’s hard to go deeply into problem-solving, into relating, into thinking….Interruptions are correlated with stress, and a cascade of stress hormones accompany that state of being. Stress, frustration and lowered creativity are pretty toxic.”

Give the article a quick read. If you don’t get interrupted first.

New program for people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior

Leaders are human, and they struggle with sexual issues just like everyone else. The only difference is that for leaders of faith communities, a sexual misstep can be a career-ender. In fact, even rumors of sexual struggle can damage a leader’s credibility. The result is that most church leaders who struggle are hesitant to get the help they need. So they suffer in secret, and the monster in the closet gets ever more powerful.

Our companion site, sexual-sanity.com, has an article about a new program we’re starting up to help people face and overcome their struggles with compulsive sexual behavior. It’s called “90 Days to Sexual Sanity,” and it’s a great program for pastors and other church staff who want to get help, but don’t know where to turn. The program consists of daily instruction, devotional material, and tasks to do, combined with a weekly telephone conference call for support and coaching. As the title suggests, it lasts for 90 Days, and is intended to help people get a new start in facing this challenge. It starts Tuesday, January 6. Check it out.

The danger of pedestals

Someone just forwarded me a meditation from Today, a family-oriented recovery meditation book from Hazelden. It contains great reminders about the importance of letting people be who they are, and not putting them on pedestals. Read on, as I’ll quote the meditation:

Because you’re not what I would have you be, I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.
–Madeleine L’Engle

Sometimes we expect far too much of the people around us, and because no one can ever live up to those expectations, we are almost always disappointed. But wouldn’t it be better if we just let go, and let people be who they are? Then we’d be able to see them as they are – with all their beauty and goodness in which we take joy, and with all their faults, which we can also see in ourselves.

When we have put someone up on a pedestal, sculpturing them to fit our needs and desires by smoothing out the rough edges and creating new curves here and there, we cannot see the real person underneath our work. All we see is the illusion we have created. That is denying the person’s real identity and is disrespectful. It’s much better for our friends and for ourselves if we drop our expectations and illusions, and accept them all just the way they are.

What unfair expectations do I have of others?

One of the greatest challenges for leaders – especially pastors – is that people bring into their relationships with us a powerful mixture of expectations and illusions about what an uber-spiritual person should be. They want to see us in a good light, because this affirms their faith … the leader of their spiritual community can serve to validate the power of that faith.

Continue reading The danger of pedestals

Facing Times of Stress and Change

Times of stress and change can present great opportunities for ministry, but also create great challenges. And what else can you say about the tough times we’re living in now, with our economic woes and fears of job losses? With every news headline sounding more alarming than the last, and doomsayers coming out of the woodwork, I was encouraged by a letter forwarded to me by consultant and speaker Alan Zimmerman. I’m going to quote him at length here, as there are some good reminders for all of us here.

I’ve been speaking on change for a long time…but there’s a new twist to the program. A lot of you are asking me how you can survive this brutal, unfair economic change that has been thrust upon us by other people’s stupidity. You are asking me to emphasize those resiliency strategies in my programs. So let me give you a few of those tips right now.

1. Doubt the doomsayers

And there are a lot of them out there. Perhaps you’ve seen the e-mail floating around the Internet that says little has changed for the better since 1980. It reported that 80% of the world’s people still live in substandard housing; 70% are unable to read, and 50% suffer from malnutrition.

Well that e-mail intrigued author Philip Yancey who wrote “Fearfully And Wonderfully Made.” He spent a great deal of time tracking down the statistics from authoritative sources … only to find out that e-mail is downright wrong. In fact, the world has made major strides in the last 30 years.

Continue reading Facing Times of Stress and Change

Recently published “Click” has interesting insights about web porn use

Everyone knows that church leaders are not immune to sexual temptation, especially the pornography that’s readily available on the Internet. I just read an interesting book on Internet trends that has implications for pastors — for the health of their own souls, and for their awareness of what people in their organizations are struggling with.

Bill Tancer, who leads global research at Hitwise (an online market research company), has written a book about Internet use trends called “Click.” It’s an interesting read, and has some information specifically related to online pornography use. I’ll share a couple of statistics, and then add some of my thoughts.

In the massive database of websites that it tracks and analyzes, Hitwise follows the usage logs of just over 40,000 adult sites. Tancer offers some insight based on the analysis of these sites.

Overall porn use

  • In August 2005, 16% of all web traffic was on these 40,000 adult web sites. In other words, 16% of all web use was focused on 40,000 porn web sites.
  • In August 2007, 10% of all web traffic was on these 40,000 sites. That represents a decrease in porn use, relative to other web traffic. (There are a couple caveats I would throw out, however. See below.)

Time spent on individual porn sites

  • in August 2005, the average time a given user spent on a given adult web site was 5 minutes, 38 seconds.
  • In August 2007, that time had increased to 6 minutes, 29 seconds (an increase of 15%). Tancer suggests that the reason for the increase of time on each site has to do with the increased availability of video on adult web sites.

Percentage of women and men accessing porn sites

  • Of the 40,000 adult web sites Hitwise tracks, 73% of the visitors were male, and 27% were female.
  • Tancer doesn’t relate these figures to specific months of his study, and instead implies that this gender breakdown has remained fairly constant over the last couple years.
  • Some people might be surprised at how high the percentage of female visitors is to adult sites, because of the gender stereotype that women are not as attracted to visual pornography as are men (again see my comments below). But Tancer reminds readers that the adult sites also include erotic story sites, which have a higher percentage of female readers than male.

Continue reading Recently published “Click” has interesting insights about web porn use

What leaders must do if they want to last

You don’t have to look very far to find scary stats and gloomy pronouncements about the health of church leaders today. In fact, just look at some of the articles on this site! I want to be honest about the concerns I have, which are based on my experiences working with pastors, and my own experience in ministry. But more than that, I want to offer solutions!

Here are three bottom line “must do’s” for church leaders:

1. End denial. Pastors need to be honest about their vulnerability to discouragement, sexual temptation, and burnout. Many pastors are trying so hard to project an air of “having it together” that they manage to convince themselves. At least until they face a crisis and realize how stressed-out, unhappy, and unbalanced they really were. This is what happened to me. I would never had admitted the depth of my internal struggle, even though people around me could sense it and were worried about me.

2. End isolation. Pastors need to be extremely intentional about creating safe relationships where they can have fun, be real, and get honest feedback. This won’t happen in their churches, it has to come from outside. That’s why I am a coach … I want to provide that kind of relationship to pastors, and help them establish other safe friendships.

3. Start taking ownership. People don’t like hearing this, but it’s the truth: pastors have to take ownership of their own self-care, because nobody else will. Pastors who believe that their parishoners will provide the right kind of care for them will always be disappointed. People who haven’t lived the 24/7 life of a pastor don’t understand what it’s like, and the lay-leaders in any given church will always have the church’s interests in the back of their minds, even when they want to help you.

Remember that when Jesus took time to be away from the crowds, people (including the disciples) were often confused and even upset with him. “Where have you been?” they would ask, with an undisguised air of exasperation. Just like those unhappy church people who seem frustrated because it’s so hard to reach you on your day off.

Stressed Out? Four questions to see if your life is in balance

It’s a good idea to pause every now and again to take your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pulse. Recovery and long term health are built on the foundation of a life that is balanced and sane. Take a look at the questions below, and make the changes you need to make.

Take a minute to reflect upon your previous week, and ask yourself:

1. Am I honoring my body?

  • Have I listened to its aches and tensions?
  • Did I take time to rest?
  • Did I get exercise?
  • Have I been eating balanced meals?

2. Am I honoring my mind?

  • Have I taken time to read a good book or attend an interesting class?
  • Was I able to exchange ideas with a friend?

3. Am I honoring my emotions?

  • Was I able to express my feelings in my journal or to others?
  • Have I spent quality time with someone this week?
  • Did I take time to play and laugh?

4. Am I honoring my soul?

  • Have I spent time in prayer, meditation, or solitary thought?
  • Have I gathered with others for worship and spiritual encouragement?
  • Have I read something inspirational or listened to beautiful music?

These questions are taken from a short article by the Hazelden Foundation.

Guess how many church leaders are struggling with pornography?

The latest in the series of alarming trends among church leaders … pornography use continues to escalate. I’m going to quote Tal Prince, from an article in the “Alabama Baptist” online newspaper:

In an anonymous survey conducted by Leadership magazine, seven out of 10 lay leaders in the church admitted to visiting adult Web sites at least once a week. When pastors were asked the same question, four out of 10 said they did the same. If that many of our leaders struggle, what do you think is happening in the pews? Also disturbing here is the fact that those addicted to pornography will lie in surveys such as these.

What you do is important. I want to help you keep doing it.