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Practicing Trauma-Informed Spiritual Life


Spiritual life at Crossnore is an inclusive program offering life changing experiences through transformative presence and learning. Although rooted in our Christian beliefs, we embrace all faiths and recognize the importance of faith in healing.

Spirituality is inborn and fundamental to who we are as humans. It connects our minds, bodies, and souls. Unlike other observable aspects of development like speech or physical development, we are born with the capacity for felt relationships. Children do not have to learn spiritual engagement—a smile, a touch, the bond between parent and child. Through attention and space to question and wonder, a child’s innate spirituality flourishes. However, neglect can hinder or even turn it off.

The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

A healthy spiritual life does not equate to religious practice. Our inborn spirituality is an understanding that there is something bigger than us. Dr. Kenneth Pargament, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, defines spirituality as the search for the sacred. As it develops, “Beliefs, practices, experiences, relationships, motivations, art, nature, war- virtually any part of life, positive or negative, can be endowed with sacred status.”² Our search for the sacred can also lead us to the established institutions and traditions that make up religion. At their root, spirituality and religion are the same in their search for the sacred. However, religion is an expression of our spiritual lives through established organizations and institutions whose mission is to facilitate our connection to the sacred. Spirituality can be expressed in individual and nontraditional contexts.²

Research³ continues to prove that individuals with healthy spiritual lives have:

  1. Improved post-trauma outcomes.
  2. A reduction in behavioral risks throughout life.
  3. Expanded social support systems and less isolation through spiritual communities.
  4. Better coping skills through relaxation responses connected to spiritual practices.
  5. Less overall sickness.
  6. Quicker healing responses.

Spiritual Life Programming at Crossnore

No matter where a child is in their spiritual life journey, we meet them there. We create safe spaces for children to question and reflect upon their spirituality. Along with physical and emotional trauma, some of our children come to us with spiritual trauma. Often, people in their lives have weaponized and harmed them with religion.

Religious trauma is a deep rooted trauma of betrayal. It destroys our search for the sacred—meaning making relationships and connections. Children who have been hurt by religious trauma need safe spaces to process and wrestle with what they do or do not believe. They need safe spaces to once again question and search for the sacred. For all Crossnore children, spiritual life first looks like knowing that they are safe and loved.

As a Christian agency, we embrace our Christian roots and heritage. Living into our experiences as spiritual beings, we understand that we can’t force spirituality and religion. Healthy spiritual lives are founded in choice. Outside sources can nurture our spiritual and religious lives, but they can never force them.

Spiritual Life Expectations and Opportunities

Part of our spiritual life programming at Crossnore is the expectation that cottages attend weekly on campus “fellowship” and off campus church services. Both fellowship and church attendance are pieces of a healthy rhythm for our children. They offer a balance to the difficulty of school, group living, and trauma.

Being part of a spiritual life community encourages healthy connections and relationships. Although we all may not have the same beliefs, it is important for us to honor our convictions by respecting the convictions of others. When we have students of other faiths in our care, the Spiritual Life Team works with the Residential Team to make sure they are able to worship in their tradition. If it is not possible to attend off campus services, we will provide opportunities for on campus engagement.

Fellowship and Worship

“Fellowship” primarily meets in Sloop Chapel on the Avery Campus and Woosley Chapel on the Winston Campus. This informal time of music, hands-on activities, and a scripture-based talk lasts approximately 30 minutes. Each cottage attends church services at an assigned local church each Sunday. The Spiritual Life staff work to build relationships with local pastors and churches for our residents. We have three primary goals when assigning cottages to churches.

  1. Physical Safety- We want the children in our care and staff to be physically safe when attending church.
  2. Emotional Safety- We want the children in our care to know we love, value, and hear them, both on campus and in our host churches.
  3. Theological Safety- We want the children in our care to hear a message of love and acceptance in their churches. They should never leave church angry at God or God’s people because of something someone has said or done through religion.

Authentic spirituality looks like being clear and honest about who you are and honoring the beliefs of others. In this space of open, honest communication we become the community we are called to be. It is not the job of Crossnore’s Spiritual Life team to convert children to Christianity or gauge success by such. Instead, we walk with children on their journey to healing and share the power of healthy spirituality. And, along the way, we laugh, love, and lift up.

1. Lisa Miller, Ph.D., The Spiritual Child: The New Science of Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving

2. Richard Schiffman, More Psychotherapists are Incorporating Religion into Their Practices.

3. National Center for PTSD, Spirituality and Trauma: Professionals Working Together.