This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog “External Mercy” and can be viewed here.
A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.
The next pages in Mercy Multiplied’s manual are dedicated to the idea of vision. There’s actually a lot in this section that I agree with — at least on the surface. I do think that it’s important to know where you want to go with something, what your goals are, and how you intend to build the organization or business or ministry. These are important things to consider regardless of what your endeavor is.
Mercy Multiplied says that in order to determine your ministry’s vision, you need to know your “target group” — who it is that God is asking you to serve. They also suggest additional questions to ask that would be important while considering the question of vision.
To me though the interesting questions are the ones that aren’t being suggested. There are questions about who the ministry will serve…criteria for acceptance…age group…etc., but there are also important questions that are missing. How will we help the people we are “serving”? Do we have the education, qualifications, and experience needed to accomplish this “vision”? How will we know that we are helping and not harming the people we are “serving”? How will we prevent the “vision” of the ministry from overshadowing the humanness of those we are claiming to “serve”? How do we make sure that the idea or appearance of integrity doesn’t become more important than it’s actuality?
These are questions that are mysteriously missing from this section of “big questions”. It’s not that I think that the questions suggested by Mercy Multiplied are unimportant — it’s just that there are some very important questions that they aren’t asking. I’ll leave you to think about what other important questions they’re not bothering to ask.
There’s an interesting sentence that’s slipped in after the suggested questions. “We strongly encourage you to seek legal counsel early on in the process regarding what licensing requirements will impact you in your location” (page 9). Once again, it’s not so much what IS said that is of concern, but rather what is NOT said. There’s nothing here about finding out what kind of licensing requirements will be beneficial to your ministry. There’s no suggestion of consulting with professionals who are trained to deal with the issues your “target group” is facing to find out what best and most successful practices are. The only professional that MM has yet suggested that someone wanting to establish their own residential counseling ministry contact is a lawyer.
See, here’s what I don’t really understand. I agree that when you need legal advice you should consult…a lawyer. After all, lawyers are people who have been educated by leaders in their field, trained for years in the subtle nuances of the law, have passed rigorous certification processes, and been mentored by experts in particular areas of legal matters. This is why they are professionals — and when Mercy Multiplied says in this sentence to seek “legal counsel” it seems fair to assume that they are referring to finding a lawyer who is educated, trained, certified, and experienced. You should remember this assumption because as foundational as it might seem, this is an assumption that Mercy Multiplied makes with regard to legal and financial matter, however, as you’ll see in future sections this is an assumption that they do NOT make with regard to other areas (i.e. psychological, medical).
Before moving into the mission section of this portion, Mercy Multiplied offers a few more suggestions to the end of “Mentoring Your Ministry”. Two of these stood out from these bullet points:
- There’s the recommendation that those in ministry or wanting to create a ministry should know their limits. Now, if there’s one thing in this manual that I can heartily agree with it’s that those who are in ministry, particularly those who are interested in establishing a residential counseling ministry should KNOW THEIR LIMITS. Too bad that Mercy Multiplied didn’t take their own advice on this one, they might have actually been able to help people.
- Another recommendation tells would-be ministry leaders to be wary of straying from the ministry’s specific mission. They offer an example of this from Mercy Multiplied’s personal experience, saying that since God directed Mercy Multiplied to minister to people who are “serious about working through their problems” and that if they were to “take in residents who are not sincere about changing their lives” they will decrease their “effectiveness with the residents who really want help…” (page 10).
Let’s take note though of who this puts in charge of deciding about residents’ sincerity…
Think about it — this is a specific example from Mercy Multiplied’s program and highlights a foundational principle of their program that many former residents have spoken about. Mercy Multiplied sets themselves up as all powerful in knowing and judging motives, sincerity, and willingness to change. So what if I sincerely want to change but Mercy Multiplied thinks that I don’t?
Pretty much, too bad, because it’s Mercy Multiplied that has the final say on what’s going on in a resident’s heart. If that seems rather judgy and condemning and un-Christ-like, that’s primarily because it is — there’s no way around it. Many former residents from Mercy Multiplied have shared stories of Mercy Multiplied deciding that they didn’t want help or deciding that they didn’t want to “get better” even while staff was perpetuating the belief that only Mercy Multiplied had the ability to help them. My own personal experience at Mercy Multiplied’s residential home in Nashville was tremendously impacted by the staff’s decisions about the motivations behind my actions. But there was a big problem with that: they were wrong. They were wrong, and they wouldn’t listen to me because they’d already decided for me.
It’s true that I’ve seen this in qualified treatment facilities as well, in my opinion negatively correlated with positive treatment outcomes, but one of the things that makes it so damaging at Mercy Multiplied is it’s not just the staff, counselors, or doctors that are declaring that a person does not want to get better (as at some treatment facilities), at Mercy Multiplied it’s “God” who is saying that.
I can’t think of a more hopeless situation to be in than to be told that you don’t want help (when you desperately do) and given no recourse to prove otherwise. I can’t think of a more hopeless situation to be in than to be told that you don’t want help (when you desperately do) and given no recourse to prove otherwise, because the last thing you need when you’re already hopeless and desperate is more hopelessness and despair handed to you by the people who are supposed to be helping you.
Guess what? Nobody gets to decide if I want help. Not Mercy Multiplied, not doctors, not psychiatrists, not therapists or counselors (regardless of their qualifications or lack thereof), not ANYONE except for me. It is important for my actions to show this desire and that’s something any treatment center has to look at. But when Mercy Multiplied narrowly defines what it means to “want help” as questioning nothing, being emotionless, and hiding struggles and has the power to tell you that you can’t be helped because you don’t “want it”, everyone gets hurt. The people who are kicked out are hurt, the people who become convinced they don’t want help and give up are hurt, and the people who tow the party line and pretend to be better are hurt. This is not healing…this is not transformation…this is not real mercy.
**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015. (I’d give you the link so you can buy it yourself, but as far as I can tell it’s no longer being offered for sale. Not sure why, but don’t worry…you’ll still get my commentary on it.)