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Hello! I'm Ashley.

I’m a Christian feminist, writer, speaker, TV producer, news pundit, ordained reverend, and abuse-victim advocate who educates churches and secular communities on abuse. I’m the founder of The Courage Conference, for survivors of abuse—and those who love them.

I’m A Millennial and This Is Why We Are Leaving The Church (Video)

I’m A Millennial and This Is Why We Are Leaving The Church (Video)

I am a 24 year-old millennial, and I do a lot of the typical millennial things. I’m attached to my iPhone, I’ve been known to take a few selfies, and I mostly hang out in coffee shops when I’m not honing my hipster swag. Ok, so... that last part about the hipster swag isn’t true but the point is I’m a pretty typical millennial.

I grew up attending the same church my whole life, and from the time I was a tiny baby I barely missed a Sunday. When I turned 21, I left that church and haven’t been back there since.

The reason I left was not because we sang an large amount of hymns and I prefer Christian Contemporary, and it wasn’t because everyone was always dressed up and I like my jeans. The reason I left that church was because I didn’t feel safe.

You see, I am an abuse survivor, and all of my abuse was perpetrated by people from the church. When I told the pastors about what had happened, they didn’t make me feel any safer.

And like it or not, because of their response, my view of Church has forever been changed. I can’t make myself go back into that church building. I’ve tried, but my body gets shaky, I start to feel like the walls are pressing in on me, and I end up in the bathroom, trying not to have a full-on panic attack. 

It turns out I am not alone either. After I came out with my abuse story, hundreds of people reached out to me. Many of them had also experienced abuse in the Church, along with insensitive or neglectful interactions with Church leaders. In nearly every instance, these men and women said they still loved Jesus, but they don’t feel safe in a church setting.

Did you know that 1 of 4 women and 1 of 7 men will be abuse in their lifetime, including those in church? Those between the ages of 12-34 (millennials and younger) are at the highest risk for rape and sexual assault. 

And, according to a study produced by Church Law & Tax, for the last five years, child sexual abuse has been the number one reason Churches or Religious Organizations have ended up in court. 

Wow, that’s a lot of young people experiencing abuse in our churches and leaving the Church! 

If you ask me, this is a big contributor to why Barna studies say 59% of young millennials are leaving the Church. They are experiencing abuse, then not given the support they need from the Church, and eventually leaving the scene entirely.

Click here to find out, by the numbers, how many abuse victims are in your church

I like Church. I like it a lot. I want to be a part of a church, but I can’t make myself go back to that place where I don’t feel safe. Thankfully, I was able to find a congregation near me that takes abuse seriously and is educating themselves on abuse. If I hadn’t found an abuse survivor friendly church and found it quickly, I probably wouldn’t be in church now either. 

So here’s the thing, I really believe that there are a lot of millennials (and generation X people too) that want to be in church, but we have to offer them a safe place to go, and we have to offer a safe place for their children (the next generation) as well. 

That is one of my greatest fears about having kids, what if they experience life-altering abuse like I did? How could I even think of dropping them off at the church nursery or youth event, unless I knew they were going to be safe?

Because I love the Church, and because I love fellow survivors and Church leaders, (though I’m going to be honest… Church leaders still make me nervous,) I decided to host an event that I’m calling The Courage Conference.

The Courage Conference is going to do a couple of things. First, it is going to offer a judgement-free place for survivors of abuse (and those who love them) to gather and hear inspiring stories from other survivors and how they are finding healing. Second, The Courage Conference will be a place where pastors and church leaders will come to learn from trained, Christian professionals about abuse prevention and how to respond in a way that does not scare young people away when abuse happens in their church. Both groups of people will benefit from the offering of free resources from the community that serve those who have been abused, so survivors can get healing and Church leaders don’t have to figure it out on their own.

I know it’s a crazy concept, getting both survivors and church leaders in the same room, but I really think we are going to see that the leaders who attend the event are serious about safety in their ministries. The survivors who come won't feel pressured to attend a church, but will gain a sense of togetherness by being alongside other survivors, and a sense of healing as they see church leaders taking the issue seriously.

The Courage Conference will be held in just over two months in Lynchburg, Virginia, on the night of Friday, October 28th, and the morning of October 29th. For tickets, ticket scholarships, and more information about the speakers and the event click the button below.

And hey, if you can’t make it to Lynchburg, or you aren’t sure if you feel safe attending an event like this, we have an online viewing option! That way, you can still benefit from the information from the comfort of your own home.

I really believe that the Church should be a safe-haven for the abused. At The Courage Conference we are going to start a movement to make this happen but we need you. Will you join us?

Know a survivor or pastors who could benefit from this? Please share!

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Podcast: Gifts, Not Gender

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