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Recognizing Red Flags: Signs of an Abusive Church

In any community, trust, support, and a sense of belonging are essential. However, there are times when church communities can become unhealthy and even abusive environments. It's important to be aware of the red flags that indicate spiritual and emotional abuse within a church setting. In this article, we present a questionnaire designed to help individuals evaluate their experiences and identify potential signs of an abusive church.


Take a moment to go through the following questions carefully and honestly. Remember, this assessment is written from the perspective of someone still involved in a church. If you have left a church, you can use this questionnaire to reflect on your past experiences and determine if the church you left was indeed abusive.


1. 😟 Do you feel nervous when you go to church?

2. 😬 Are you extra careful with your behavior to avoid upsetting other members or church leadership?

3. 😓 Do you feel obligated or coerced into doing things for the church?

4. 😨 Are you afraid of expressing a different opinion than the church leadership?

5. 😔 Does the church leadership make you feel ashamed, embarrassed, or like a disappointment, even in front of others?

6. 🕵️‍♀️ Does the church leadership seem suspicious of your activities, check up on you, or require you to confess your actions?

7. 😣 Does the church communicate that considering leaving would be disloyal and betraying?

8. 🌟 Does the church promise better treatment, favors, and responsibilities if you conform to its expectations?

9. 🤐 Does the church encourage you to isolate yourself, causing you to lose touch with friends and family outside the church, and making your primary relationships solely within the church?

10. 😕 Does the church's attitude and behavior make you feel as if you've done something wrong?

11. 😖 Does the church use threats, including spiritual ones, to motivate you?

12. 😞 Do you feel the need to hide important aspects of your personality to please the church and avoid being hurt?

13. 🙅‍♂️ Does the church communicate expectations to prevent you from engaging in activities you would normally want to do?

14. 😞 Do you always feel that nothing you do is ever good enough for your church?

15. 😔 Does the church suggest that leaving will jeopardize your future, promises, destiny, or harm your family?

16. 😰 Does the church imply that leaving will damage your reputation or put the church's mission at risk?

17. 😕 When you challenge the church, is there always an excuse or dismissal of its behavior?

18. 🤐 Do you hide your questions and emotions about the church by lying to your family and friends?


Furthermore, here are some common signs of emotional abuse. Does your church:


- 🗣️ Repeatedly give destructive criticism, verbal threats, and browbeating?

- 💪 Always claim to be right, dismissing differing perspectives?

- 👥 Exclude you from decision-making, assuming authority over your life?

- 🙈 Withhold information from you and exhibit suspicious behavior?

- 👤 Minimize or deny their abusive behavior when confronted?

- 😞 Constantly show disrespect, put you down, or embarrass you in front of others?

- 📑 Require more personal information than seems appropriate?

- 👀 Micro-manage your life and monitor your every action, even your thoughts?


Recognizing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive church is a crucial step towards seeking help and finding healing. Remember, it only takes one of these red flags to indicate a potentially abusive relationship with your church. If you identified with any of these signs, it's important to reach out to a trusted support system, such as Gladstone Exposed, where understanding, guidance, and assistance are available.


Remember, you need a church community that promotes love, respect, and personal growth. Seek a healthy and nurturing environment where your well-being and spiritual journey are prioritized.


Credit to David Hayward's Spiritual Abuse Test

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