Missionaries to Ministers
By the time ministers connect with T. Shane Couch they usually are in crisis mode. Couch, an Assemblies of God U.S. Missions chaplain, teaches preventative measures in the areas of sexual purity and relational boundaries. But more often he counsels those in the throes of damage control.
“Every person has stress, but those who call are dealing with some sort of trauma,” says Couch, who also is an ordained AG minister.
Couch, 48, can relate to pastors because of his own history of pornography and masturbation.
As with many males who struggle with porn, the roots of the addiction took hold during a broken childhood. He says at the age of 14, masturbation became an escape to medicate the pain of a dysfunctional family.
He hoped the struggle would disperse with his salvation experience, but it didn’t. Couch tried to pray away the sin and memorize Scripture as a means to combat lust. He didn’t think he could confide in anyone else about his shameful habit.
And he still found the lure compelling as he heeded the call to ministry. Getting married and attending an AG college didn’t relieve the compulsion.
Ultimately, Couch connected with a friend to whom he could divulge his pornography misdeeds. However, that didn’t provide freedom.
“Accountability is good, but there needs to be a change in behavior,” Couch says. “If there’s no change, accountability isn’t effective.”
A decade into his marriage, while serving as a youth pastor, Couch confessed his sexual addiction to his wife, Marty Danae Couch — who worked as a marriage and family therapist.
Unsurprisingly, Marty initially reacted with anger. But she and Shane both went to counseling to begin the healing process.
“Trust started to build when I got help on my own and when Shane fully committed to the recovery process,” says Marty, 47. “That helped me to get freedom.”
Marty had surgery for a brain tumor in 2008, and she believes Shane’s porn addiction recovery process helped him to be more considerate regarding her physical rehabilitation.
In recovery, Shane began to sense God calling him to help others overcome sexually immoral behavior. In 2011, he approached Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Ministries about offering support to struggling ministers. Shane and Marty became appointed U.S. Missions chaplains, counseling individuals and couples under the banner Missionaries to Ministers.
The first step toward healing is to remove the cause of the misconduct, Shane says. Then he recommends calling a sponsor to check in for daily accountability and regularly attending 12-step recovery group meetings.
“Immediately we address bad behavior and replace it with good behavior,” Shane says. “Whatever the secret, we deal with the symptom — the acting out with porn, strip clubs, massage parlors, prostitutes, voyeurism. Then we go back to where the trauma began.”
Often an adult who chooses to medicate with porn or infidelity discovers the compulsion stems from pain or voids during childhood, Shane says.
Spouses of addicts are relationship trauma survivors, Marty says. In their anguish, they don’t know how to react to the revelation that their mate is addicted to pornography or involved in other inappropriate sexual behavior, according to Marty, who also is a licensed AG minister.
“A lot of spouses don’t want to know anything, while others want to know too much,” says Marty, who leads a confidential group for pastors’ wives to recover from the pain of betrayal.
Shane and Marty counsel those who have an intimacy disorder and other issues in their San Jose, California, office, or via Skype, or, over the phone.
“This sin is so isolated,” Shane says. “The antidote is to reach out, be humble, and let someone know how you’re doing. We’re all broken people; we just have different details.”