North Coast Church Teaching Pastor’s Wife Dies By Suicide

By Sarah Einselen
On August 1, Paige Hilken, age 28, died by suicide at a mental health facility where she was receiving treatment. She is survived by her husband, Christopher, a pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California; and their five children. (Photo via Instagram)

A mother of five and wife of a pastor at the California megachurch North Coast Church died by suicide early this month amid struggles with mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder.

North Coast Teaching Pastor Larry Osborne told church members in video message that Paige Hilken, 28, passed away on August 1. He said her husband, Christopher Hilken, had taken a leave of absence from the church for several months to help Paige with “the sudden onslaught of mental and emotional pain that she was battling.” She had recently checked in to a mental health treatment facility, Osborne told the church.

Paige Hilken had “received a catastrophic medical diagnosis in April that led to PTSD and other co-occurring mental health issues” and died while in the mental health facility, a GoFundMe campaign for the family states.

More than $550,000 has been raised to help Christopher with funeral expenses and the loss of income from Paige’s business, Hilken Homemades. He’s also caring for their kids, all of whom are under 6 years old, according to the fundraiser.

Christopher Hilken is a teaching pastor and leads North Coast Church’s young adult program, The Jordan, according to the church’s website.

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Osborne, who was lead pastor at North Coast for decades, also leads the North Coast Training Network, which is hosting a conference in October where controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was previously scheduled to speak.

The Hilkens married in 2013 when Paige Hilken was 19, her website states. They met while attending Concordia University, where Paige pitched for the softball team, according to a Concordia University Irvine press release. She was on the team that captured the 2013 NAIA National Championship and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

“She was brilliant, driven, kind, generous and always rooting for others to succeed,” Crystal Rosenthal, CUI athletic director and head softball coach, said in the press release. “She pushed herself in everything that she did, and helped bring others up along the way.”

Osborne encouraged church members to reach out to North Coast Church pastors “with questions, with confusion, for prayer.”

“Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune from the brokenness of this world,” he told the church. “Mental and emotional brokenness that is a part of this fallen world is all the harder, frankly, for most Christians . . . to get their hands around.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. for ages 10-34, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, after accidental injuries.

Anyone who is having thoughts of harming themselves, or who knows someone who is, can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a certified listener. People can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 anytime for free and confidential emotional crisis support.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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27 thoughts on “North Coast Church Teaching Pastor’s Wife Dies By Suicide”

  1. Also, the insta page @northcoastchurchabuse says it all… But, it’s only to be expected if the lead pastor is connected to Mark Driscoll. When are people going to wake up to the severity of abusive cultures like these…

      1. Ken P,

        I agree if someone wants to kill themselves there very little you can do to stop it, (I know of someone that used their thumb nail to open up their throat), but that only makes sense if the patient is left alone. If you are in a treatment facility for suicidal ideation, then you should have a “sitter” 24/7 until they no longer consider you a risk.

        When someone comes into the ER as a suicide attempt/risk, if no techs/nurses are free, there are trained volunteers that sit with the patient and they are not allowed to leave the patients side for any reason, unless relieved by the next sitter or a nurse. They also have to keep a log that describes the patients status every 15 minutes. This is one of the RED Rules in the hospital. RED Rules cannot be broken for any reason and any staff member that breaks one of these rules is fired.

        The treatment facilities should have the same protocols in place, if not then they are in deep legal trouble.

  2. We cannot understand the turmoil that she must have experienced. But let me tell you this. People don’t ‘choose’ suicide, they are driven to it. It becomes a dark alley of desperation where one’s thoughts descend into a tunnel vision of despair. I’ve heard Christians blame the victim. I don’t think this is either accurate or compassionate. Once one is in that alley, there is no turning back, because you don’t even know it has an entrance any longer. Everything changes in your world . Your world closes in on you, bleakly.

    Thankfully, I’ve survived.

    1. Thanks for sharing. Mental illness is something real and abounds in our society. It isn’t cured by some prayers or quoting bible verses. It is also challenging to get a good therapist. Give me a compassionate mental health counselor over any “christian counseling” meeting.

      The children will suffer tremendously over this. I pray that they get the true help that they need. It seems like the church is rallying around the family and I am sure they will take good care of the grieving family.

      May God give grace in this time of trouble.

    2. Cody B Laumeister

      David, thank you for your wise and accurate comment. I battled depression for years, but thankfully without becoming suicidal. But even in my case, the illness became the lens, or maybe the fog, thru which I saw myself and the world, because I was seeing everything with a diseased brain. It’s almost impossible to see the positive possibilities that may be open to you with support and treatment.

      This is why finding support is so important— one needs to “borrow” the healthy minds of others, as it were, until one’s own outlook improves.

      Start with your primary care doc, if necessary, and insist on referrals to both a psychiatrist (for medication) AND a therapist (for support and talk therapy). This may require two different professionals. If you want to see a pastoral counselor, make sure they have a master’s in counseling AT LEAST. A degree in theology does NOT prepare someone to work with the mentally ill.

      You need a TEAM on your side. It may be hard to predict what approach will work for you, so try ALL of them, as long as they are backed by evidence from the medical literature. A credible mental health professional will be happy to show you that evidence. If they’re not, move on ! Your life may well be at stake !

  3. Going to guess that dearest hubby and the CULT she got tangled up in played a non-trivial hand in her far too young death. 90% of these megachurch tares are bound for the Lake in the hereafter.

  4. Suicide is heartbreaking. Her poor family and those babies.

    Wonder what type of mental health services she received at the facility? Was it a real medical hospital or one which only offered Christian counseling?

    And what type of medical diagnosis would induce such a severe case of PTSD?

    If this young woman felt her self-worth was wrapped up in the Quiverful image of fecundity and childbirth, would reproductive issues or post-partum depression drive her to suicide?

    Birthing 5 children in less than 9 years would be enough to drive any one “mad”.

    Sad, sad – all round.

  5. This is heart-wrenching to hear! That young woman and mother should have been helped……if only people around her knew and understood that she wasn’t well….and that her husband clearly isn’t well. I pray God’s mercy and healing upon those precious Children. I can only hope that God will send divine help to intervene in their lives.

  6. To address some of the concerns expressed in the comments:
    Paige went to one of the best Mental Health in-patient treatment centers in the U.S. While they were more than qualified to treat depression and PTSD, they are not a lock-down psychiatric ward. Patients are there of their own free will; free to stay or leave. Osborne, Hilken and Paige’s doctors would have known this, at the time that they selected this facility. If they believed her to be an imminent threat to herself, she should/would have been committed to an inpatient, locked-down, psychiatric facility.

    Paige did not have cancer or some other terminal disease. Larry Osborne appears to be somewhat misdirecting when he discusses her “catastrophic medical diagnosis in April that led to PTSD and other co-occurring mental health issues”.

    Paige gave birth to her 5th child, inside her home, on March 24, 2021. Chris married Paige when she was just 19. She became pregnant 6 months after her wedding. She had a baby approximately every 18 months after that, so she had 5 children by the time she was 28. Her diagnosis (which she shared publicly) was a post-partum pulmonary embolism in her lower right lung, which she suffered from in early April. While this is a dramatic event, she was only in the hospital for two days and her condition was fully treated. It’s likely that the non-specified “co-occurring mental health issues” may have been tied to post-partum depression, which can be quite serious. However, she was under a doctor’s care for 4 months prior to checking into the AZ center.

    Blood clots, while scary, are treatable and do not result in otherwise healthy people taking their own lives.

    What Osborne does not discuss is North Coast’s intense purity culture where couples are encouraged to marry very young and start producing large families right away. Otherwise, the girls may end up with “chewed up gum” which will simply ruin everything! According to kids who attended Chris Hilken’s youth groups (9/10 refers to 9th and 10th grades combined; 11/12 is high school junior and seniors) North Coast staffers well into their 20’s cherry picked the hot, underage girls while they are about 16 years old. They groom them for a few years, waiting to go public with their relationships after the girls turn 18. This ensures the girls are fully indoctrinated into the Sticky Church cult and have their virginity still in tact.

    Hilken’s second in command is named David “Chancho” Garcia. He goes by Chancho, even among the kids. Chancho means PIG. It is not a term of endearment. In border states, boys called Chancho are generally very sexually filthy. There is no excuse to call any church leader Pig, regardless of what language you use. Chancho has reportedly sexually abused girls in North Coast’s youth group and has chided the young girls for trying to seduce him by wearing leggings. Chancho remains on staff as North Coast continues to call victims liars or refer to their testimony as “fake news”.

    Chris and Chancho set up gender groups where the girls are shamed dramatically for kissing a boy, even as a young child, and heaven forbid they should watch provocative material while touching themselves looking for a “sparkle”. Their “gum isn’t just chewed”, they are called whores. Then the girls are forced to play games with the boys, one of which involves a sort of gauntlet where the boys are free to grope the girls as the girls try to rush their way through the gauntlet. Very Tailhook of North Coast. I’m sure the patriotic North Coast is flying a flag somewhere, when that game takes place.

    Chris Hilken teaches these young kids that the man is entitled to sex any time he wants it. To ensure the kids see him as compassionate and sincere, he has said that sometimes he will do the dishes to ensure a particular sex act, but all sex is his to command, every day, thanks to God and the Bible.

    Mark Driscoll teaches this identical rubbish at his church. They both also lock offending kids in rooms to interrogate and intimidate any kids who kiss. Driscoll’s other two elders, Jimmy Evans and Robert Morris both teach that couples should marry very young to prevent fornication. Both men married as teenagers. Gateway puts a lot of pressure on teens to marry and their adult youth workers mack on the young as well. Jimmy advocates the same rape culture as Osborne and Driscoll.

    The media was tipped off by insiders about Paige’s suicide, with calls from these insiders begging for them to look deeper into this “mystery” as well as Chris’ recent multi-month “sabbatical”.

    There is a deep, dark, twisted culture (emphasis on the first syllable) at Driscoll’s Trinity, Osborne’s Sticky Church: North Coast, Morris’ Gateway and Evans’ (former Gateway and Fellowship Trinity – he was broomed out of both in a hushed up manner) XO Marriage. Their toxicity continues to negatively affect thousands. And this is NOT the first time a young woman attached to a kinky, sex entitled celebrity youth pastor has taken her own life. (Tik-tok sex man, your day is coming… )

    If these horrible abusive celebrity leaders have an ounce of compassion and humanity in their seared souls, THEY should be the ones checking themselves into this facility, so they can re-humanize themselves. It’s not too late.

    And I do expect that there is far more to Paige’s PTSD than a blood clot. A mother of five does not abandon her children easily, no matter how depressed they are. But if your marriage starts out with your husband urinating on you to mark his territory, who knows how the remaining 8-9 years went? I hope that more people with insider information will step up. Paige’s children deserve to know the truth.

    1. That was horrifying to read, Amy, but thank you for providing context about this tragic death.

      Five children so young, the responsibilities and scrutiny of a ministerial wife, the pressure of maintaining an active social media presence and running an “alternative health” home business no matter how much she was suffering…this all would have been difficult for one so young in the most supportive of environments. In the toxic mess you describe it apparently became unbearable.

      I hope other young women (and young men!) will flee this church.

    2. OMG!!! Sheila Wray Gregoire talks about rape culture in the church and marital rape being normalized by church leaders. From your comment, it sounds like Paige was victimized by rape culture and possibly marital rape. If they believed women can’t say no to their husbands, that is endorsing marital rape – consent is not required in their culture. Imagine a woman whose body has been traumatized through childbirth, living in that environment and being confronted by all the harm that was done, not only to her, but to others who have been involved in this cult. And now, the very people who harmed her are controlling the narrative of her life. This is tragic on so many levels. I hope her children are removed from that cult environment. That is the best thing investigative reporters can do in her honor. Expose the cult so her children will not have to endure the same trauma.

    3. North Coast staffers well into their 20’s cherry picked the hot, underage girls while they are about 16 years old. They groom them for a few years, waiting to go public with their relationships after the girls turn 18.

      That sounds like an exaggerated Ehebephilia version of a “mating pattern” from my high school days. (No separate Jr/Sr High in my area; we had 8 years of grade school and 4 years of high school.) A high school senior Alpha Male (usually a football jock) would stake out a hawt-looking freshman girl (four years younger; he’d be around 18, her around 14) as HIS, driving off any other guys (like those her own age) for the four years until she turned 18 and graduated, at which point they’d marry. Don’t remember anything about him Marking His Territory with a golden shower, but I’m sure there was meat-in-meat action somewhere along the line.

      About the time I got out of Jr college, I remember running into one of the girls from this arrangement working at AAA; when she heard I was still single, she told me how lucky I was.

    4. If these horrible abusive celebrity leaders have an ounce of compassion and humanity in their seared souls, THEY should be the ones checking themselves into this facility, so they can re-humanize themselves.

      Why should they when They Can Do No Wrong?
      (By Divine Right, of course.)

      “Nothing’s worse than a monster who thinks he’s Right with God.”
      Firefly
      (Except a monster who KNOWS he’s Right with God…)

  7. One other question that still needs answering… Why did North Coast FIRE Chris Hilken’s predecessor? That firing was unexpected and not explained to the public. Pastors are not often fired, unexpectedly. When this does occur, it is usually tied to a scandal. These are questions that need answers,

  8. Being a Christian doesn’t make you immune to birth control. 5 kids under 6 would be enough to turn the sanest into a mad woman. Were they “quiverfull” fanatics or staunch Catholics?
    Just don’t get it.

    1. Fred let me explain based on my opinion of reading many stories about the evangelical industrial complex. These are not churches. These are fiefdoms. The king the knights the serfs or the pastor the staff and the congregation. Think in those terms and it all makes sense. And everyone knows you never ever question the kings ways of ruling. Once I figured that out all these mega churches started to all make sense. Ask yourself, how do these fiefdoms have so much power over the serfs? And why do people keep tithing and staying when it’s so obvious the king lives a kingly lifestyle with large homes and expensive cars and planes and staff that in many situations would be arrested for there actions if not on the kings land. Because if you don’t tithe, god will get you. Just listen to Copeland and white and all the other kings and queens about what you are to do with Gods money err sorry your money.

      1. Gary W,

        Up to the point you said Copeland, I thought you were talking about HBC, not that that these situations are unique or limited to the US.

        As to your point about “These are fiefdoms.” I notice a pattern in these types of churches where Paul is the final word, not Jesus. If you bring up a verse in M, M, L, or J that goes against their authority, style, or business model you are immediately called out as a “weak” christian, or if your scripture reference is a threat to their power then apostate/blasphemer is used.

        2 weeks ago I watched a sermon with some fellow believers, where the Pastor said that “99.9% of Christians, live in the flesh 99.9% of the time” while trying to get donations. When I brought up the fact that would apply to church leadership, the reaction was Romans 13, and we are not allowed to hold our leaders to a higher standard because it is impossible for us to understand what it is like being a Pastor. Plus, I was told Pastors have special privileges (given to them by Jesus, Paul’s letters) that allow them to act in an unchristian way when dealing with the wolves, apostates, money, and their own sin.

        It is amazing to me that the Christian community is unable to grasp why church support is crashing.

          1. Ella M,

            Any time I see spin being used when describing a tragedy, I become immediately suspicious. It is like when a child has done something wrong and then goes into detailed explanation that acknowledges what happened, but absolves them of all responsibility. You see the same behaviors in politicians/Pastors caught in controversy/lies/cheating, etc …

  9. Where were people of her side of the family to intervene. The father in law as a minister was useless. He should have been a guide to show you can’t be everything to everyone. Another happy happy god is good all is well and smile smile. The father in law should have counciled his son that she is his wife with five kids and not his plaything to show off. If that was my daughter I can assure you I would have been there for her. And told my son in law to back off. That’s why I ask where was anyone from her side of the family. Like the Duggar’s. What a mob scene. And I’m sure billy bob bob billy bob bob made sure that scripture was always ready to use like a WMD against the wife. 19 kids!!!!! That means she was perpetually pregnant for twenty years.

  10. Sad, brutal, horrific and a tragedy to her children. It is a fact that the risk of suicide among the remaining family members increases. The message is that suicide is a viable option when life becomes overwhelming and depression takes over, life goes on for everyone else and your pain can end. I have seen it in my extended family. Pray for the lives of her children.

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