November 27, 2021
MENTAL HEALTH & THE CHURCH

MENTAL HEALTH & THE CHURCH

The heart of this article comes from three passages of Scripture: “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15), “Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13b), and “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Five life-transforming Scriptural truths that shape our approach to the Mental Health are illustrated in The Hope Circle. Each truth combats a negative message that holds people back from moving toward hope.


WHAT CAN THE CHURCH DO?

Is there a role for the church in walking alongside people living with mental illness? The answer is a resounding YES! Studies show when people are struggling with mental illness the first place they call is the church. There is hope for mental illness.

Most people understand that mental illness is just that – an illness – and as such, often requires medication and treatment by mental health professionals for management and improved health. But the flip side of that realization can lead us to believe that there is nothing significant the faith community can offer to a  person living with mental illness. This is a misperception! In reality, the church is tasked with caring for the whole person – body, mind, and soul – and that means we must recognize and care for a person with an illness. The church can speak into the soul and personhood of the individual in ways that medical professionals cannot.

A CHURCH-INITIATED MENTAL HEALTH STRATEGY

Creation of a Church-Initiated Mental Health Strategy that can be built over time, adapted, and implemented into all areas of ministry in any church. Start small and gradually expand. It is helpful to look at building a mental health ministry through the stages of crawl, walk, and run.

Crawl

Crawl steps do not require money, training, resources, or paid staff. They are beginner steps for easing into creating your mental health ministry. All churches can implement crawl steps.

  • Refer to mental illness within sermons
  • Within weekend services pray for people who are living with mental illness and their families
  • Invite people who are living with mental illness to share their testimony in a church service
  • Equip people for ministry by reading The Purpose Driven Life
  • Study God’s plan for every member to be involved in caring for the sick on a tangible way
  • Give your congregation a survey that asks them questions related to mental health
  • Provide a referral list of mental health resources available in your community
  • Educate and raise awareness in your congregation by inviting mental health professionals to speak about mental illness
  • Provide space for free NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) support groups to meet at your church
  • Take a meal to someone newly diagnosed with mental illness
  • Befriend someone living with mental illness – go to a movie together or get a cup of coffee
  • Give hope to people who are mentally ill by providing encouraging connections: call, text, e-mails, letters, etc.

Walk

Walk steps require some training and minimal financial support. There is a greater level of commitment, but most churches can take these steps.

  • Preach sermons specifically about mental illness
  • Start mental health-specific ministries such as support groups for adults and youth
  • Start a Celebrate Recovery
  • Create care teams of three or four individuals who will commit to an ongoing relationship with an individual or family to help with basic needs (helping with household tasks, transportation to doctor visits, basic home repairs, etc.)
  • Train volunteers to be “companions” during a church service to anyone appearing distressed, depressed, or lonely
  • Regularly connect your church members in opportunities to serve
  • Help connect people in your congregation who have similar mental health challenges (with their permission)
  • Build a mental health library with books and resources available (for a list of Kay’s recommended mental health books, click HERE)
  • Use local mental health professionals to offer frequent educational meetings for your staff, volunteers, and parents

Run

Run steps require a higher level of commitment, more extensive training, financial support, and trained church staff. Some churches can take these steps.

  • Integrate mental health into existing ministries within the church
  • Develop a lay counseling ministry
  • Hold mental health support groups for children
  • Create a mental health safe place where people who are living with mental illness can come and find comfort and support
  • Provide staff with more advanced mental health care training
  • Create care teams of three or four individuals who will commit to an on-going relationship with an individual or family to help with mental health needs (assist in making connections to resources, programs and professionals who might be helpful to their specific needs – advocate for them in a holistic way)
  • Establish serving opportunities for people living with severe mental illness
  • Partner together with a mental health organization in your community to provide services such as a PEACE Center, mental health clinic, and therapeutic support groups
  • Hold a mental health ministry event; host a one-day mental health conference
  • Build a team of volunteers who can help others in your community to become involved in caring for people living with mental illness and their families
  • Become a model of what every church can do about mental illness by being a reliable source of information about mental illness

This strategy is built on the acrostic C.H.U.R.C.H.

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