For the past few years, pastors, churches, and denominations have wrestled with how to chart a compassionate and coordinated path forward regarding mental health in the church. From Rick Warren and Saddleback’s conference on Mental Health in the Church to Amy Simpson’s talk at Qideas entitled “What is the Church’s Role”. The refreshing news is that an intentional effort is being made to provide a better response toward mental health in the church.
Even though we seem to be making large strides ahead, I remain concerned that pastors and churches still lack adequate training and resources to competently and compassionately address mental health in the church. How about you? Do you feel equipped? What do you need to learn?
Take a look at these 5 starting points for a comprehensive approach to mental health in the church:
Churches need to improve their understanding of the law and surrounding issues in order to remain compliant. Just in the past year I have heard of churches releasing staff members with a treatable mental illness to reduce insurance liability and others wholeheartedly embracing staff members who are living with a mental health struggle.
Which direction should the church head? How can the church show both love to others and also exercise caution to not expose itself to irresponsibility liability? There are many questions that churches are wrestling with regarding compliance and the law when it comes to staffing. But the topic of mental health in the church also affects the congregation at large and who can lead, who is liable during a mental health situation that results in bodily injury to someone in the church, and many more issues.
How prepared is your church?
Awareness is one of the most key issues when it comes to mental health in the church. If you are not aware of what mental health struggles are out there, the treatments available, and the prevalence of mental health issues in the church and society, you are setting yourself up for immense hurt and confusion.
I believe pastors and churches should start by learning what some of the most common mental health challenges are, how they can respond appropriately to them, and how to recognize them to some degree. Usually there are many more mental health struggles present in a church than anyone knows about. The questions is: how are you proactively getting yourself and others informed so that your church doesn’t just “deal” with mental health issues but competently engages, serves, and loves those who are walking through a very complex journey.
As a pastor, do you communicate about mental health in your church? Is mental health something that people stay quiet about? Perhaps you are battling a mental illness yourself. Have you shared it with your church? Why or why not? What impact might it make to share about your mental illness or mental illness in general from the stage or pulpit?
We become much more competent oftentimes just by talking about mental health in the church. It is when we avoid it and treat it like something that can’t be engaged that I believe we get ourselves into trouble.
Every church needs to focus in on this area and really seek ways to deploy many people to show compassion both in the church and in the community. If people are out there struggling with many different mental illnesses and we have a message that can at least bring them some level of hope, then why aren’t we leading the way by caring for them and showing them love?
The compassion that you show those who are battling mental health issues will not only affect those that you serve but many others as well. Think for a moment about those who have spent their life caring for or supporting people with a mental illness. They are often tired and in need of encouragement. What if you were to compassionately serve those who are battling mental illness in a way that alleviated the burden on their families and influenced families to begin interacting with your church?
For us to adequately address the issue of mental health in the church, we must take a path of collaboration rather than isolation. If the church, families, government services, and many more can come together to collaboratively serve those who are battling mental health, I think we will uncover a treasure trove of resources that can help us. We will learn how little we knew before, and we will demonstrate the love of Christ in a very tangible way to a large segment of society.
What steps do you need to take regarding mental health in the church? How could you better collaborate with other organizations, churches, and the families of those affected (which is probably all families) to better serve, support, encourage, and love those who have a mental illness or struggle with some part of their mental health?